This Week in Washington for October 21, 2019
By Dina Ellis
THE BIG PICTURE
The House’s impeachment inquiry continued apace last week, despite Speaker Pelosi’s decision not to hold a formal authorization vote. In a press conference on Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that the decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine was linked to the President’s interest in the launch of an investigation, undercutting prior denials of a quid pro quo. Over the weekend, Mulvaney attempted to walk those comments back, saying, “That’s not what I said, that's what people said I said.”
The President’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria continued to draw criticism from both sides of the aisle. Following Turkey’s military incursion and reports of casualties, on Thursday Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan negotiated a temporary ceasefire, which would allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw to a safe zone. The President heralded the agreement as “a great day for civilization,” however the deal appeared to falter over the weekend, as military activity was reported on the border.
On Thursday, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) passed away at the age of 68 following complications from longstanding health challenges. Tributes poured in from across the political spectrum with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi describing him as “our North Star” and “a leader of towering character and integrity, whose stirring voice and steadfast values pushed the Congress . . . to rise always to a higher purpose” and former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) saying “there was no stronger advocate, and no better friend.” Cummings had served in the House since 1996 and chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, one of the Committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) will temporarily take the helm of the Committee.
The fourth debate in the Democratic primary was held on Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio. Twelve candidates qualified to appear on stage and sparred on a number of issues, including healthcare reform, a wealth tax, and reproductive rights. Senator Elizabeth Warren was the target of a number of attacks, including from former Vice President Joe Biden over credit for the creation of the CFPB, a clear indication of her perceived status as one of the frontrunners in the race.
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday that the President had decided to host the next G-7 summit at his Doral Resort outside of Miami. Democrats were quick to denounce the decision as a potential violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. In response to the backlash, on Saturday, the President reversed course and announced via Tweet that they would “begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David.”
Other highlights of last week include:
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has found himself embroiled in the impeachment inquiry, announced he would resign before the end of this year. The President plans to nominate Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette as his replacement.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) endorsed Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for President. On Saturday, the two appeared together at a rally, Senator Sanders’ first campaign event since his health scare earlier this month.
Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) announced that he would not seek a third term, saying, “I don’t think I really want one.”
LAST WEEK ON THE HILL
HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
Hearing on “
The Honorable Kathy Kraninger, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Hearing on “
Chlora Lindley-Myers, Director, Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance, on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Dawn Dinkins, COO, Reinsurance of AXA XL, on behalf of Reinsurance Association of America
Joe Carter, Acting CEO, United Educators, on behalf of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association
John Doyle, President & CEO, Marsh
Baird Webel, Specialist in Financial Economics, Congressional Research Service
Hearing on “
Jesse M. Fried, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Lenore Palladino, Senior Economist and Policy Counsel, Roosevelt Institute
Janie Grice, United for Respect at Walmart
Derik D. Coffey, CFA, Portfolio Specialist, Channing Capital Management
Mr. Craig Lewis Ph.D, Madison S. Wigginton Professor of Finance and Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University
Hearing on “
Bernard Guinyard, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Goodwin
Ruchika Tulshyan, Diversity and Inclusion Strategist and Author
Patricia Mota, President and CEO, Hispanic Alliance for Career Advancement
Mr. Rod Graves, Executive Director, Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation
Dr. Laura Sherbin, Managing Director of Culture@Work
Hearing on “
Ms. Meredith Broussard, Associate Professor, NYU and Affiliate Faculty Member, NYU Center for Data Science
Ms. Alla Seiffert, Director of Cloud Policy and Counsel at Internet Association
Mr. Steve Grobman, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, McAfee
Dr. Jordan Brandt, CEO and Cofounder, Inpher
Mr. Paul Benda, Senior Vice President, Risk Cybersecurity Policy, American Bankers Association
McHenry Announces Republican Committee Leadership Transitions: On Wednesday, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry (NC), announced the following changes to the committee’s Republican leadership team:
Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance – Steve Stivers (OH)
Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy – French Hill (AR)
Ranking Member of the Task Force on Financial Technology – Tom Emmer (MN)
Ranking Member of the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence – Barry Loudermilk (GA)
SENATE BANKING COMMITTEE
Hearing on “
The Honorable Kathleen L. Kraninger, Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
ON THE FLOOR
House Passes Four Measures Aimed at Supporting Hong Kong: On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 3289, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019,” which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) by voice vote. The measure would require the State Department to annually certify whether Hong Kong continues to deserve special treatment, as well as require the Commerce Department to provide an annual report on whether the Hong Kong government adequately enforces U.S. export controls and sanctions laws. The Chinese government registered their opposition to the measure, which they criticize as “grossly interfer[ing] in China’s internal affairs.” The House also passed H.R. 4270, the “Placing Restrictions on Teargas Exports and Crowd Control Technology to Hong Kong Act,” which was introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and two resolutions, H.Res 543 and H.Res 521.
House Passes Syria Rebuke: On Wednesday, the House voted overwhelmingly 354-60 to pass a resolution condemning the President’s decision to pull troops out of northern Syria, paving the way for a Turkish invasion.
House Passes Financial Services Bill to Help Investors Make Better Financial Decisions: On Thursday, the House voted 229-186 along party lines to pass H.R. 1815, the “SEC Disclosure Effectiveness Testing Act,” which was introduced by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL). The measure would require the SEC to test any new disclosure intended for retail investors under the SEC’s proposed regulation best interest. It would also require the SEC to review and test its existing disclosures for retail investors, such as trading confirmation statements.
House Passes Bill Requiring Companies to Report Outsourcing Data: On Friday, the House voted 226-184 to pass H.R. 3624, the “Outsourcing Accountability Act of 2019,” which was introduced by Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA). The measure would require publicly traded companies to disclose the number of domestic and foreign workers they employ in an annual report to the SEC. Rep. Axne championed the measure saying, “Corporations are shipping jobs overseas to protect their bottom line, then deceiving the public to protect their image.”
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED AND PROPOSED
College Affordability Act: On Tuesday, House Democrats on the Committee on Education and Labor introduced the College Affordability Act, legislation which would provide for a “comprehensive overhaul of the higher education system that lowers the cost of college for students and families, improves the quality of higher education through stronger accountability, and expands opportunity by providing students the support and flexibility they need to succeed.”
H.R. 4634: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4634, the “Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019,” which would reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.
H.R. 4664: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced H.R. 4664, which would amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to require the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to issue a quarterly report on debt collection complaints and enforcement actions and to prohibit rules that would allow a debt collector to send unlimited email and text messages to a consumer.
H.R. 4681: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced H.R. 4681, which would require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
H.R. 4756: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4756, which would establish an Office of Housing Innovation in the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist in exploring and developing new approaches for increasing and diversifying the supply of housing and for meeting the challenges of housing shortages, housing affordability, and traffic congestion.
H.R. 4762: Rep. French Hill (R-AR) introduced H.R. 4762, which would amend the Securities Act of 1933 to codify certain qualifications of individuals as accredited investors for purposes of the securities laws.
Data Privacy: On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Mind Your Own Business Act,” which contains the most comprehensive protections for Americans’ private data ever introduced and goes further than Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. It would give American consumers an easy, one-click way to stop companies from selling or sharing their personal information, give consumers radical transparency into how corporations use and share their data, and impose harsh fines and even prison terms for executives at corporations that misuse Americans’ data and lie about those practices to the government.
THIS WEEK ON THE HILL
Tuesday, October 22
Senate Banking Committee Hearing on “
House Financial Services Committee Hearing on “
House Financial Services Committee (Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions) Hearing on “
Thursday, October 24
Senate Banking Committee Hearing on “
Federal Financial Regulatory Agencies Seek Comment on Proposed Interagency Policy Statement on Allowances for Credit Losses and Proposed Interagency Guidance on Credit Risk Review Systems: On Thursday, the Federal Reserve, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC requested comment on a proposed Interagency Policy Statement on Allowances for Credit Losses. The proposed interagency policy statement describes the measurement of expected credit losses using the CECL methodology and updates concepts and practices detailed in existing supervisory guidance that remain applicable. CECL is effective for most public financial institutions beginning in 2020, and the FASB recently decided to defer the effective date of CECL for all other institutions to 2023. The proposed interagency policy statement would be effective at the time of each institution's adoption of the credit losses accounting standard.
CFTC Announces Agenda for Second Annual Fintech Forward Conference: On Wednesday, the CFTC announced the agenda for Fintech Forward 2019: Exploring the Unwritten Future, which will bring together innovators, regulators, market participants, and the general public to discuss the latest in fintech developments and the impact of these emerging technologies on markets and customers. Panels will feature discussions on artificial intelligence in the 21st century marketplace, digitization and custody, big data and cloud computing, and global perspectives on fintech issues. Fintech Forward 2019 will also feature a “Meet the Regulators” exhibit throughout the day, where attendees will have the opportunity to engage with regulators from the CFTC, CFPB, FINRA, FBI, NASAA, NFA, and SEC about their respective jurisdictions, innovation engagement initiatives, and other fintech topics.
CFTC Approves Two Proposed Rules at October 16 Open Meeting: At an open meeting on Wednesday, the CFTC voted to approve two proposed rules. The Commission voted unanimously to approve a proposed amendment to Regulation 23.161 – Compliance Schedule Extension. The Commission also approved proposed amendments to the Margin Rules for Uncleared Swaps – 23.151 and 23.157, with a vote of 4 to 1.
OCC Considering Fintech Lending Guidance: In response to a letter sent by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) regarding the “valid-when-made” doctrine and Madden, Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting wrote that the agency is considering “administrative solutions to mitigate the consequences of the Madden,” which he noted the OCC believes was “wrongly decided.” Otting also wrote that the OCC was open to other options, “including providing regulatory clarity, to provide more certainty to the banks we regulate.”
CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman Issues 2019 Annual Report: On Tuesday, the CFPB Private Education Loan Ombudsman issued the 2019 Annual Report showing that from September 1, 2017 through August 31, 2019 the Bureau handled approximately 20,600 complaints related to private or federal student loans. Of these, there were approximately 6,700 private student loan complaints and 13,900 federal student loan complaints. The report recommended that policymakers, federal and state law enforcement agencies, and market participants may wish to consider reinforcing the success of the enforcement actions against student loan debt relief companies by formalizing the collaborative and cooperative enforcement efforts against unscrupulous actors in the market place and expanding beyond civil enforcement actions to criminal enforcement actions at all levels.
IRS Chief Counsel Discusses Virtual Currency Guidance: Speaking at a conference on Thursday, the IRS’ chief counsel Michael Desmond revealed that the agency is working on additional guidance related to cryptocurrency to supplement what was released last month. He noted, “we have a long list of other questions we are looking to address, many of which I’d put in the area of reporting and compliance.”
SEC Proposes Amendments to Exemptive Applications Procedures: On Friday, the SEC announced that it had voted to propose rule amendments to establish an expedited review procedure for applications under the Investment Company Act that are substantially identical to recent precedent, as well as a new informal internal procedure for applications that would not qualify for the new expedited process. The proposed actions are intended to make the application process more efficient as well as to provide additional certainty and transparency to the process.
Group Presses SEC to Reconsider Proxy Guidance: In a letter to the SEC, the Council of Institutional Investors urged the Commission to reconsider its recent guidance and a proposed rule change, arguing that “proxy advisory firms provide market-based solutions, and the SEC policy initiatives have the potential to adversely affect the voluntary, uncoerced, private contracts between investors and their proxy advisors.”
SEC Promotes Teacher Investment Outreach: On Tuesday, the SEC announced several teacher investment outreach efforts in connection with its Teachers Initiative. These initiatives included the launch of a podcast series for public school educators, nationwide events for teachers, and the RISE 2.0 of California summit in Los Angeles on October 17. The outreach efforts advanced the Commission’s commitment to protecting America’s educators when they invest in the securities markets by informing educators about the importance of savings and investing, researching investment products and financial professionals before investing, and identifying the red flags of investment fraud.
FDIC Board Votes on Tailoring Rules: On Tuesday, the FDIC Board voted 3-1 to finalize a rule that tailors regulations, following the Federal Reserve’s move last week. Former FDIC Chair Martin Gruenberg was the only dissenting vote. The final rule establishes four risk-based categories for determining the applicability of requirements under the agencies’ regulatory capital rule and liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) rule. Under the final rule, such requirements increase in stringency based on measures of size, crossjurisdictional activity, weighted short term wholesale funding, nonbank assets, and off-balance sheet exposure.
FDIC and Federal Reserve Request Information on Use and Impact of CAMELS Ratings: On Friday, the FDIC and Federal Reserve Board invited public comment on their use of the Uniform Financial Institutions Rating System, also known as the CAMELS rating system. The agencies seek comments on the consistency of ratings assigned under the CAMELS system. The agencies are also interested in comments concerning how they use CAMELS ratings in enforcement actions and in reviewing bank applications.
Federal Reserve Governor Brainard Discusses Potential Complications of Stablecoins on Monetary Policy: Speaking at an event on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard discussed the potential complications that a migration toward stablecoins could have on the bank’s monetary policy saying “If a large share of domestic households and businesses come to rely on a global stablecoin not only as a means of payment but also as a store of value, this could shrink demand for physical cash and affect the size of the central bank’s balance sheet,” adding that “the central bank’s approach to implementing monetary policy may be complicated to the extent that banks’ participation in short-term funding markets is affected.”
Federal Reserve Board Announces Inaugural 21 Members of the Insurance Policy Advisory Committee: On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Board announced the inaugural 21 members of the Insurance Policy Advisory Committee. The IPAC will provide information, advice, and recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board on domestic and international insurance issues, including negotiations at the International Association of Insurance Supervisors. The inaugural IPAC members include expertise in life insurance, property and casualty insurance, and reinsurance. The inaugural IPAC members will serve staggered terms ranging from one to three years. Starting next year, the Board intends to annually appoint new members to the IPAC to serve three-year terms.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Reiterates Terror Finance Risks in Iran, Clarifies “Stablecoin” Guidance, and Issues AML/CFT Reports: On Friday, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded its 31st plenary meeting with a public statement that, among other things, reiterated terrorist financing risks emanating from Iran. The FATF also clarified guidance on “stablecoins” and adopted virtual assets changes, among other reports related to anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).
Treasury Releases International Capital Data for August: On Wednesday, the Treasury Department released Treasury International Capital (TIC) data for August 2019. The sum total in August of all net foreign acquisitions of long-term securities, short-term U.S. securities, and banking flows was a net TIC inflow of US$70.5B. Of this, net foreign private inflows were US$121.5B, and net foreign official outflows were US$51B.
Treasury Launches the Counter-Hizballah International Partnership (CHIP) to Thwart Illicit Financial Activity: Last week the Treasury Department convened the first meeting of the Counter-Hizballah International Partnership (CHIP) to build multilateral cooperation for targeting Hizballah’s global financial networks. Over 30 countries representing the Middle East, the Western Hemisphere, Europe, Asia, and Africa participated in this event, which was held on the sidelines of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Fall Meetings. Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a statement, “The CHIP is an important initiative to share information and build capacity among our partners to more effectively leverage all available financial tools against Hizballah.”
United States and Republic of Korea Sign Framework to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation: On Thursday, the United States and Republic of Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation. The Memorandum, signed by U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki, is a cooperative initiative designed to support infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region through market-oriented, private sector investment. The MOU “is a great step forward for the United States and the Republic of Korea that will help catalyze private sector capital for investments in infrastructure and spur impactful, scaled growth opportunities for both countries,” said Secretary Mnuchin in a statement.
U.S. Further Tightens Cuba Sanctions: On Friday, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it will further restrict the Cuban regime’s access to commercial aircraft and other goods. This action supports the Administration’s earlier decision to hold the Cuban regime accountable for repressing its own people as well as continuing to provide support to the illegitimate Maduro regime, which has terrorized the Venezuelan population and wantonly destroyed the once-prosperous economy relied on by millions.
COMINGS AND GOINGS AT THE AGENCIES
Robert Burson, Associate Regional Director of Chicago Office, to Retire from the SEC: On Tuesday, the SEC announced that Robert Burson, an Associate Regional Director of Enforcement in the Chicago Regional Office, is retiring after 29 years at the agency, all in the Chicago office.
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear CFPB Challenge: On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure. The administration, along with Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger, have backed the suit, arguing against the current structure, which they claim gives the Director an illegal amount of independence from the executive branch.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS
IMF Releases Global Financial Stability Report: On Wednesday, the IMF released its Global Financial Stability Report, which outlined potential threats to the global economy. It noted “a number of events could trigger a sharp tightening in financial conditions,” including “an intensification or broadening of trade tensions, a faster-than-expected slowdown in global growth, a sudden market reassessment of the outlook for monetary policy (especially if there is a gap between market expectations and central banks’ communications), or the crystallization of political and policy risks.”
Jeb Hensarling Announced as Senior Fellow at Milken Institute: Former Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who served as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee from 2013-2019, was announced as a senior fellow at the Milken Institute in their Center of Financial Markets.
Legislators Call for Review of E-Mini Futures Contracts Sales: Reps Ted Lieu and Katherine Rice on Friday called for a review of sales of S&P 500 e-mini futures contracts following a report in the media regarding potentially suspicious timing around policy announcements. They urged the FBI, CFTC, and SEC “to investigate potentially unlawful behavior related to the trading of electronically traded futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the last several months,” adding that “while the aforementioned trades may be purely coincidental, their timing and scale raise serious suspicions.”