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PH Money Matters: This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington for September 5, 2017

THE BIG PICTURE

Congress has returned to Washington for what will no doubt be a busy session before the end of the year. On the agenda is passing appropriations bills, raising the debt ceiling, and tax reform. None of these will be an easy feat. One point of contention is funding for a border wall between Mexico and the United States. Despite Mexico reiterating that it will not pay for any border wall, President Trump stated on Twitter that Mexico would pay “through reimbursement/other.” When asked why the U.S. government would shut down over the wall if Mexico is going to pay, President Trump said that he “hope[s] that’s not necessary. If it’s necessary, we’ll have to see, but I hope it’s not necessary.”

Hurricane Harvey swept the south last week, displacing tens of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana. The hurricane will no doubt put pressure on lawmakers to come to an agreement on the National Flood Insurance Program, which expires at the end of September and must be reauthorized. The House Financial Services Committee already has passed a series of bills reauthorizing the program, and the Senate currently has three proposals that have gained traction. Over 100 Democrats have said that they will not support the reauthorization passed by the House Financial Services Committee because they say the bills do not meet the goals of “affordability, availability, increased mitigation efforts, or improved mapping.”

Commentators expect an agreement to be unlikely and predict that Congress will pass a short-term reauthorization before the September 30 deadline. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) is calling for a three-month extension of the current program to give Congress more time to reach a deal. One major insurance group, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, has asked Congress to extend the program for another six months.

Trump Administration Weighing Decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program: The Trump administration is still deciding what to do about DACA, an Obama-era program that protects young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. Approximately 800,000 people are protected under the program. President Trump said during his campaign that he would end the program.

CONGRESS-RELATED NEWS

Chairman Hensarling Sends Letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray: House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling sent a letter on August 28 to CFPB Director Richard Cordray asking Cordray if he intended to stay in his position or could provide a planned exit date. In his response, Director Cordray refused to disclose his exit date to Chairman Hensarling and did not answer the question of whether he intends to serve out his term.

THIS WEEK ON THE HILL

Wednesday, September 6

House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, Hearing, “Low Cost, High Impact: Combatting the Financing of Lone-Wolf and Small-Scale Terrorist Attacks,” 2:00pm, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, September 7

Senate Banking Committee, Executive Session to Vote on Nominations and to Mark-up S. 1463, 9:30am, 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building

  • Mr. Joseph Otting, to be Comptroller of the Currency; and
  • The Honorable Randal Quarles, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Reappointment as a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; and Vice Chairman for Supervision of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • The Committee will also vote on S. 1463, Financial Stability Oversight Council Insurance Member Continuity Act.

Senate Banking Committee, Hearing, “Evaluating Sanctions Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea,” 9:30am (following votes on nominees), 538 Dirksen Senate Office Building

  • Mr. Adam Szubin, Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies;
  • Mr. Anthony Ruggiero, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and
  • Dr. John Park, Director of the Korea Working Group and Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School.

House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Hearing, “Legislative Proposals for a More Efficient Federal Financial Regulatory Regime,” 10:00am, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building

House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment, Hearing, “Oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority,” 2:00pm, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building

  • Mr. Robert Cook, President and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
  • Other witnesses TBA

THE REGULATORS

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Makes Changes to Reverse Mortgage Program: On August 29, HUD announced changes to its Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. It will increase premiums and tighten lending limits on reverse mortgages. “Given the losses we’re seeing in the program, we have a responsibility to make changes that balance our mission with our responsibility to protect taxpayers,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Fairness dictates that future HECM loans do not adversely impact the overall health of [the Federal Housing Authority’s] insurance fund, which supports the financing needs of younger, mostly first-time homeowners with traditional FHA mortgages.”

Treasury Department Secretary Stephen Mnuchin Dismisses Questions about Revisions to the $20 Bill: In an interview with CNBC on August 31, Secretary Mnuchin dismissed a question about whether the Trump administration would continue with the Obama administration’s plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, saying that it “isn’t something [he’s] focused on at the moment.” During his campaign, President Trump said that he would “love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

Department of Labor Proposes to Delay to Second Part of Fiduciary Duty Rule: The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposal on August 30 to delay by 18 months the applicability date of the second part of the Fiduciary Duty Rule. The second part of the rule is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2018. The new proposal would push that date to July 1, 2019. DOL said that it is concerned that without a delay “regulated parties may incur undue expense to comply with conditions or requirements that it ultimately determines to revise or repeal.”

Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell Speaks about Role of Boards at Large Financial Firms: Fed Governor Jerome Powell gave a speech at the Large Bank Directors conference in Chicago and defended the Fed’s proposed guidance that would reduce bank boards’ involvement in granular supervisory issues. He said that the central bank does not “intend that these reforms will lower the bar for boards or lighten the loads of directors,” but that the new approach would distinguish the roles of the board and the roles of senior management.

NOMINATIONS, COMINGS AND GOINGS AT THE AGENCIES

SEC Announces New Division Heads: The SEC announced on August 31 that two new division chiefs are joining the agency. Dalia Blass will be director of the agency's investment management division, which oversees funds. Blass is currently a lawyer at Ropes & Gray. She joined the law firm in September 2016 after working in the SEC's investment management division. Jeffrey Harris will be head of the division of economic and risk analysis. Harris has been the Gary Cohn Goldman Sachs Chair in Finance at American University since 2013. Prior to that, he was the chief economist at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 2007 to 2010.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS

Basel Committee Assesses Impact of Fintech on Banks and Regulators: The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision on August 31 released a consultative document on the implications of fintech for the financial sector. Sound Practices: Implications of fintech developments for banks and bank supervisors assesses how technology-driven innovation in financial services, or "fintech", may affect the banking industry and the activities of supervisors in the near to medium term.

National League of Cities Releases Report on City Economies: On August 30, the National League of Cities released a comprehensive analysis of local economies. According to the analysis, 84 percent of cities report that their local economies have improved since 2016. The report outlines five distinct types of local economies: a highly rural cluster; a large central city cluster; and three types of mid-size economies. The report is issued biannually.

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Paul Hastings’ Government Relations team is monitoring these issues. We help our clients craft strategies to address federal legislative and regulatory matters. Please reach out to us if your organization needs assistance with congressional or regulatory relations.