What Is the Financial CHOICE Act?
The Financial CHOICE Act, with its pledge to repeal provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, sought to ease financial industry regulations, encompassing stress tests, capital, and liquidity requirements. Nevertheless, critics contended that the bill's relaxed approach generated unregulated incentives, potentially paving the way for another financial crisis. Despite gaining approval in the House, the bill met its demise when the Senate failed to advance it further.
In 2017, the U.S. Congress introduced the Financial CHOICE Act, a bill intended to reverse regulations established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The latter act was enacted in 2010 as a response to the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The Financial CHOICE Act sought to ease regulations for financial institutions, including stress testing, capital, and liquidity requirements. Despite studies indicating that Dodd-Frank had contributed to enhanced financial stability, Republicans argued it exemplified regulatory overreach. Nevertheless, the bill did not advance beyond the House and eventually expired since the Senate did not pursue it further.
The Financial CHOICE Act: A Controversial Attempt at Regulatory Reform
In 2017, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, introduced the Financial CHOICE Act following the Republican Party's victory in Congress. The primary focus of the bill was to dismantle the regulations established by the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in response to the financial crisis, which some believed had failed to effectively regulate financial institutions and contributed to the economic meltdown.
One significant aspect of Dodd-Frank was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to combat predatory mortgage lending practices. Additionally, the act aimed to increase transparency in financial products, particularly derivatives, streamline regulatory processes, eliminate exemptions, enhance the orderly winding up of bankrupt firms, and strengthen consumer protections.
Financial institutions expressed concerns about the costs associated with compliance and questioned the apparent economic benefits of Dodd-Frank. They argued that removing regulations would facilitate lending and stimulate economic growth.
On June 8, 2017, the bill passed in the House of Representatives with a party-line vote of 233-186. Proponents presented it as a job-creating measure that would grant the president the authority to dismiss heads of the CFPB and Federal Housing Finance Agency at will. The bill sought to give Congress oversight of the CFPB's budget, eliminate the Orderly Liquidation Authority, which saved large financial institutions from collapse, restrict the CFPB's scope, and limit its ability to prohibit "unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices." Additionally, it aimed to curtail arbitration as a resolution mechanism.
However, the bill faced strong opposition from Congressional Democrats. Critics argued that rolling back regulations was unlikely to deliver the benefits claimed by its supporters, pointing out that stricter standards did not adversely affect Wall Street returns and that laws were not causing economic stagnation.
Despite its passage in the House, the bill failed to make progress in the Senate, resulting in its provisions remaining unenacted.
Former CHOICE Act Paves Way for Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection
Despite the demise of the Final CHOICE Act, comparable legislation emerged and was signed into law, offering much-needed relief to specific financial sector segments. The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act obtained approval from the House and Senate and received President Donald Trump's signature on May 24, 2018.
The Act encompasses various provisions, including relaxed lending rules for the mortgage industry and amendments to the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). Moreover, it provides regulatory relief to community banks, enhances consumer credit protections, modifies capital threshold requirements for certain banks, promotes capital formation, and extends protection for student loan borrowers.
The Financial CHOICE Act sparked controversy as it aimed to relax regulations set by Dodd-Frank. Supporters sought economic growth, but critics feared unregulated incentives and another crisis. Despite approval in the House, the bill stalled in the Senate. Nonetheless, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act provided targeted relief, signifying ongoing discussions on financial regulation's delicate balance. The quest for a resilient and innovative financial system continues, demanding collaboration among policymakers, stakeholders, and experts.