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Feb. 25, 2024

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Big bank CEOs warn that new regulations may severely impact economy

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NEW YORK (AP) — The heads of Wall Street’s biggest banks used an appearance on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to plead with senators to stop the Biden administration’s proposed changes to how banks are regulated, warning that the new proposals could negatively impact the economy at a time of geopolitical turmoil and inflation.

Wall Street’s most powerful bankers have regularly appeared in front of Congress going back to the 2008 financial crisis. Among those testifying before the Senate Banking Committee included JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Jane Fraser of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon.

Whereas in previous years the bank CEOs used the hearing to highlight the industry’s good deeds, this year they warned about the potential dangers of over-regulating the industry.

The banks are adamantly against a number of proposed regulations that could hit their profitability, including new rules from the Federal Reserve that would require big banks to hold additional capital on their balance sheets. The industry says the new regulations, known as the Basel Endgame, would curtail lending and weaken bank balance sheets at a time when the industry needs more flexibility.

There are also proposals coming from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would rein in overdraft fees, which have also been a longtime source of revenue for the consumer banks.

“I’ve been at this for a long time. I’ve sat on the board of the New York Federal Reserve. I’ve seen a lot of rules, and (this proposal) just doesn’t make sense,” said James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, in response to a question.

The other seven CEOs were uniform in their comments in both their prepared remarks and answers to Senators’ questions.

“(The regulations) were not thoughtfully done and should be relooked at,” Dimon said.

The industry’s opposition has saturated the Washington media market over the last several weeks, which came up in senators’ remarks during the hearing.

“You should stop pouring money into lobbying against efforts to protect the taxpayers who subsidize your entire industry,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and the committee chairman.

Brown, a longtime big bank critic, is unlikely to be persuaded by the CEOs’ comments. Instead the CEOs were aiming to reach more moderate Democratic members of the committee. Only a handful of Democrats asked questions in support of the new regulations, while most Republicans did appear to be against the rules.

Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who typically is among the most combative with Dimon and the other CEOs at these hearings, avoided the topic. Warren asked the CEOs for support for her cryptocurrency anti-money laundering bill. Longtime critics of crypto, the CEOs were more than happy to publicly support her bill.

One Republican notably did seem skeptical about the CEOs’ messages. Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio used his time to ask the CEOs why their banks support public policy positions like gun control, voter ID laws and other bills, but then want to turn to the GOP for less regulation and lower taxes when it suits them.

This year has been a tough one for the banking industry, as high interest rates have caused banks and consumers to seek fewer loans and consumers are facing financial pressure from inflation. Three larger banks failed this year — Signature Bank, Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank — after the banks experienced a run on deposits and questions about the health of their balance sheets.

It is partly because of the bank runs at Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic this year that regulators have proposed more stricter regulations for banks with assets over $100 billion.

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