The 2010 Dodd–Frank Act is a colossal regulatory mess that gave us, among other things, a new set of turf battles among regulators. The latest fight is between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and, well, basically all the other financial regulators.
Luis Aguilar, a Democrat on the five-member SEC, said in prepared remarks to the Mutual Fund Directors Forum Wednesday that the SEC’s authority as the primary regulator of the mutual fund industry had been “undercut” by the Financial Stability Oversight Council and its research unit, the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is best known as the committee of federal regulators that singles out financial companies for heightened regulation under the Federal Reserve. These are the companies commonly referred to as “systemically important financial institutions.” As detailed in a Heritage Backgrounder, “The Financial Stability Oversight Council: Helping to Enshrine ‘Too Big to Fail,’” FSOC’s responsibilities go well beyond simply identifying these firms.
FSOC can require new regulations on virtually any financial company if it determines the firm poses a threat to “financial markets of the United States, or low-income, minority, or underserved communities.” But because the council is a committee of regulators, nothing really happens without some sort of agreement among its members.
And the SEC is basically its own committee, set up specifically to avoid one person from being able to make all its regulatory decisions. So it’s not at all surprising that SEC commissioners are viewing the new Dodd–Frank FSOC as something that undercuts the SEC’s power.
The fact that Dodd–Frank went out of its way to prohibit FSOC from being able to settle these kinds of agency disputes suggests that Congress knows what a regulatory mess it has created.
It’s easy to recoil from the regulatory jumble in U.S. financial markets, but it’s hard to feel sorry for regulators when they fight with each other.