President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order on Friday to ease regulations put in place after the 2008 financial crisis to rein in Wall Street, according to a White House spokesperson.
The move would address another one of Trump’s campaign promises: Dismantling 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as Dodd Frank. The legislation forced banks to take various steps to prevent another financial crisis, including holding more capital and taking yearly “stress tests” to prove they could withstand economic turbulence. The financial industry, particularly its small community banks, complained the rules went too far.
Trump also intends to sign a separate presidential memorandum to roll back the Labor Department’s rules that would require financial professionals to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. The “fiduciary rule,” scheduled to go into effect in April, has long been a target of Republicans, including a close Trump Wall Street ally Anthony Scaramucci, who call it burdensome and costly.
The Labor Department should rescind the rule and consider whether it could harm investors or disrupt the retirement services industry, Trump’s memorandum will say, according to a White House spokesman. The order comes as the fate of the rule is also being weighed in the courts. A decision on a lawsuit from major business groups challenging the rule, including the Chamber of Commerce, could come any day now.
These efforts are sure to anger Democrats in Congress and progressive groups who argue Wall Street needs more oversight – not less. It will also bolster critics who say Trump, despite promising during the campaign to “drain the swamp,” has become cozy with Wall Street since the election. Trump has tapped several Goldman Sachs alums for key positions in his administration, and his strategic and policy panel is led by Stephen Schwarzman, founder of Blackstone, a massive investment firm.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Banking Committee, quickly pounced on Trump’s effort to roll back the fiduciary rule. “President Trump’s action will make it harder for American savers to keep more of what they earn,” Brown said in a statement.Trump has said Dodd Frank is a “disaster” and that he would do “a big number” on the legislation. But it is unclear exactly which provisions he is likely to curtail or kill. The law gave the government new authority to seize and wind down large, troubled financial firms, set up a regulatory council to monitor threats to the financial system and mandate oversight of the vast market for derivatives, the instruments that helped fuel the crisis.
Big banks, which have spent millions complying with the law, have called for a tweaking of the rules, rather than a complete overall. Adjusting to a new regulatory environment would be too costly, they say. But smaller banks are expected to push for more aggressive reform. They say they are too small to pose a threat to the financial system but still face extreme regulatory burdens.
“Many of the regulations created by Dodd-Frank would be difficult to eliminate without action from Congress, but there are a number of changes that regulators can make (especially on the enforcement of these rules) which could have a significant impact on the business models of banks and other financial services firms,” Edward Mills, a policy analyst at investment bank FBR Capital Markets, said in a research report Friday morning.
The administration’s efforts could also land on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created by Dodd Frank. Republicans have been pushing for an overhaul of the way the agency is run, including calling for its director, Richard Cordray, to be fired. But Democrats say the independent agency has played an important role in cracking down on big banks and corporations accused of misleading consumers. They have stepped in to defend the agency and Cordray over the last few weeks.
Jonnelle Marte contributed to this report.