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January 5, 2022

December 2021 Hill Update

2021: Biden Administration Staffs Up the Agencies

One of the most important ways that an incoming President can shape public policy is through the appointments of regulators to important positions in Washington.

In January, Rohit Chopra was nominated as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Senate finally confirmed him to this position in September, and he has already made great strides in restoring the CFPB to its role as an effective regulator on behalf of Americans who are preyed upon by unscrupulous actors in the financial industry.

In April, Gary Gensler was confirmed to head the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and he has assembled an impressive staff of leaders who are in the middle of a substantial rulemaking process that will protect investors, expand markets, and facilitate capital formation.

In November, President Biden announced he intends to reappoint Jerome Powell as Chair of the Federal Reserve and elevate Fed Governor Lael Brainard to Vice Chair. The President still has to nominate three additional Governors for the Fed and designate one to the critically important job of Vice Chair for Supervision, one of the most powerful banking regulators in the world.

In December, Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to be Comptroller of the Currency, the top banking supervisor in the country, withdrew from consideration after enduring outrageous attacks on her character from Senate Republicans.

Also in December, Rostin Behnam was confirmed by the Senate to serve as Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a key federal regulator that oversees the country’s derivative markets.

Review of 2021 Congressional Activities Related to the Economy and Financial Regulation 

In February, the House Financial Services Committee held the first of three planned hearings on Robinhood, GameStop, and the meme stock frenzy that captivated stock market observers. In March, Better Markets’ CEO Dennis Kelleher testified at the second of the hearings in March.

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in March. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill provided aid to state and local governments, as well as providing stimulus payments to Americans and help for struggling small businesses.

In May, both the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee held hearings into the conduct and activities of Wall Street’s MegaBanks. For two days, CEOs like Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase testified about their lending, rates of pay for frontline employees, and other issues.

In October, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate a pattern of suspicious trades from top Federal Reserve officials to determine whether federal rules against insider trading were broken. Reinforcing its own calls for action, Better Markets supported calls by Senator Warren and others to investigate a suspicious pattern of trades by Fed officials, violated the public trust if not Fed policy and the law.

And, in December, after a prolonged dispute that threatened to disrupt the financial markets, Congress passed an extension of the debt limit, ensuring the U.S. Government will continue to make good on its obligations, and averted a government shut down by providing funding for the government until February, 2022.

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