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January 10, 2014

The Fed Shifts Ground on Big Banks

It’s all change at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Janet Yellen was confirmed as the new chief this week, and we should expect a major shift in the composition of the board over the next 12 months. Ben Bernanke is leaving, Elizabeth Duke has already resigned, and Sarah Bloom Raskin is moving to the Treasury Department — so there will soon presumably be three new appointments out of seven total positions. (Jerome Powell’s term will expire next month, but he may well be reappointed.)

Over the past half-decade the Bernanke Fed was primarily concerned with staving off disaster and then getting an economic recovery going. Ms. Yellen’s Fed obviously inherits the continuation of the latter task, but it also needs to complete crucial financial-sector reforms — and, perhaps most important, to decide on its attitude toward large banks. On this critical issue, there are signs of a potential shift in thinking at the top.

Under Alan Greenspan, the Fed went easy on the largest banks — light regulation was the name of the game.  And under Mr. Bernanke, while it became clear that some of these banks had managed themselves into great difficulties, there was also concern not to rock the boat too much by pushing for big changes. The Dodd-Frank reform legislation was hardly carried out with alacrity by the Fed.”

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Read Simon Johnson’s full New York Times Economix blog post here

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