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NY Fed president warns against financial deregulation

William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve

William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, on Nov. 20, 2015. Credit: Audrey C. Tiernan

New York’s most powerful banker said Friday it would be “a big mistake” if President Donald Trump and the new Congress eliminated increased financial regulation put in place because of the 2007-09 recession.

William C. Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said the worst economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s was fueled in part by risky bank practices.

The financial crisis of 2008 “did cause a tremendous amount of damage, and the crisis occurred in part because there were some real problems in terms of the financial system,” he told reporters at an economics briefing in Manhattan.

“Banks didn’t have sufficient capital, they didn’t have high enough quality capital, they didn’t have adequate liquidity buffers,” Dudley said. “So I think it would be a big mistake to go back to the pre-financial crisis set of regulations that we had in place.”

Dudley allowed that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 isn’t perfect. “If there are aspects of Dodd-Frank that could be improved, that’s completely reasonable for Congress to take up; it’s obviously up to them,” he said.

A Trump spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

Dodd-Frank, which covers more than 2,300 pages, increased oversight of financial institutions and required them to keep more cash on hand to back investments. The law also barred banks from speculating with clients’ money in ways that benefit the banks.

Dodd-Frank established a new federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which advocates for consumers and cracks down on predatory lending practices.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to dismantle Dodd-Frank, saying it has discouraged banks from making loans and slowed the economic recovery.

Dudley is vice chairman of the Fed’s interest-rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee. Fed Chair Janet Yellen told Congress on Thursday that rolling back Dodd-Frank would increase the odds of a future financial crisis.

The New York Fed serves as a key regulator of banks in the metropolitan area, including Wall Street investment banks.

In Manhattan on Friday, Dudley, who spent years as an economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs, was asked about Trump’s pledge to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, and to increase taxes on imported goods. Dudley said it was unclear what Trump would do but economists see free trade as beneficial.

“Most all economists think having relatively open trade is beneficial to economic growth and economic performance over time,” he said.

Separately Friday, the New York Fed released a nationwide survey of consumers that found more than 50 percent of those with annual income of less than $50,000 would have trouble coming up with $2,000 in the next month for an emergency. Fifteen percent of households with income of $100,000 or more said they would have trouble.

Dudley said consumers had increased their rainy-day funds after the recession but need to do more. He also said the data show “that people still feel they don’t have complete control over their destiny.”


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