WASHINGTON: The Federal Reserve's top regulator told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that his "highest priority" is enacting simpler rules for banks with between US$100 billion and US$250 billion in assets, though Republicans pressed for a more drastic easing.
Randal Quarles, the Fed's vice chair for supervision, told members of the Senate Banking Committee he plans to propose simplified rules for banks of that size by the end of the year.
Congress passed a bill in May to ease bank rules adopted after the 2007-2009 financial crisis. A central piece of that legislation, which was the topic of Tuesday's hearing, was curtailing regulations on banks with less than US$250 billion in assets.
Quarles said the regulatory package being drafted by the Fed could include easier rules on capital and liquidity for smaller, simpler banks, as well as less frequent "stress tests" of bank operations by regulators.
He added that the Fed is trying to develop a framework for banks of that size that allows the regulator to apply stricter rules on those it considers risky while making clear to firms what would trigger tougher oversight.
Some Republicans on the committee were frustrated Quarles has not done more to ease rules on banks since taking over as the central bank's chief regulator in November.
"I have to say I am frustrated because I just haven't seen the progress that I thought we would have seen by now," said Senator Pat Toomey.
Toomey pushed Quarles to move more quickly on easing the liquidity coverage ratio for banks that have more than US$250 billion in assets but are still much smaller than massive global banks. That ratio is aimed at ensuring banks hold assets that can be easily sold if needed, and Quarles had previously said he wanted to ease liquidity rules for all but the nation's largest banks.
Quarles said the Fed's efforts on that front were slowed by other work related to the bank deregulation bill, but that it would be addressed "promptly."
"We are working hard on that as part of the overall tailoring package," he said.
(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)