The Senate's chief architect of financial regulation reform said on Friday the Federal Reserve may not necessarily lose its authority to supervise banks, signaling a potential shift in his thinking.
As he searches for compromises to win support for a landmark financial regulation bill, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd told Bloomberg TV the Fed may retain some of its historic role in supervising banks.
That would be a big change from Dodd's initial regulatory reform proposal released in November, which called for creating a new super-cop for banks that would have taken over the banking oversight duties of the Fed and other agencies.
Dodd is expected to release a new bill next week that reflects long negotiations with Republican Senator Bob Corker and other lawmakers on an issue that is a top priority of the Obama administration -- tighter financial regulation.
Banking committee members have criticized the Fed ever since the financial crisis, saying the central bank failed to keep a close enough eye on the U.S. banking industry.
There had been a growing consensus on stripping the Fed of its banking supervision and consumer protection roles, leaving it focused chiefly on monetary policy and acting as the lender of last resort. But Dodd's comments suggested he may be open to allowing the Fed to oversee banks, after all.
The Fed's role and the fate of a White House proposal to create an independent consumer financial protection agency hang in the balance as Dodd's panel crafts a new bill.
Republicans are opposed to a separate consumer agency and Dodd has been forced to back down. He has been considering a consumer division housed in another federal agency.
Dodd would not say whether he would place the consumer division within the Treasury Department or a consolidated banking regulator. I'm more concerned with what powers it has, Dodd told Bloomberg.
Dodd said the consumer supervisor had to have some rule-making authority and prudential and consumer regulators should have a consultative role. That's true both on rulemaking and enforcement, Dodd said.
The Obama administration is also pushing for rules to rein in banks' risky activities and proprietary trading. Dodd said it was appropriate for regulators to look at proprietary trades.
(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Andrew Hay)