A senior Federal Reserve official said on Tuesday that regulatory reform proposals before Congress probably won't prevent a future crisis and could hamper the central bank's ability to deal with one.
St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said a plan for a multi-member watchdog for the financial system is unlikely to prevent a future crisis because it was not likely to be able to act decisively.
The Fed would be better at navigating this type of decision-making, he told a business group.
Lawmakers are debating financial regulatory reform after a crisis that led to taxpayer-funded bank bailouts and a painful recession. Legislation has passed the House of Representatives but is bogged down in the Senate.
The fate of financial reform is uncertain as majority party Democrats regroup after the loss of their super-majority. A new proposal from Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd is expected soon.
Bullard, a voting member of the Fed's policy-setting panel this year, did not mention the outlook for monetary policy or the economy in his prepared text.
His comments are a sharper defense than past remarks about the Fed's role in overseeing the soundness of banks and the financial system and a more outspoken criticism of congressional proposals.
Bullard said a proposal to cut back emergency lending powers, which the Fed used during the crisis for the first time since the Great Depression, limits the Fed's ability to prevent a crisis from escalating in the future.
The presidents of regional Fed banks recently have stepped up their questioning of congressional regulatory reform proposals. Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig said in a recent letter to Senate Banking Committee senators that the systemic risk council and a plan to concentrate oversight in one, rather than multiple, agencies, would be mistakes.
The Fed system is composed of the Board of Governors in Washington and 12 regional Fed banks around the country.
Regional Fed governors worry that the regulatory reform proposals could weaken their authority over banks and expose them to more political pressure. They also worry that reforms could tip the balance of power in the Fed system toward Washington and Wall Street and away from the rest of the country and regional and community banks.
(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)