U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday that no financial firm should be able to escape regulation, and the largest institutions need oversight from a single, strong regulator.
The regulation of the largest, most interconnected firms requires tremendous institutional capacity, clear lines of authority and single-point accountability. This is no place for regulation for council or by committee, Geithner said in testimony to the congressional Joint Economic Committee.
The Treasury, as part of sweeping Obama administration reform plans, has proposed that the Federal Reserve be given powers to oversee the largest financial firms. Geithner's comments signaled opposition to proposals favored by some lawmakers that would give this authority to a council of existing regulators.
The stakes are simply too high to allow diffuse authorities and responsibilities to weaken accountability, Geithner added.
But Geithner did not mention the Fed by name for this role. Another plan proposed by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd would create a single, overarching banking regulator.
The wide-ranging rewrite of financial rules aims to try to ensure a crisis like the one that nearly toppled the financial system last year does not happen again.
The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee has been working for weeks on a regulatory overhaul bill, and the Senate Banking Committee kicks off a similar effort on Thursday.
Geithner also said he expected U.S. economic growth to continue in the fourth quarter and into 2010, but America's long-term stability and strength could not be ensured without comprehensive regulatory reform.
Unfortunately, the regulatory regime that failed so terribly leading up to the financial crisis is precisely the regulatory regime we have today, Geithner said in an excerpt of prepared testimony.
That is why recovery alone is not enough. To ensure the vitality, the strength and the stability of our economy ... we must bring our system of financial regulation into the twenty-first century. We need comprehensive financial reform, Geithner said.
Geithner also said the reforms should protect consumers, allow the financial system to absorb shocks, and end the concept of institutions that are too big to fail.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)