Consumer Protection With Fed “Bad Joke”

Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is “very disappointed” with the suggestion that a new consumer protection agency might be placed under supervision of the Federal Reserve.

The Senate Banking Committee has been working on a financial regulatory reform bill for several months now. A new agency is to be established with this bill that has the power to regulate mortgages, credit card policies and consumer loans. Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut anticipated last month that such an agency would be independent, even from the congressional appropriations process “so it can’t be harmed by lawmakers bent on taking away its power.”

In the wake of Ben Bernanke’s warning last week that, “Stripping the Federal Reserve of supervisory authorities in the light of the recent crisis would be a grave mistake,” a proposal was floated by Senate negotiators to place the consumer protection agency inside the Fed.

Frank wasn’t impressed. “After all the Fed bashing we’ve heard?” he told Politico on Tuesday. “The Fed’s such a weak engine, so let’s give them consumer protection? It’s almost a bad joke.”

Although 47 Democratic senators voted to confirm Bernanke for a second term last January, according to Politico, many Democrats are no less skeptical than Frank is.

“I am very leery of any consumer regulator being placed inside the Fed,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “In my twenty years of trying to get the Federal Reserve to properly protect consumers, it has been an uphill, and very often unsuccessful, battle.” Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina agreed that “there is justified skepticism about giving the authority to the Fed.”