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Washington Wrap — House pushes 'clean' terrorism risk bill; FDIC OKs bank rules

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Washington Wrap — House pushes 'clean' terrorism risk bill; FDIC OKs bank rules

The Washington Wrap is a weekly recap of financial regulation, news and chatter from around the capital. Send tips and ideas to polo.rocha@spglobal.com, david.hood@spglobal.com and declan.harty@spglobal.com.

In Congress

Congress returned to hear a semiannual testimony from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger in two different hearings: one in front of the House Financial Services Committee and the other before the Senate Banking Committee.

House and Senate Democrats excoriated Kraninger for her decision to join a Department of Justice lawsuit arguing that a president may remove a director of the agency at will. Nearly a month before the hearings, Kraninger sent a letter to congressional leadership supporting the Justice Department's position that a president's inability to remove a director of the bureau at his or her discretion is unlawful.

Congress created the bureau in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and made it almost completely independent from the legislative and executive branches. Its budget is not congressionally appropriated, and its leader may only be removed from office by the president for "just cause."

"The constitutional question has delayed many enforcement actions, it has delayed regulatory actions, and has been something I believe, fundamentally, that the Supreme Court and Congress need to decide and settle once and for all so that the bureau can move forward and actually engage in its mission proactively," Kraninger said during the Oct. 16 House hearing.

In addition, House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for 10 years to 2030. The program provides a government backstop to insurance companies that offer terrorism risk coverage.

The current reauthorization expires at the end of 2020, but lawmakers have begun the process of reauthorization now to give certainty to insurers who will be seeking contract renewals much earlier in the year.

Waters' bill is a "clean" extension, without reforms or changes to the law.

During an Oct. 17 House hearing, Republicans advocated to include explicit coverage for cyberterrorism attacks in the bill. But Waters argued that the reauthorization is "working as intended" and did not require any changes.

In 2016, the Treasury Department issued guidance stating that terrorist cyberattacks are covered under the law.

At the SEC

Wall Street's top securities regulator wants to improve the market conditions for thinly traded stocks.

The SEC has invited exchanges, trading firms and other market participants to submit proposals on how the regulator can help improve the trading conditions of exchange-listed stocks that often see lower volumes.

By fielding industry proposals, the SEC is hoping to address the potentially higher transaction costs investors may see from trading less-liquid stocks, the challenges for investors looking to build up or unwind large positions in those securities, and negative impacts companies can experience from having a stock that is not traded often.

To address those concerns, the SEC's commission said it was interested in examining a number of different proposals. Among those floated by the commission in an Oct. 17 statement were eliminating a market rule that allows stocks to trade on any U.S. national securities exchange; creating periodic auctions throughout the trading day to concentrate liquidity; and increasing the obligations for market makers when dealing those stocks.

"A one-size-fits-all approach to market structure does not work for many of our public issuers, particularly small and medium-sized companies," SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a separate statement. "We want to know if more can be done to improve secondary market quality for thinly traded securities."

At the FDIC

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. board voted to finalize a slate of new rules for banks governing capital, liquidity and other standards, checking off the last box for the rules to become effective.

Just a week before, the Federal Reserve approved the final rule. The FDIC voted 3-1 on two proposals, with FDIC board member Martin Gruenberg, an Obama administration appointee, dissenting on each.

The rules create a new regulatory framework in which banks with $100 billion in assets or more are placed into four categories based on their size and complexity. The new rules generally loosen regulations for smaller banks, but they keep the most stringent regulations in place for the eight U.S.-based global systemically important banks.

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