Speaking to a room full of C-suite executives heading American companies, President Donald Trump promised that a "very major haircut" is coming for the Dodd-Frank Act, the landmark legislation that has defined the postcrisis financial regulatory framework.
"We want strong restrictions, we want strong regulation," Trump said. "But not regulation that makes it impossible for the banks to loan to people that are going to create jobs."
Trump previously said the administration planned to do a "big number" on Dodd-Frank, later signing an executive order calling on the Treasury, led by Steven Mnuchin, to review the bill and report back with suggestions on how to change it. Since then, the White House has declined to provide any specifics on how it plans to pursue reform, perhaps because it may wait until the Treasury report, to be completed in the summer, before taking any action.
Trump added that legislators, not bankers, are to blame for the perceived crunch in lending.
"The folks from government that are running over the banks — they're running the banks. And the people that are really, you know, the head people — they're petrified of the regulators," Trump said.
Broadly speaking, Trump said he is committed to "absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads." Trump made the remarks at a town hall-style event in which executives from American companies aired their concerns and suggestions about the business climate. HSBC Bank USA NA CEO Patrick Burke, Bank of New York Mellon Corp. CEO Gerald Hassell and Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman were among the 52 executives in attendance, according to the White House. The event featured a number of panels in which senior members of the administration, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, fielded questions from the audience.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao specifically heard from Citigroup Inc. CEO Michael Corbat and Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America CEO Deanna Mulligan on efforts to invest in better infrastructure in New York City, where most of the crowd appeared to be from. They urged the secretary to explore investment into maintenance for aged city projects and new projects aimed at protecting New York City from storms like Hurricane Sandy.
Trump later promised a quicker infrastructure project permit process in tandem with a large infrastructure plan that could be "even more" than the $1 trillion previously proposed. At an event March 24, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the bill would likely be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, not in the trillions.
Trump also briefly discussed his agenda for his upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, to take place April 6 at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, reiterating that North Korea will be a talking point. But Trump was also adamant about wanting to discuss trade, as the administration hopes to shrink its $504 billion trade deficit with China.
"I think we're going to have a very interesting talk," Trump said.