Fed proposes streamlining annual stress tests for banks

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve on Tuesday proposed streamlining the annual stress tests that it conducts to see if the nation's largest financial firms can survive a severe recession.

Randal Quarles, selected by President Donald Trump to be the Fed's vice chairman for financial supervision, said the changes were being put forward in an effort to ensure the central bank's regulatory measures are as "simple and transparent" as possible.

The proposal would cut the number of capital-related requirements large banks must meet from the current 24 to 14. The Fed will consider putting it into effect after a 60-day comment period ends.

The proposal is the first major rules change for big banks that the Fed has considered since Trump took office vowing to eliminate regulations seen as burdensome.

The proposed rules change is "a good example of how our work can be done more efficiently and effectively, and in a way that bolsters the resiliency of the financial system," Quarles said in a statement.

The Fed said the proposed change would introduce a "stress capital buffer" which would integrate the results from the annual stress tests with the Fed's other capital requirements for banks.

Currently, bank holding companies with more than $50 billion in total assets undergo an annual stress test run by the Fed to determine whether they would be able to survive a severe economic downturn. The stress tests began in 2009, the year after the worst financial crisis in seven decades plunged the country into the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

A Democratic-controlled Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 in an effort to overhaul banking regulations and prevent a future financial crisis. However, Republicans charged that the law went too far and had weakened the economic recovery by making it harder for banks to make loans. Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to roll back the act, which he called a disaster.

Quarles, Trump's first nomination to the seven-member Fed board, was picked to fill the position of vice chairman for supervision, the central bank's top regulatory post. Quarles has said Dodd-Frank should be reformed but not scrapped.

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