Statement of Professor James K. Galbraith to the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, Committee on Financial Services, US House of Representatives
On July 9, 2009, Senior Scholar James K. Galbraith testified before the House Financial Services Committee regarding the functions of the Federal Reserve under the Obama administration’s proposals for financial regulation reform—specifically, the extent to which the newly proposed role of systemic risk regulator might conflict with the Fed’s traditional role as the independent authority on monetary policy. He also addressed questions of whether the Fed should relinquish its role in consumer protection, and whether the shadow banking system should be restored.
Galbraith pointed out that the Board’s primary mission is macroeconomic: “Rigorous enforcement of safety and soundness regulation is never going to be the first priority of the agency in the run-up to a financial crisis.” Systemic risk regulation needs to be deeply integrated into ongoing examination and supervision—a function best taken on by an agency “with no record of regulatory capture or institutional identification with the interests of the regulated sector.” That agency, said Galbraith, is the FDIC. If systemic risk is to be subject to consolidated prudential regulation, why not place that responsibility in the hands of an agency for which it is the first priority? Further, if large banks and other financial holding companies pose systemic risks, why not require them to divest and otherwise reduce the concentration of power that presently exists in the financial sector? In Galbraith’s view it would, over time, “bring the scale of financial activity into line with the capacity of supervisory authorities to regulate it, and the result would be a somewhat safer system.”