A new report exposing the New York Fed’s coddling of Wall Street megabanks—particularly Goldman Sachs—is making waves in Washington. And why shouldn’t it? The ProPublica report exposes the New York Fed’s culture of deference to the megabanks it is charged with regulating as well as its marginalization of the few examiners who have spoken out.
In one memorable passage, a Columbia University professor hired to conduct a no-holds-barred investigation of the agency cited in his report “regulatory capture,” in which regulators are co-opted by the banks they oversee. Fittingly, officials at the agency—who had hired professor David Beim to tell it like it is—nevertheless asked him to remove the phrase.
While news of this regulatory capture is causing an uproar in Washington, it is frankly old news to community bankers. We appreciate the investigative reporting, with its secret recordings and bureaucratic inertia in the face of Wall Street power. But, please, tell us something we don’t know.
ICBA and community bankers have been saying for years that the regulatory playing field is heavily tilted in favor of the megabanks. While regulators defer to systemically risky institutions and their teams of compliance lawyers, they pounce on local community banks every chance they get. Call it “regulatory capture” if you like—it sounds to me like Stockholm syndrome. You know, when hostages have sympathy for their captors.
In fact, one of the reasons ICBA has long opposed the consolidation of the federal banking agencies into a single agency is the threat that this new regulator would become quickly co-opted. How long do you think it would take the multi-trillion-dollar banks to lobotomize the single national regulator, to the detriment of our financial system and global economy? In a New York minute!
After all, just look at what the New York Fed did with David Beim’s all-access report on the agency’s problems. After he handed over his report to the regulators, Beim never heard from them again.