August 18, 2014

Sens. Warren and Vitter, and Congressmen Garrett and Capuano Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Urging Fed to Strengthen Restrictions on Emergency Lending Authority

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and David Vitter (R-La.), and Congressmen Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), and their colleagues in the Senate and House sent a letter today to Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Janet Yellen calling for the Fed to strengthen restrictions on its emergency lending authority. The letter was signed by 11 additional members of the Senate and House: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Representatives Walter Jones, Jr. (R-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

During the financial crisis, the Fed invoked its emergency lending authority to provide over $13 trillion in loans primarily to a select group of large financial institutions. These loans were long-term and offered at below-market rates - a bailout in all but name of institutions regarded as "Too Big to Fail."
Congress enacted Section 1101 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) to ensure that such bailouts could not happen again. Yet, as the senators and representatives noted in their letter, the Fed's proposed rule implementing Section 1101 does not place "meaningful restrictions on the agency's emergency lending powers."

"If the Board's emergency lending authority is left unchecked, it can once again be used to provide massive bailouts to large financial institutions without any congressional action," wrote the senators and representatives. "The Board's proposed rule fails to strike the appropriate balance between promoting financial stability and mitigating moral hazard among the largest financial institutions."

  • The senators and representatives recommended that the Board:
  • Establish a clear time limit for a financial institution's reliance on the Board's emergency lending.
  • Establish procedures for the orderly unwinding of any emergency lending program.
  • Adopt a broader definition of "insolvent."
  • Expand the definition of "broad-based."
  • Establish limitations, and a penalty rate, on lending terms.

Read the full text of the letter here.