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Federal Reserve V.P. Grilled at House Hearing on Hundreds of Billions in Fed Loans to Wall Street

Courtesy of Pam Martens

Randal Quarles

Randal Quarles, V.P. for Supervision at the Federal Reserve, Testifies at House Financial Services Committee Hearing on December 4, 2019

While the Democrats focused on the continuing predatory practices of U.S. banks and the Federal Reserve’s coziness with those same banks, three Republicans at yesterday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing delved into why the Federal Reserve is showering Wall Street’s trading houses with super cheap loans on the pretext that it’s simply part of the Fed’s routine monetary operations.

Since September 17, the Federal Reserve, through its New York Fed branch, has been funneling hundreds of billions of dollars each week to Wall Street’s trading houses, intervening in what had been a private overnight lending operation (called repurchase agreements or repo loans) between banks and other financial institutions. Since September 17, the Fed loans have grown in both size and duration with some loans extended out as far as 42 days – suggesting to many on Wall Street that there is one or more banks in trouble that peer banks simply don’t want to lend to. The Fed, however, has stuck to the mantra that this is just a routine response to a liquidity blip.

The Republican Co-Chair of the Committee, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), began the questioning on the repo matter early in the hearing, asking the Fed’s Vice President for bank supervision, Randal Quarles, to explain what has necessitated these loans on the part of the Fed. Quarles responded:

“There were a complex set of factors that contributed to those events in September. Not all of them were related to our regulatory framework. But I do think that as we have considered what were the driving factors in the disruption in the repo market in September, we have identified some areas where our existing supervision of the regulatory framework, less the calibration or structure of the framework itself, may have created some incentives that were contributors.

“They were probably not the decisive contributors but they were contributors. And I think we need to examine them. Particularly among them are the internal liquidity stress tests that we run that create a preference, or can create a preference at some institutions, for central bank reserves over other liquid assets including Treasury securities for the satisfaction of their liquidity requirements under the liquidity framework that’s put in post the crisis.”

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