Washington D.C. — Righteous indignation was on full display by Republicans on the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committee hearings on the Silicon Valley Bank Collapse. One by one, Republicans scolded federal regulators while vehemently denying the 2018 Republican-led, financial industry-pushed, Trump-signed law that gutted Dodd-Frank’s risk-assessment safeguards for midsize banks had anything to do with the crisis.
Except it did. The effort, championed by HFSC Chairman Patrick McHenry himself, gave a key Trump-appointed regulator, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Randal Quarles, all the “discretion” the former banker needed to drive “an overall cultural and practical shift in which banks expected, and got, more lax treatment from their supervisors” – paving the way for banks like SVB to take huge risks beyond their means without fear of real federal consequences. One by one, Republican members disingenuously waved the finger at current federal regulators despite their testimony that they opposed the Quarles-led deregulation efforts at the time.
Congressional Republicans are understandably desperate to rewrite history and deflect blame from themselves for the banking crisis – but reality is not on their side. Chairman McHenry and fellow conservatives in the pocket of the financial industry rammed through a law that weakened Congressional oversight of midsize banks and pawned off responsibility to a Trump-appointed regulator who they knew shared their loyalties to Wall Street special interests. Predictably, the culture of hands-off banking supervision at the Fed instilled during the Trump administration led to risky behavior that ultimately caught up with mismanaged banks. That
Chairman McHenry and others are now using the crisis they invited to deride any further financial industry reform is peak projection and next-level shilling for their industry donors.
If Chairman McHenry were serious about ‘getting to the bottom’ of what happened, where’s the testimony from the former Trump official that ran wild with deregulation of banks like SVB thanks to McHenry’s own Dodd-Frank rollback bill?"
Liz Zelnick, Director of government watchdog Accountable.US’ Economic Security & Corporate Power program.
Chairman McHenry The Least Credible Person in Congress to ‘Get to the Bottom’ of What Caused Banking Crisis. In the aftermath of SVB and Signature Bank’s collapse, at least ten economic experts have called the collapse “a 100 percent avoidable problem,” blaming weakened banking regulations – including S. 2155, the so-called Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act — for “allowing banks like SVB and Signature to increase deposits” in the absence of stress tests. There was no bigger cheerleader at the time than current HFSC Chairman Patrick McHenry – who proclaimed S. 2155 was a “win for consumers” and an “important first step to undo Dodd Frank,” adding that he was “proud to have played an active role in drafting this bill.” Accountable.US found Silicon Valley Bank and its parent company gave $10,000 to McHenry on top of the over $5 million he’s taken from the financial industry. Even as banks were on the cusp of collapse, McHenry was busy glad-handing and with executives of one of the failing banks at a ritzy fundraiser in his honor.
BACKGROUND: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRUMP APPOINTED FORMER FED VICE CHAIR RANDAL QUARLES:
- As outlined by Americans For Financial Reform, the deregulatory impact of S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, was further exacerbated by Trump federal regulators eager to do the industry’s bidding, including Trump Fed Vice Chair of Supervision Randal Quarles. Under Quarles, “a multimillionaire hailing from the world of banking and finance,” the Federal Reserve took deregulation further than required by S. 2155 by “tailoring” required to a bank’s specific risk profile. This move was in line with Quarles’s desire to “chang[e] the tenor of supervision.”
- Under Quarles’s leadership, the Fed proposed and implemented several changes to the bank stress-testing regime, with Quarles admitting in a 2019 speech that “periodic stress testing has turned out to be a less useful supervisory tool to evaluate the risks of smaller and less complex financial institutions.” In 2021, ahead of Quarles’ term expiring, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) slammed Quarles for “cutting holes in the safety net” and doing “‘the bidding of Wall Street [for] far too many years.’”
- During his 2017 confirmation process, Quarles said he believed that there was “a lack of transparency” over the Fed’s stress test processes, saying he would share more information with the public, which critics said would make it easier for banks to pass tests. Quarles added “it’s not giving the answer key,” but “giving them the questions.”
- Prior to his confirmation, financial disclosures showed Quarles served simultaneously on the board of directors for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), raising concerns from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) that this presented “an obvious conflict of interest.“
- In a March 2016 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Quarles wrote “too big to fail” rhetoric misses the main problem that banks are suffering from. Instead, he believed it was simply a shortage in stable deposits saying the Federal Reserve should “evaluate the impact of Dodd-Frank on the financial system.”
- As Vice Chair of Supervision at the Federal Reserve, Quarles discussed “substantial big-bank deregulation” under the veil of “tailoring” policy and led a series of efforts to “roll back the crisis-era regulation that overhauled Wall Street.” Under Quarles’s leadership, the Fed proposed and implemented several changes to the bank stress-testing regime, with Quarles admitting in a 2019 speech that “periodic stress testing has turned out to be a less useful supervisory tool to evaluate the risks of smaller and less complex financial institutions.” In 2021, ahead of Quarles’ term expiring, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) slammed Quarles for “cutting holes in the safety net” and doing “‘the bidding of Wall Street [for] far too many years.’”
- Quarles has contributed a staggering $108,750 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and Republican National Committee. He has also contributed at least $7,900 to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), the architect of S. 2155, which rolled back aspects of Dodd-Frank. While serving as Vice Chair, Quarles frequently met with Republican lawmakers and was praised by current HFSC Chair McHenry for “spearhead[ing] efforts to right-size overly burdensome regulations.”
- In March 2023, Former Vice Chair Quarles “played down the role of looser rules in Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse,” arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that it “wasn’t related to regulatory changes” during his tenure while criticizing the move to “devise even more unfocused and restrictive regulation.”