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Paranoia Reigns in Congress Over an International Financial Cabal

Published: March 30, 2015
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The Plenary: Governing Body of the Financial Stability Board

The Plenary: Governing Body of the Financial Stability Board

It’s tough to keep up with the conspiracy theories that run rampant from day to day in the hallowed halls of Congress. But one that is gaining traction is that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Stability Oversight Council (whose acronym is pronounced F-SOC) is the handmaiden of an international finance cabal and is obediently marching to its beat instead of the mandates of Congress.

These suspicions were on display at the Senate Banking Committee hearing last Wednesday and the House Financial Services Committee hearing the week before where U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who Chairs F-SOC, was pummeled with thinly veiled, and not so thinly veiled, accusations.

F-SOC was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. It is charged with the early identification of emerging risks to the financial system. Every major regulator of Wall Street banks has a seat.

The conspiracy theory that foreign hot shots are really controlling decisions at F-SOC is not without roots. The international equivalent of F-SOC is the Financial Stability Board, which is run by a Plenary of central bankers and finance ministers from around the globe, along with organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. The United States has three members on the Plenary: Nathan Sheets, the Undersecretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury; Daniel Tarullo, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve; and Mary Jo White, Chair of the SEC. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England is the current Chair of the Financial Stability Board.

The simmering conspiracy took wings on February 5 of this year when Mark Carney issued what appeared to be marching orders from the Financial Stability Board to G20 members, which includes the United States. One portion of the document reads as follows:

“At the Brisbane Summit, two crucial elements of the policy framework to end too-big-to-fail were agreed:  a proposal for a common international standard on the total loss-absorbing capacity that globally systemic banks must have; and an industry agreement that will prevent cross-border derivative contracts from being terminated disruptively in the event of a globally systemic bank entering resolution. In 2015, we must bring this progress to finalisation. By the Antalya Summit: The FSB will finalise the international standard for total loss-absorbing capacity of global systemically important banks; FSB members will take measures to promote industry adoption of contractual provisions recognising temporary stays on the close-out of financial contracts when a firm enters resolution.”

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