Jim Saksa

Lawmakers hint at regulatory models for Facebook cryptocurrency
Libra: ‘Which is it, fish or fowl?’

House members suggested Wednesday that Facebook Inc.‘s proposed cryptocurrency could be deemed an exchange-traded fund, a currency or a commodity, all of which could require some degree of regulatory oversight.

“What we’re struggling with is: What are you?” said Democratic Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter summing up a four-hour House Financial Services Committee grilling of a company executive about the proposed cryptocurrency known as Libra.

Facebook cryptocurrency stirs worry and support in both parties
Top Democrat urges Fed and regulators to protect consumers and economy from Facebook’s ‘monopoly money’

Facebook Inc. got a preview Wednesday of what to expect next week when executives come to testify about plans to launch Libra, a digital currency and online payment system.

At a hearing Wednesday morning, Democrats and Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee peppered Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell with questions about how the central bank would respond to Libra.

Fed’s Powell says Trump couldn’t push him to resign
The Fed chairman also said he shared concerns among lawmakers about Facebook Inc.’s proposal to launch a cryptocurrency

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told a House panel Wednesday that he would not resign if President Donald Trump ordered him to step down.

Powell, who has been excoriated by Trump on Twitter for his management of the Fed and the nation’s monetary policy, told House Financial Services members he would serve out his term. He made his comments during his semi-annual testimony to the committee.

GOP senators sound optimistic about Trump’s new Fed picks
They’re at least faring better than the president’s last two picks

A week after President Donald Trump tweeted his intention to nominate Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve Board, GOP senators are expressing cautious optimism about both picks, despite Shelton’s unorthodox views on monetary policy.

They’re at least better than the president’s previous two picks — Stephen Moore and Herman Cain dropped out before they were officially nominated — said Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Alabama. “Well, we haven’t evaluated them yet, but the previous two were lacking in a lot of things,” he said.

Financial Services bill loaded with hot-button issues may signal trouble ahead
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 116

House Democrats passed the Financial Services spending bill that includes some controversial provisions, says CQ Roll Call’s banking reporter Jim Saksa. Those include blocking money for a border wall, increasing funding to enforce sanctions on Iran and allowing the District of Columbia to fund abortions.

House panel advances anti-money laundering bill with only some GOP support
Backers hope it’ll be enough to move in the Senate

After holding an anti-money laundering bill for a month in the hopes of winning over the committee’s top ranking Republican, the House Financial Services Committee advanced it without him on Wednesday, in a move that could ultimately undermine the odds of passing it through the Senate.

The legislation would require corporations and limited liability companies to report who actually owns them to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, in the hopes of curbing the use of anonymous shell companies for hiding illicit assets from criminal investigators and tax officials.

Tester pushes Fed nominee on hemp regulation

A Federal Reserve Board nominee faced some sharp questioning Wednesday over the Fed’s treatment of hemp farming.

When Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester asked Michelle Bowman, a nominee of President Donald Trump for another Fed term, if Fed regulators had told banks that they could work with hemp growers and suppliers who work with them, Bowman responded, “We have not told them that they cannot bank them.”

For 2020 Democrats, a bull market for bashing Wall Street?
Sanders, Warren hope bashing big banks still resonates with voters

In 2016, a New York City real estate developer who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars managed to win the presidency after convincing thousands of Rust Belt voters that the daughter of a textile salesman was an untrustworthy elitist because she gave a few paid speeches to a Wall Street investment bank. Four years later, some of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for president are retreading the populist path that runs roughshod over Wall Street.

The candidates hope bashing big banks still resonates with voters, but they’re also broadening the message to include other economic issues that divide the haves from the have-nots. “The last three presidential elections have all been Main Street versus Wall Street, and — increasingly — about the Rust Belt versus Wall Street,” said Andy Green, managing director of economic policy at the Center for American Progress.

FHFA head sees plan this year to change Fannie, Freddie status
Mark Calabria also wants Congress to act

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria said he hopes to have a roadmap for ending the federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the end of the year.

Speaking at a National Association of Realtors event Tuesday, Calabria said it was his job as FHFA director to develop a plan for recapitalizing and releasing the government-sponsored entities, or GSEs. The two mortgage giants have been under federal control since they accepted bailouts in 2008 in the wake of the housing market collapse.

Fintech lobby spending targets cryptocurrency taxation
Firms lobbying on fintech spent more than $42 million in first quarter

Lobbying disclosures for the first quarter of 2019 show a wide swath of industries and advocacy groups focusing on financial technology issues, including the Association of National Advertisers, Intuit, Mastercard, Alibaba, FreedomWorks, IBM, the Entertainment Software Association and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

More than half of the 80 firms that reported lobbying on fintech in the first quarter listed blockchain and cryptocurrencies, including tax elements of the latter, among their biggest concerns. Combined, more than 80 firms lobbying on fintech reported spending more than $42 million in the first quarter of 2019.

Bill cracking down on LLCs used for tax evasion and money laundering faces obstacles
The bill would require corporations and limited liability companies to tell the Treasury who really owns them

After bouncing around Congress for over a decade, a bill to crack down on anonymous shell companies used in money laundering and tax evasion may advance this year, having attracted support from some strange bedfellows, including banks, unions, the national security community, human rights advocates, environmentalists, multinational corporations, law enforcement and the Trump administration.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney is expected to introduce the bill with her fellow New Yorker, Republican Rep. Peter T. King, as Congress returns from recess, and it could go to markup as soon as May 8.

CFPB to focus on protecting consumers, not enforcing laws on financial institutions
New agency Director Kathy Kraninger gave her first public speech as director at the Bipartisan Policy Center

In her first public speech as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Kathy Kraninger said the agency would focus on supervising and working with financial institutions on protecting consumers, rather than enforcing laws against them.

Kraninger announced Wednesday that the CFPB would soon propose rules to update one of the nation’s older consumer protection statutes, which prohibits abusive practices from debt collectors. One proposal would be a clear limit on the number of phone calls per week debt collectors could make.

A blockchain bill, backed by industry, may tie SEC’s hands
The bill would provide a safe harbor from federal securities regulations for digital currencies and other blockchain-based products

Even as the nation’s infant blockchain industry lines up in support of a new bipartisan bill to exempt digital tokens from Securities and Exchange Commission oversight, others warn about the dangers of Congress making the situation worse.

The bill from Reps. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican, and Darren Soto, a Florida Democrat, would provide a safe harbor from federal securities regulations for digital currencies and other blockchain-based products. But outside of the young sector’s backers, some worry that the bill goes too far in its current form.

Herman Cain picks up more GOP opposition to his being on the Fed
Kevin Cramer joins three other Republicans in announcing plans to vote against him

Sen. Kevin Cramer said Thursday he would vote against giving Herman Cain a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, likely dooming the nomination before the president officially makes it.

“If I had to vote right now, there’s no way I could vote for him,” Cramer told CQ Roll Call. “I know more things about him that’d keep him out than would qualify him.”

Marijuana bill could help Cory Gardner’s re-election chances. Will Senate GOP leaders get behind it?
Bipartisan measure would end federal interference in states that have legalized cannabis

A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to clear away some of the weedier legal issues between federal marijuana law and states that have legalized cannabis.

The bill, co-sponsored in the Senate by Colorado Republican Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and in the House by Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer and Ohio Repbublican David Joyce, would amend the federal drug law so its marijuana provisions no longer apply to individuals acting in compliance with state or tribal laws.

A pot banking bill is headed to House markup with bipartisan support
If passed, state-sanctioned marijuana growers and dispensaries would have better access to the financial system

As the House Financial Services Committee takes up a pot banking bill with broad bipartisan support, the legal barriers preventing state-sanctioned marijuana growers and dispensaries from accessing the financial system may soon go up in smoke.

The pot banking bill is one of five scheduled for committee markup Tuesday, and with 143 co-sponsors — including 12 Republicans — it’s the one with the most support. First proposed by Colorado Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter in 2013, this version was introduced by Perlmutter and Washington Democrat Denny Heck, as well as Ohio Republicans Warren Davidson and Steve Stivers.

Democrats hammer CFPB head for being soft on lenders
Democrats grilled Director Kathy Kraninger and GOP lawmakers for supporting recent agency changes

House Democrats sharply criticized on Thursday the head of America’s consumer finance watchdog for decisions Republicans say are entirely under her purview.

In the first Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversight hearing, Financial Services Democrats repeatedly hammered Director Kathy Kraninger and GOP lawmakers for supporting recent changes at the agency.

Housing finance agency confirmation hearing could involve dueling mortgage plans
The Senate Banking hearing could show the likely direction of efforts to overhaul agencies that are huge players in the national mortgage market

The Trump administration’s still undisclosed plans to end the federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be a focus of upcoming confirmation hearings for the nominee of the federal agency overseeing the two government sponsored enterprises.

Democrats such as Senate Banking ranking member Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have said they’re concerned about the suitability of Mark Calabria, the nominee to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The committee hasn’t said when it will hold a hearing on Calabria’s nomination.

House passes cryptocurrency, insider trading bills
Measures were delayed by debate over spending proposals

After a week of shutdown-related delays, the House has passed three financial services bills that had been expected to receive floor votes early last week, but were delayed as the House debated spending proposals.

Lawmakers agreed by voice vote Monday to pass under suspension of the rules a bill  co-sponsored by Reps. Ted Budd, a North Carolina Republican, and Stephen F. Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, that would create an interagency task force led by the Treasury secretary to research how new financial technology, or fintech, is being used in financial crimes and terrorism, and develop regulatory and legislative responses. The bill would also establish a grant fund for programs and ideas for preventing terrorists and other bad actors from using cryptocurrencies for nefarious ends.

House to take up three bills to curb cryptocurrency abuses
One measure would create interagency task force

The House is expected to take up and pass a trio of bills that focus on cryptocurrency’s ability to facilitate illicit activities.

The three bills were introduced in the last Congress and easily passed the full House with bipartisan support before stalling in the Senate. Two of the bills center on how new financial technology, or fintech, could be used by terrorists, and the third looks at fintech’s use in sex and drug trafficking.