Senate Banking Committee Passes Bill to Claw Back Bank Executive Pay

Andrew Moran
By Andrew Moran
June 22, 2023Politics
Senate Banking Committee Passes Bill to Claw Back Bank Executive Pay
A man passes a sign at Silicon Valley Bank's headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., on March 13, 2023. (Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images)

In the most significant bipartisan response since the banking turmoil this past spring, the Senate Bank Committee approved legislation to claw back compensation from bank executives after their financial institutions fail.

The Recovering Executive Compensation from Unaccountable Practices (RECOUP) Act reins in the banking industry by imposing new fines for misconduct, restricting failed executives from working in the financial sector, forcing banks to enhance corporate governance, and introducing many regulatory requirements on federal regulators.

But the most consequential component of the legislation is granting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) new powers to claw back compensation for executives.

Members voted overwhelmingly 21-2 on June 21 to pass the measure out of committee and bring it to a floor vote. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) voted no.

“Bank executives who take on too much risk and crash their banks shouldn’t get to land on their feet, they shouldn’t get to keep the profits they made by making bad bets with other people’s money, and they shouldn’t get to take their bad behavior to another bank,” said Senate Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in his opening remarks. “We have bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive bill that cracks down on irresponsible executives who poorly manage their banks and put customers and workers and the entire economy at risk.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who also serves as the Ranking Member, called it a “commonsense solution to address executive accountability” designed to protect U.S. taxpayers and limit government overreach.

But Hagerty argued that the legislation “will have the perverse effect of making the biggest banks even bigger,” which will hurt the smaller outfits.

“Second, it lets the government regulators and bureaucrats—whose supervisory failures led to SVB’s collapse—off scot-free,” he said in a statement. “In fact, it empowers government agencies even more. A serious attempt at accountability for the recent banking crisis cannot ignore a key culprit.”

Tillis disapproved of the bill because it was “too expansive.”

The Senate had been considering a similar bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio). The proposal contained similar provisions but was far more reaching as it also targeted senior officials, including directors and controlling shareholders, and confiscated three years of compensation.

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee has not taken up a comparable legislative pursuit.

But political observers note that a specific provision in the RECOUP Act could entice many House Republicans to boost congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve.

Capital Requirements Debate

Despite many leaders in Washington asserting that the U.S. banking system is safe, sound, and resilient, the key debate on Capitol Hill is instituting more rules and regulations on the finance sector. One concept being discussed is increasing capital standards for medium and large companies.

Michael S. Barr, the Fed Vice Chair for Supervision, has advocated for higher capital requirements, even before the failures of SVB, Signature, and First Republic.

“Larger, more complex banks pose the greatest risk and impose greater costs on society when they fail,” he said in December 2022 speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “Higher capital requirements help to ensure that larger, more complex banks internalize this greater risk and counterbalance the greater costs to society by making these firms more resilient.”

Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee on June 21, Fed Chair Jerome Powell explained that the process of implementing higher capital mandates is long and would likely only affect larger entities.

“Any increase in the capital for the large banks will need to be justified. I don’t know that there will be much of a capital increase proposed for banks other than the very large ones, but we’ll have to see,” he said.

Powell warned that it would force the federal government to face the consequences of lower economic growth.

“The benefit of it is to have stronger banks that can lend and maybe survive more kinds of crisis environments, but there are costs as well there,” he stated. “I think it’s going to be, as always, a question of weighing and balancing those costs.”

GOP lawmakers argued that such a measure is unnecessary in such a well-capitalized financial system.

“This would limit banks’ ability to lend money, exacerbating the looming credit crunch, and starving families and small businesses of the capital they need,” Rep. McHenry said at the June 21 hearing.

“Uncertainty from Fed supervision and regulation is the last thing the well-capitalized banking system needs now. Following numerous supervisory failures, and a new Vice Chair for Supervision at the Fed injecting politics into policy, it is becoming clear that Congress may need to examine separating supervision and regulation out of the Fed and gaining greater oversight and control.”

During Powell’s semi-annual monetary policy report to Congress, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-Ny.) contended that greater capital standards would impact credit, resulting in lost jobs, lower incomes, fewer opportunities, and a higher cost of living.

From The Epoch Times

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