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Funding for Federal and State Financial Regulators Still in Question As Roles Expand

Could Washington's power shift this week have implications for financial reform implementation? Here's a quick review of federal and state regulators' funding situations.

With more Republican lawmakers taking their posts this week, there’s muchspeculation about how Washington’s power shifts could starve regulators of funding for the financial reform bill passed last year by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Here’s a quick review of where the funding situation rests with the federal and state regulatory agencies that have increased responsibilities under Dodd-Frank—as well as with the new consumer financial protection agency that was created by the reform bill.

A budget resolution passed in the lame-duck session has left the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission without any extra funding until March. Here’s Bloomberg with some background:

The SEC and CFTC, tasked with writing most of the rules dictated by Dodd-Frank, sought budget increases to at least $1.25 billion and $261 million, respectively, for staffing, technology and infrastructure. The increases would be 10 percent for the SEC and more than 50 percent higher than the CFTC’s current $169 million budget.

Without that funding, new initiatives will be postponed or scrapped, regulators have said.

Gary Gensler, head of the CFTC, has said the demands of the financial reform bill would require 400 new hires to keep up with rulemaking and increased monitoring of the financial markets. He told lawmakers last month that his agency’s current funding is “far less than what is required to properly fulfill our significantly expanded role.”

The SEC’s head, Mary Schapiro, has said that her agency’s new responsibilities would necessitate at least 800 new hires. Reuters has reported that all hiring at the agency is frozen. The SEC has already postponed the implementation of several Dodd-Frank measures, including the creation of an office dedicated to taking tips from industry whistleblowers.

At least one part of the SEC’s oversight responsibilities is being shifted to the states. The Wall Street Journal reported today that as part of the financial reform bill, states are taking over the regulation of more mid-size investment firms. In Texas, for instance, this means that the number of investment firms regulated by the Texas State Securities Board will double, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The increased regulatory burden comes at a time when many states are already shouldering huge budget deficits, and getting additional resources may not be easy.

Finally, there’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency created by the financial reform bill. Ben Bernanke said in September that the agency, which will open for business in July, has already been given initial funding, the Center for Public Integrity noted. By law, the new agency’s funding comes directly from the Federal Reserve and is not subject to the congressional appropriations process, though that hasn’t stopped outgoing Sen. Chris Dodd from sounding the alarm on defunding fears. Others, including St. Louis Fed president James Bullard, have expressed concerns that the funds—an estimated $500 million each year—may not be enough and are “not based on any careful assessment of what the needs of the bureau will be.”

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