Yellen: Financial System Safer, But Adjustments May Be Needed

The head of the U.S. central bank says the financial system is safer now than it was before the recession, and urges Washington to make some adjustments in financial regulations, rather than trash them.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the recession of 2008 cost nine million American jobs and meant millions of people lost their homes. She says financial reform regulations were intended to make it less likely that big institutions would fail in the future and to provide an orderly way to resolve the debts of big financial companies that do fail without government bailouts.

She says financial firms, particularly very large ones that could hurt the entire economy if they fail, are now required to keep larger reserves. That way if one loan goes bad, the firm is less likely to have to hastily sell off other assets at bad prices to cover the losses. Low reserve levels prompted a downward spiral when many fragile firms ran into trouble all at once, all of them trying to sell assets and no one willing to buy them.

Yellen acknowledges that over-regulation could hamper the lending and risk-taking needed for economic growth, but she says some research shows the current level of regulation hurts lending, while other research shows it helps.

In a Friday speech to a gathering of top economic officials from around the world at a resort in Wyoming, she said Fed officials are looking at ways to simplify regulations for small banks that would not cause problems for the national economy if they failed.

Small banks complain the cost of complying with complex regulations makes it hard to make loans. Small banks are important because they are often the source of capital for small companies, and such small, growing firms are the source of most new jobs.

Yellen’s closely-watched speech at the annual gathering of economists at a resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, comes after criticism from Republicans and others that stricter regulation is hurting lending and economic growth.

President Donald Trump has called for repealing a key part of the regulations called “Dodd-Frank” named after the legislators who crafted the law.

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