Financial Services Report (3/29)

March 29, 2021

The House and Senate are in a district work period (known as recess when many of us used to be staffers) for the next two weeks. There are no floor votes or committee hearings scheduled. Both chambers are scheduled to return the week of April 12th. During that week, it is expected that Gary Gensler’s nomination for SEC Chair will be voted on by the Senate.

Last Week in the House

There was no floor activity last week, as the House was in a Committee work week.

Hearings, etc.

E&C LIFT America Hearing (3/22): As part of an effort by the House to endeavor to move a bipartisan infrastructure package, this past Monday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “LIFT America: Revitalizing our Nation’s Infrastructure and Economy.”

The hearing covered a wide variety of topics including clean energy, natural gas, expanding rural broadband, and health care infrastructure. The witnesses were all former FCC, CDC, or U.S. Department of Energy executives. All conversation revolved around the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act (LIFT Act), which provides broad support for U.S. infrastructure efforts. Democrats unanimously supported the bill’s implementation, while Republicans spotlighted the large price tag and criticized the Democrats’ proposed implementation of broadband and clean energy initiatives – potentially pouring cold water on the possibility of a broad, bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

HFSC CARES Act Oversight Hearing (3/23): On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee kicked off this year’s quartet of Quarterly CARES Act oversight hearings with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The witnesses commended the federal response to the pandemic but maintained that the economy still had a long road to recovery. Chairman Powell defended the Fed’s accommodative monetary policy and pushed back on concerns that it could increase inflation.

Despite being billed as oversight over the CARES Act, much of the hearing focused on the recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP). Not surprisingly, Democrats praised the ARP and advocated for continued aid to enable equitable recovery and address ongoing systemic risks. Conversely, Republicans condemned the bill, which passed on a totally partisan basis, as “untargeted” and voiced strong opposition to calls for raising taxes or addressing climate risk in ways that harm specific business industries, such as fossil fuels.

Beyond COVID relief, other issues, such as climate change were discussed. Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) cited comments from Treasury stating that bank stress tests could be used for climate change but would not be used for capital requirements or other regulation. He questioned what the purpose of such tests would then be. Secretary Yellen pointed to the need for financial institutions and regulators to better understand the risks that climate change poses in order to help institutions better manage such risks. Chairman Powell called it an “exploration” in understanding the risks better — without a regulatory agenda.

Other discussions included the potential for a Federal Reserve backed digital currency. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) praised Chairman Powell’s statement that the Fed will not pursue a digital currency without Congress’ approval. He suggested that Congress will likely not support it unless the “Know Your Customer” provisions apply to the new system. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) also argued that a digital dollar is crucially dependent on having an effective authentication component through a secure digital ID that is backed by a court system and a clear legal regime. Secretary Yellen agreed that the Fed needs to be very careful about the use of digital currency for illicit finance, voicing concerns that an anonymous currency makes that very appealing for bad actors.

House Budget Committee Member Day (3/23): On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee convened its Member Day for the 117th Congress to discuss lawmakers’ 2022 budget priorities. Reflective of the broader fundamental partisan divide, Members differed greatly along party lines on the size and scope of government spending. Republicans condemned the passage of the ARP Act as “too big,” raised significant concerns about the nation’s mounting deficit, and pushed back on Democrats’ calls for prioritizing climate risk in future spending packages. Members did, however, agree that infrastructure spending is needed as well as investments in R&D, technology, and human capital.

House Financial Services Sub. on Housing (3/24): On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance held a hearing entitled “Preserving a Lifeline: Examining Public Housing in a Pandemic.” Members raised concern about an increasing shortage of affordable housing, highlighting the disproportionate harm this causes for minority and low-income communities. Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) cited that 82 percent of public housing residents are extremely or very low income and to ensure full affordability, rent for public housing residents is generally capped at 30 percent of household income. He argued that 30 percent is still far too high for these low-income tenants and urged Congress to prioritize public housing. Ranking Members Stivers advocated for giving greater flexibilities to housing authorities to address the housing crises at a more granular level for differing states and localities in order to build “self-sufficiency” and graduate more people out of public housing.

Secretary Buttigieg Discusses Biden Administration Infrastructure Priorities (3/25): On Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing with Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg to discuss President Joe Biden’s infrastructure priorities. There was an underlying bipartisan agreement among lawmakers that more needs to be done to shore up infrastructure needs in several key areas such as highways and roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband, among others. Democrats on the dais emphasized the need to promote clean energy and equity in administration’s forthcoming infrastructure proposal, which is slated to be formally rolled out this week. GOP lawmakers strongly encouraged the administration and Congressional Democrats to work in a bipartisan manner on infrastructure, discouraging the use of budget reconciliation to clinch a comprehensive package.

House Energy & Commerce Subs. on Disinformation (3/25): On Thursday, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittees on Communications & Technology and Commerce & Consumer Protection held a joint hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google entitled “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation.” The hearing provided a bipartisan rebuke of social media and technology companies for the role their platforms play in spreading disinformation and restricting content. It included commitments from the CEOs to look into new accountability and content moderation measures. Much of the conversation revolved around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, social media’s effect on children, and disinformation relating to vaccines and the 2020 election. Republicans highlighted perceived moderation bias against conservative voices, while Democrats focused on social media’s role in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Overall, both parties were adamant about increasing transparency and restrictions on the power of larger technology corporations.

Select Coronavirus Sub. on Small Business Fraud (3/25): On Thursday, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a hearing entitled “Rooting Out Fraud in Small Business Relief Programs.” Witnesses from SBA, DOJ, and GAO committed to continuing efforts to protect pandemic relief programs from fraud. While they praised the CARES Act in its extraordinary relief response, they recognized that the unprecedented timeline of standing up pandemic relief facilities like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) led to a lack of adequate controls to detect and prevent fraudulence and abuse. The witnesses outlined their respective oversight measures and safeguards put in place and strengthened since the initial CARES Act passed nearly a year ago.

House Financial Services Sub. on Human Trafficking (3/25): On Thursday, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy held a hearing entitled “Ending Exploitation: How the Financial System Can Work to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking.” Chairman Jim Himes (D-CT) advocated for improving the country’s anti-money laundering statutes and requiring public businesses to look down their supply chain to ensure that they’re not benefiting from forced labor. Members spoke of the need to better understand how the financial system is enabling human trafficking in order to identify and prevent such activity. Ranking Member French Hill (R-AR) voiced concern for cartel traffickers and the potential heightened vulnerability of minors to human trafficking along the “open” southern border. The Committee also advocated for shoring up resources for victims and strengthening law enforcement tools to tackle this growing issue.

Bills Introduced
H.R. 2135 (Cohen): To amend the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to prohibit debt collectors from collecting, or attempting to collect, on a debt of a consumer with respect to which the statute of limitations has expired, and for other purposes. 

Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act (Malinowski): To amend section 230(c) of the Communications Act of 1934 to prevent immunity for interactive computer services for certain claims, and for other purposes. The Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act establishes the principle that platforms should be accountable for content they proactively promote, if doing so leads to specific offline violence. The bill preserves the core elements of Section 230 that protect the speech of users, is narrowly targeted at the algorithmic promotion of content that leads to some of the worst types of offline harms, and does not seek to mandate political “neutrality” as a condition for Section 230 protections. 

H.R. 2123 (Beatty): To amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to require regulated entities to provide information necessary for the Offices of Women and Minority Inclusion to carry out their duties, and for other purposes. 

H.R. 2158 (Omar): To provide emergency relief assistance under a modified Community Development Block Grant program for communities facing economic damage from civil and social crises, and for other purposes.

Other Activity

Pressley, Warren Lead Bicameral Letter to Treasury: On Wednesday, a bicameral group of more than 30 Congressional Democrats sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, urging the Department to provide “maximum flexibility for the distribution of federal relief in its upcoming guidance for the recently enacted American Rescue Plan (ARP).” The lawmakers urged Treasury to provide relief funds to disproportionately impacted communities by enabling funding to support non-entitlement cities that have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also asks Treasury to work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure that population and other relevant community data are accurate and up to date.

Last Week in the Senate

The Senate voted to confirm Marty Walsh to as Secretary of Labor on Monday, followed by Vivek Murthy to be Medical Director in the Regular Corps and Surgeon General of the Public Health Service and Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm David Turk to be Deputy Secretary of Energy and Rachel Leland Levine to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services.

On Thursday, the Senate passed the PPP Extension Act of 2021 by a vote of 92-7. The bill is expected to be signed into law shortly and will set a new program application deadline of May 31, allowing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to continue processing applications for up to 30 days past the new date.

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Wally Adeyemo as the deputy secretary of the Treasury, making him the department’s first Black No. 2 official.
Hearings, etc.

CARES Oversight Hearing (3/24): On Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee convened its quarterly CARES Act oversight hearing with Treasury Secretary Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The witnesses outlined their efforts over the last year since the passages of the CARES Act to address the COVID-19 pandemic. While they expressed optimism in the economy’s ongoing recovery, Secretary Yellen and Chairman Powell each urged caution and patience, emphasizing that the economy still has “deep pockets of pain.” Democrats praised the passage of the ARP Act, while Republicans condemned the partisan relief bill as being “untargeted.” GOP senators also raised concerns about inflation and pushed back on raising taxes or pursuing a climate agenda that hinders economic growth and global competitiveness. Senators questioned various elements of the ARP — in particular the provisions on state and local aid — to which Treasury Yellen committed to working quickly within her department to publish all necessary guidance to clarify ARP concerns. The discussion spanned a wide variety of economic issues facing the nation in both the long and short term, from COVID-19 relief, to inflation and climate risks.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), along with several GOP colleagues, raised concerns for limitations on states and localities in the ARP that prevents them from using aid to carry out planned tax cuts, and encouraged Treasury’s response to give maximum flexibility, Secretary Yellen reaffirmed Treasury’s work to provide greater guidance on this issue — especially in clearly defining what constitutes an “offset” for tax cuts. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) voiced concern for the growing debt-to-GDP ratio, asking whether this is of concern to Secretary Yellen. She agreed that the country needs to be on a sustainable path but that her views on the matter have changed in recent years given the lowering trend of interest rates. In the long run, Secretary Yellen suggested that there is a need to raise revenue to support permanent spending.

SBA Pandemic Oversight Hearing (3/24): On Wednesday, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee met to discuss the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) oversight efforts regarding the distribution of both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Members discussed the ARP Act and its efforts to continue assistance to small businesses. Democrats focused on supporting underserved communities through PPP and EIDL funding. Republicans questioned Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for grants, but both parties were adamant about ensuring proper oversight of the agency. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) asked how the SBA can increase aid to underserved communities. SBA Associate Administrator Patrick Kelley asserted that President Biden’s new requirements for loans are a change that assigns more money to minority business owners. He also highlighted changes made in the newest COVID-19 relief bill that allow the SBA to gather crucial demographic information.

Senate Finance Committee Examines International Tax Policy (3/25): On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee convened a hearing entitled “How U.S. International Tax Policy Impacts American Workers, Jobs, and Investment.” In particular, the discussion weighed the merits and impacts of several key components of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). Such provisions include: (1) the Global Intangible Low Taxed Income (GILTI); (2) the Foreign Derived Intangible Income (FDII); and (3) the Base-Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT). While Senators broadly agreed on the need to ensure global competition, incentivize domestic manufacturing, and expand research and development (R&D) investments, there was a partisan divide on what tax policies are best equipped to do so. The GOP pushed back on raising the corporate tax rate and praised TCJA for enabling a “historically good” pre-pandemic economy. Meanwhile, Democrats supported President Biden’s campaign proposals advocating for raising the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent, and nearly doubling the GILTI rate from 10.5 percent to 21 percent.

Senate Banking on the American Rescue Plan Act (3/25): On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing entitled “American Rescue Plan (ARP): Shots in Arms and Money in Pockets.” The hearing touched on tax credits, school closures, and housing affordability. Republicans expressed concern with the lack of employment incentives created by ARP, as well as the slow opening of school systems. Democrats praised ARP as an “equitable and robust” solution to the COVID-19 crisis. Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) cited the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) as “crucial” to the pandemic recovery. Ms. Matsui, of the National Women’s Law Center, highlighted how these primarily benefit women of color and populations most harmed by economic inequalities. Sen. Van Hollen (D-MD) promoted his plan with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) to expand access to housing vouchers in the wake of the pandemic. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) prioritized the implementation of rural broadband efforts in ARP and highlighted the role of broadband in leveling the playing field for underserved communities.

Senate Budget Committee on the Tax Code (3/25): On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing entitled “Ending a Rigged Tax Code: The Need To Make the Wealthiest People and Largest Corporations Pay their Fair Share of Taxes.” Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-VT) highlighted his pair of tax reform bills introduced this week that would restore the corporate tax rate to 35 percent — higher than the 28 percent President Biden has proposed — and implement a progressive estate tax, among other things. Senate Democrats agreed that there needs to be higher and more stringent taxes on large corporations and the wealthy, who they argued use loopholes and tax havens to maintain and build their wealth at the expense of the working class. Meanwhile, the GOP fiercely opposed such measures. Ranking Member Lindsay Graham (R-SC) argued in his opening that “tax policy is job policy. The way you structure your tax code is going to determine how competitive you can be vis-à-vis the rest of the world.”

Bills Introduced
S. 922 (Cornyn): A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide funding to States for extending broadband service to unserved areas in partnership with broadband service providers, and for other purposes. Companion bill by Rep. Williams, 

H.R. 2183S. 944 (Graham): A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to establish a program to expand access to broadband in unserved and underserved areas, and for other purposes. 

SAFE Banking Act (Merkley): A bill to create protections for financial institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers for such businesses, and for other purposes.

S. 965 (Markey): A bill to establish a voluntary program to identify and promote internet-connected products that meet industry-leading cybersecurity and data security standards, guidelines, best practices, methodologies, procedures, and processes, and for other purposes. 

For the 99.5 % Act, S. 994 (Sanders): A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to reinstate estate and generation-skipping taxes, and for other purposes. This bill: (1) exempts the first $3.5 million of an individual’s estate from the estate tax; (2) establishes a new progressive estate tax rate structure; (3) ends tax breaks for dynasty trusts; (4) closes other loopholes in the estate and gift taxes; and (5) protects farm land and conservation easements. 

The Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act, S. 991 (Sanders): A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the treatment of foreign corporations, and for other purposes. The bill would repeal the Trump corporate tax rate and restore the top rate to 35 percent, close loopholes that incentivize offshoring, and reform and tighten the based erosion and anti-abuse tax (BEAT).

Other Activity

Schumer Outlines Post Recess Work Agenda: On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a Dear Colleague on the Majority’s intended focus areas after the April recess. The release points to: (1) voting rights and civil rights; (2) economy recovery, jobs, and climate change; and (3) health and gun safety. The vast majority of the legislation listed on his spring and early summer agenda have little to no Republican support — making them unlikely to draw the 60 votes needed on a procedural motion to even bring them up for debate. “We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can. But if they choose to obstruct, rather than work with us to deliver for American families, we must make progress nonetheless,” Schumer wrote. “Failure is not an option.”

Senate Dems Press Insurers on Climate Readiness: On Wednesday, Sens. Warren (MA), Van Hollen (MD), Merkley (OR), and Whitehouse (RI) sent a letter to various insurance companies seeking information about how they disclose their preparations for climate change – especially regarding its underwriting as well as their investment policies pertaining to coal and other carbon-intensive projects. “As the leader of a major insurance company, you know the significant financial and economic risks climate change poses to both underwriting and investment,” the lawmakers wrote. They requested a response by April 16 to several questions regarding climate risk assessments and underwriting polices. The letter warned that, “it goes without saying that the physical risks of climate change pose a serious threat to insurers, both on your assets side and on your claims side.”

Democratic U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Repeal “True Lender” Rule: On Thursday, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced S.J. Res 15 and issued a press release announcing the Majority’s intention to repeal the OCC’s so called True Lender Rule through the use of the Congressional Review Act. Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) stated that “Congress must overturn this harmful Trump Administration Rule rule that eviscerates state consumer protection laws and allows unregulated payday lending across the nation.” Democrats have argued that the rule allows financial technology firms to evade state usury laws and rate caps by partnering with banks that are subject to looser federal lending rules. The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM), Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Congressman Chuy García (D-IL) is sponsoring the House companion resolution. Under the Congressional Review Act, Democrats have 60 legislative days from February 2nd to bring the bill to the floor under the simple majority threshold set by the statute.
At the same time, Sen. Brown also introduced S.J. Res 16 ­— a CRA resolution for the rule submitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “Procedural Requirements and Resubmission Thresholds Under Exchange Act Rule 14a-8.”

The SEC’s September amendments to Shareholder Proposals rule: (1) amend the criteria that a shareholder must satisfy to be eligible to have a proposal included in a company’s proxy statement; (2) modify the rule limiting the number of proposals a person or entity may submit for a particular company’s shareholder meeting; and (3) revise the levels of shareholder support a proposal must receive to be eligible for resubmission at the same company’s future shareholder meetings.

Toomey Presses SEC on Climate Agenda: Senate Banking Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) sent a letter to the SEC asking the agency’s acting chief for a briefing on its plans for a new task force and enforcement priorities regarding climate-related financial risks. “These announcements appear to presage major changes in longstanding practices on disclosure and enforcement matters at the SEC. Such changes would be premature,” Toomey wrote to acting SEC Chairwoman Allison Herren Lee. He voiced concern about recent calls for more mandatory corporate disclosures on a range of issues, including political donations. “In order to better understand the scope and intention of this new task force and the SEC’s ‘enhanced focus’ on climate and ESG-related priorities, I am requesting a staff briefing on this subject by no later than the week of April 5, 2021,” the letter states.

Last Week in the Administration

CFPB Releases Debt Collection Report

On Monday, the Bureau released its annual report to Congress on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The report highlights efforts by the CFPB and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect consumers, particularly those who have suffered profound financial impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report details that in 2020, the CFPB engaged in four public enforcement actions, arising from alleged FDCPA violations. The CFPB resolved two of these cases. The two judgments ordered nearly $15.2 million in consumer redress and $80,000 in civil money penalties. Two cases remain in active litigation. The report also outlines the CFPB’s work to address consumer harm during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially through helping consumers navigate debt collection.

Quarles Presses Banks to Stop Use of LIBOR

On Monday, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman of Supervision, Randal Quarles, pressed banks to stop using the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) on new transactions by the end of 2021, ratcheting up warnings over the interest-rate benchmark that global policy makers moved to scrap after concluding it was balky and prone to manipulation. “After 2021, we believe that continued use of Libor in new contracts would create safety and soundness risks, and we will examine bank practices accordingly,” he said in a speech. The remarks amplify repeated warnings from the Fed and other regulators that banks could face regulatory consequences if robust plans aren’t in place to move away from the benchmark before Dec. 31, when it expires for some shorter-dated dollar rates. Although policy makers support a plan that allows so-called legacy contracts to mature before Libor fully winds down in June 2023, Mr. Quarles said there is “no scenario” where the benchmark continues past that date.

Fed’s Digital Dollar Contingent on Congress

On Monday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed’s research into central bank-issued digital currencies is early and exploratory — and that U.S. officials would only consider issuing a digital dollar if they believed there was a clear use and if the idea had widespread public and political buy-in. “You can expect us to move with great care and transparency,” Chairman Powell said on Monday at a Bank for International Settlements event on central bank innovation. “We would not proceed with this without support from Congress.” He said that at this stage, the Fed is looking into whether there is even a need for a central bank digital currency. Payment systems are already speeding up and banks offer digital money in the form of bank deposits, he noted, so the need for a central bank version is an open question. “Does the public want, or need, a new digital form of central bank money to complement what is already a highly efficient, reliable and innovative payments arena?” he said. This statement was met with support by several Democratic House Members on Tuesday during Powell’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Fed Forming Climate Change Committee

On Tuesday, Fed Governor Lael Brainard announced that the Federal Reserve plans to make climate change a major part of its Wall Street oversight by creating a new committee that will identify and respond to dangers a warming planet poses to the financial system. The Financial Stability Climate Committee will be “charged with developing and implementing a program to assess and address climate-related risks to financial stability,” Brainard said in a speech. The central bank is investing in research and modeling to get a handle on how climate events can threaten firms and the broader economy, something she conceded might be challenging. The committee will coordinate with the multi-agency Financial Stability Oversight Council, which is responsible for heading off emerging risks that could start another financial crisis. Brainard highlighted that it was important to take into account implications for both individual firms’ safety and also the broader financial system because of situations “where microprudential and macroprudential goals do not fully align.”

CFPB Releases Consumer Complaint Report

On Wednesday, the Bureau released its consumer response annual report, which importantly reflected the impact that COVID-19 had on consumers. The number of complaints handled by the CFPB rose 54 percent from 2019, totaling approximately 542,300 complaints. According to the report, credit and consumer reporting complaints accounted for more than 58 percent of complaints received, followed in order by debt collection, credit card, checking or savings, and mortgage complaints. The report also notes that the Bureau received more complaints from consumers about inaccurate information on their credit and consumer reports in 2020 than in 2019.

Bank Payout Restrictions to End

On Thursday, the Federal Reserve issued a press release announcing that temporary limits on dividend payments and share buybacks will end for most banks after June 30 — following the completion of annual stress tests to determine their resilience to a hypothetical downturn. “The banking system continues to be a source of strength, and returning to our normal framework after this year’s stress test will preserve that strength,” Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice chairman of supervision, said. The move is a vote of confidence for big banks from the Fed, which placed restrictions on bank payouts last summer, citing the need to conserve capital during the coronavirus-induced downturn. It initially barred buybacks and capped dividends so that they would not exceed a bank’s recent profits. “If a bank remains above all of its minimum risk-based capital requirements in this year’s stress test, the additional restrictions will end after June 30 and it will be subject to the SCB’s normal restrictions,” the release explains.