Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s grilling by legislators over Federal Reserve conduct in Bank of America Corp.’s takeover of Merrill Lynch & Co. may reduce the odds the central bank will win new powers in a regulatory overhaul.
Bernanke failed to resolve some lawmakers’ questions on whether the Fed bullied executives and stepped over other regulators in the name of financial stability in a three-hour congressional hearing yesterday. Republicans asserted the Fed interfered with commercial decisions, and Democrats said it should have wrung more concessions in return for taxpayer aid.
Criticisms by members of both parties are likely to diminish support for the Obama administration’s plan to make the Fed the single agency responsible for the largest and most interconnected financial institutions. The proposal, part of a broad revamp of bank regulation, would give the Fed power to dictate standards on capital, liquidity and risk management.
“It may be more important for us to find another systemic risk regulator,” Representative Paul Kanjorski, a Pennsylvania Democrat and member of the House Oversight Committee where Bernanke appeared, said in a Bloomberg Television interview after the hearing. Congress should “hesitate to put any more authority on the back of the Federal Reserve,” he said.