With the new administration weeks from taking over, President-elect Donald J. Trump's transition team is getting ready to make changes in the financial services industry, including a potential overhaul of the Dodd-Frank Act and a reduction in corporate tax rates.
As January 20, 2017, draws closer, President-elect Donald J. Trump has begun to firm up the plans for his new administration, including appointments to various Cabinet posts.
For the Secretary of the Treasury Department, Trump has selected Steven Mnuchin, the finance chair for Trump's campaign and a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs. After his Wall Street career, Mnuchin founded a movie financing company (funding hits including Avatar) and was a member of a group that purchased mortgage bank IndyMac.
The group renamed the company OneWest Bank, and during Mnuchin's tenure, the bank was eventually sold for more than twice what the group paid for it.
Despite his long-standing support of Trump, Mnuchin's selection arguably sits at odds with the President-elect's repeated campaign attacks on the financial industry, including an advertisement featuring Trump holding a picture of Goldman Sachs' chief executive and describing the company as the "personification of the global elite" who "robbed our working class."
Mnuchin—who has no government experience—will be tasked with overseeing Trump's economic policy plans, such as tax cuts, changes to foreign trade agreements, and the country's relationship with Cuba.
During a television appearance following the announcement of his selection, Mnuchin confirmed he will work to make significant tax cuts, including dropping the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. "This will be the largest tax change since Reagan," he said. "We're going to cut corporate taxes, which will bring huge amounts of jobs back to the United States."
A similar tax cut will be made for the middle class, Mnuchin said, but any tax cuts for the upper class "will be offset by less deductions that pay for it." He also suggested that the administration will support a cap on the mortgage deduction for second homes and mansions and will label China a currency manipulator "if we determine" that such a move is warranted.
In other Cabinet moves, Trump named Wilbur Ross, an investor with an estimated fortune of $2.9 billion and an economic adviser to Trump's campaign, as his Commerce Secretary. Ross has previously signaled his support to cut the corporate tax rate as well as an overall reduction of taxes. For Deputy Commerce Secretary, Trump tapped Todd Ricketts, a part owner of the Chicago Cubs.
The top regulatory priority for the financial advisors: eliminating "parts" of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, albeit without a full repeal of the statute. "As we look at Dodd-Frank, the number one problem with Dodd-Frank is it's way too complicated, and it cuts back lending," Mnuchin said during an appearance on CNBC after his appointment was announced. "We want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending. That will be the number one priority on the regulatory side."
Why it matters
Many have speculated that for its efforts to dismantle Dodd-Frank, the Trump administration will turn to the Financial Choice Act for guidance. The bill, proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, would add a new section to the Bankruptcy Code specific to large financial institutions (ending "too big to fail"), allow banks to use a 10 percent leverage ratio, cap the fraud penalties imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, effect a full repeal of the Volcker Rule, and have a significant impact on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (changing the structure of the agency to a five-member commission along with a tweak to its name and funding through the appropriations process)—all areas that President-elect Trump has highlighted as concerns with regard to the statute. President-elect Trump's new Cabinet appointments and senior advisors will have much to say in the direction the new administration takes on the financial services front over the next four years.