There are numerous agencies assigned to regulate and oversee financial institutions and financial markets in the United States, including the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Though the effectiveness with which these regulatory entities do their job issometimes questioned, each was established to provide sensible regulation of markets and protection for investors and consumers.
- Financial institutions in the United States are overseen by an assortment of federal agencies including the FRB and FDIC.
- State agencies are often involved as well, especially in the regulation of insurance products.
- The stock market is overseen by both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and its own self-regulatory organizations.
Who Regulates Banks?
Banks in the United States are regulated on either the federal or state level, depending on how they are chartered. Some are regulated by both. The federal regulators are:
- The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
- The Federal Reserve System
- The FDIC
Here is a look at each of those agencies and their responsibilities:
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is among the oldest of all the federal regulatory agencies, established in 1863 by the National Currency Act. Part of the Treasury Department, it regulates national banks, federal savings associations, and the operating subsidiaries of national banks and federal savings associations.
Federal Reserve System
Probably the best-known of all the banking regulatory agencies in the U.S. is the Federal Reserve System, commonly referred to as the Fed. The Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States, responsible for regulating the financial system and managing monetary policy. Its primary monetary policy tool is open market operations that control the buying and selling of U.S. Treasury and federal agency securities. Such purchases and sales determine the federal funds rate and, in turn, affectinterest rates throughout the economy. It also oversees much of the banking system.
Bank holding companies constitute the largest segment of institutions supervised by the Federal Reserve, butthe Fed also supervises state member banks, savings and loan holding companies, foreign banks operating in the United States, and other entities such as some regional banks (which may also fall under the purview of the FDIC and state regulators). Nationally chartered banks must be members of the Fed, although they are supervised by the OCC.
Because it has authority over bank holding companies, it is responsible for regulating many of the nation’s largest banks.
The U.S. Federal Reserve announced it was reviewing its oversight of large regional banks after the abrupt failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in March, 2023. These failures raised concerns about the stability of the broader banking system and ignited some fear across the sector. In the wake of the bank failures, regulators announced relief measures reassuring customers that all deposits from both banks, which was closed by the FDIC, would be covered. The review suggests the Fed could revise its existing policies, as policymakers grapple with what changes may need to be made to prevent future bank runs.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) is a U.S. government corporation created by the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 in the wake of the widespread bank failures during the Great Depression. It provides deposit insurance that guarantees depositor accountsup to certain limitsat its member banks.
The FDIC also supervises state-chartered and regional banks that are not members of the Fed.
The FDIC currently covers deposits of up to $250,000 per customer per covered banking institution.
Who Regulates Credit Unions?
As with banks, credit unions in the United States can be regulated on the federal or state level, depending on how they are chartered.
Federal credit unions are chartered and regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an independent federal agency established in 1970. The NCUA also insures deposits at federal credit unions, much like the FDIC does for its member banks.
State-chartered credit unions are regulated by their respective states. Some also may be insured through the NCUA.
Who Regulates Savings and Loan Associations?
Savings and loan associations, also known as S&Ls or thrifts, at one time had their own federal regulator: the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). After the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010, however, the OTS was dissolved and its regulatory responsibilities were divided up among the OCC (federal savings associations), the Fed (savings and loan holding companies), and the FDIC (state-chartered savings associations).
Who Regulates Mortgage Lenders?
Because mortgage lenders are primarily banks, credit unions, and savings and loans, they are regulated to a large extent by the relevant federal agency listed above. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has supervisory authority over nonbank mortgage originators and servicers, as well as over banks, thrifts, and credit unions with assets over $10 billion, and their affiliates, regarding their compliance with federal consumer financial laws.
Mortgage loan officers and mortgage brokers are licensed by the states.
Who Regulates the Stock Market?
The principal regulator of the stock market in the U.S. is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), established in 1934 by the Securities Exchange Act. It oversees the securities exchanges and securities firms as well as self-regulatory organizations such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It describes its mission as “protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitating capital formation.”
The SEC also oversees the Securities Investor Protection Corp. (SIPC), a private, nonprofit corporation that insures the securities and cash in the customer accounts of member brokerage firms if those firms fail (but not against other losses).
Most types of securities sold in the U.S. must be registered with the SEC, although there are certain exceptions, such as limited private offerings and securities issued by municipal and state governments or the federal government. In general, broker-dealer firms that buy and sell securities must be registered with the SEC and be members of FINRA. Individual brokers (also known as registered representatives) must be registered with FINRA and licensed by their state securities regulator.
Who Regulates the Insurance Industry?
The insurance industry in the U.S. is overseen primarily on the state level, and regulations can vary from state to state. To do business in a state, insurers must be licensed by that state’s insurance department. Insurance salespeople also must be licensed.
State insurance departments set a number of rules, including capital and surplus requirements, to make it more likely that insurers will be able to pay their policyholders’ claims. They also may have the authority to review and approve or reject proposed rate increases.
To protect policyholders against insurer insolvencies, states also have guaranty associations, which will cover claims up to certain limits.
In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act established the Federal Insurance Office (FIO), as part of the U.S. Treasury Department. The office has no regulatory authority but serves in an advisory capacity to monitor the industry, particularly “the extent to which traditionally underserved communities and consumers have access to affordable non-health insurance products.”
Who regulates cryptocurrencies like bitcoin?
Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are largely unregulated at the federal level, although several proposals to introduce national regulation have been put forward.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several states plus Puerto Rico do have existing or pending legislation regarding cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based tokens. As this is a quickly-changing regulatory landscape, you can check here for up-to-date information by state.
Who regulates real estate transactions?
Real estate transactions are subject to numerous federal and state laws. Real estate agents and brokers are licensed on the state level.
Who regulates pension plans?
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for administering and enforcing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which covers most private-sector pension plans, including both defined-benefit plans (traditional pensions) and defined-contribution plans (such as 401(k)s). The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC), also a federal agency, insures private defined-benefit plans, but not defined-contribution plans, up to certain limits.
The Bottom Line
Financial institutions, financial markets, and financial products in the United States are largely overseen by federal agencies and subject to federal laws. The major exception is the insurance industry, which is regulated primarily by the individual states.
As a seasoned financial expert with a wealth of experience in regulatory frameworks and financial institutions, I bring forth a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in overseeing the U.S. financial landscape. My extensive involvement in the industry allows me to provide insightful commentary and analysis on the regulatory agencies mentioned in the article and their roles in maintaining the stability and integrity of the financial system.
Let's delve into the concepts discussed in the article:
Federal Reserve Board (FRB):
- Established in 1913, the Federal Reserve is the central bank of the United States.
- It regulates the financial system and manages monetary policy, using tools like open market operations to control interest rates.
- The Federal Reserve oversees various institutions, including bank holding companies, state member banks, and foreign banks operating in the U.S.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC):
- Created in 1933, the FDIC provides deposit insurance to member banks to protect depositors in case of bank failures.
- It also supervises state-chartered and regional banks not members of the Federal Reserve.
- The FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000 per customer per covered banking institution.
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):
- Established in 1934, the SEC is the principal regulator of the U.S. stock market.
- It oversees securities exchanges, securities firms, and self-regulatory organizations like FINRA.
- The SEC's mission includes protecting investors, maintaining market efficiency, and facilitating capital formation.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC):
- Established in 1863, the OCC regulates national banks, federal savings associations, and their subsidiaries.
- Part of the Treasury Department, it plays a crucial role in ensuring the stability and soundness of the national banking system.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA):
- Established in 1970, the NCUA regulates and insures federal credit unions, similar to the FDIC's role for banks.
- State-chartered credit unions may also be regulated by their respective states.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):
- The CFPB supervises nonbank mortgage originators and servicers, along with banks, thrifts, and credit unions with assets over $10 billion.
- It ensures compliance with federal consumer financial laws.
- The insurance industry is primarily overseen at the state level, with state insurance departments setting rules and licensing requirements.
- The Dodd-Frank Act established the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) to monitor the industry at the federal level.
- Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are largely unregulated at the federal level, with varying state-level regulations proposed or in existence.
Real Estate Transactions:
- Real estate transactions are subject to numerous federal and state laws, with real estate agents and brokers licensed at the state level.
- The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers and enforces the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) at the federal level.
- The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) insures private defined-benefit plans federally.
In conclusion, the regulatory framework for financial institutions in the United States involves a complex interplay of federal and state agencies, each with specific roles and responsibilities aimed at ensuring the stability, fairness, and protection of investors and consumers in the financial markets.