Brainard says pandemic showed financial systems flaws, need for reform

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic laid bare a number of weaknesses in the financial system that should be addressed with new rules to prepare for the next shock, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said on Monday.

“We should not miss the opportunity to distill lessons from the COVID shock and institute reforms so our system is more resilient and better able to withstand a variety of possible shocks in the future, including those emanating from outside the financial system,” said Brainard, a key voice in recent debates over financial regulation and a critic of recent steps to ease requirements on financial institutions.

Brainard focused her most detailed suggestions on the rules governing the large money market funds that saw massive redemptions as the pandemic intensified last spring, causing stress in corporate and other funding markets that rely on them.

She said ideas like “swing pricing,” which kicks in after redemptions hit a certain level to penalize those who continue to withdraw, as well minimum deposit and other rules could head off a future crisis by reducing the “incentive to run.”

“The COVID stress test highlighted significant financial vulnerabilities” across markets that forced the Fed to roll out its own backstops to ensure corporations, foreign governments, and others could get the dollars they needed to function, Brainard said.

Her remarks amounted a broad call to use the post-pandemic period to review the problems that emerged in financial markets last spring, and tighten regulations where needed.

That set of issues could figure into President Joe Biden’s deliberations over whether to keep or replace current Fed chair Jerome Powell, whose terms ends in February, as well as current vice chair for financial regulation Randal Quarles.

Brainard, a veteran of other Democratic administrations, is regarded as a possible replacement for either of the two men, has dissented from several recent Fed regulatory decisions.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama