Fink Says Federal Regulatory Process Needs More Transparency

Jul 16, 2014 8:28 pm ET

(Updates with SEC commissioner’s comments in ninth paragraph.)

July 16 (Bloomberg) -- BlackRock Inc.’s Laurence D. Fink, chief executive officer of the world’s biggest money manager, said the regulatory process for identifying systemic risks in the financial markets needs to be more transparent.

“Honestly, there’s no dialogue at all,” Fink said today in a telephone interview. “We don’t how how that process is going and unfortunately we learn it through innuendos and leaks.”

BlackRock, which manages $4.6 trillion in client assets, and Fidelity Investments are among money managers that are trying to avoid the label of systemically important financial institutions, or SIFI. Under the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act, Fink said, asset managers can’t interact with the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which decides which companies pose the biggest risks to the financial system, unless they identify the conversations as lobbying.

That’s an inhibiting process that creates opportunities for “mistakes,” he said.

BlackRock “would love that opportunity” for a better “feedback loop” with regulators, Fink said today.

Mutual fund companies have been pushing back against claims that some firms may be too big to fail, saying that subjecting a few money managers to more regulation would hurt competition and ultimately their investors. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are cooperating on legislation drafted with help from the main lobbying group for mutual funds that would lift some of the secrecy around the FSOC, requiring it to give firms early notice that they could be designated systemically important.

Avoiding Repeat

Dodd-Frank established the FSOC, an umbrella group of U.S. regulators, to avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis when the government stepped in to bail out large firms whose collapse destabilized the financial system. The law automatically put banks with $50 billion or more in assets under Federal Reserve supervision, and established the FSOC to identify other threats to the financial system.

FSOC began debating the fates of BlackRock and Fidelity in October, and the industry has complained that the board’s deliberations are too secretive. Treasury officials say the council can’t publicly discuss confidential information about specific companies.

SEC Commissioner Michael S. Piwowar, in remarks yesterday at the AEI Conference on Financial Stability, said FSOC could stand for the “Firing Squad on Capitalism” and criticized the panel for a lack of transparency.

‘Simply Wrong’

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in congressional testimony on June 24, said assertions that FSOC is opaque and its outcomes predetermined are “simply wrong.”

When a nonbank financial company such as BlackRock enters the final stage of consideration, the firm is notified and can submit written materials, according to documents on the Treasury’s website.

Suzanne Elio, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, declined to comment on Fink’s remarks.

The process is an opportunity to “create a safer, sounder financial system, and we are in favor of that,” Fink said. If investors trust the system more, people will hoard less cash and invest their money with money managers such as BlackRock, he said.

--With assistance from Christopher Condon in Boston.