The Fed Warms To Climate Change

The politicization of the Federal Reserve continues apace. And no, President Trump isn’t trying to pull some grand last-minute gesture before he leaves office, like trying to fire Jerome Powell or something like that.

Last week, as expected, the Federal Reserve formally joined the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System, the “lone holdout” among the world’s major central banks to join this “forum for central bankers and regulators to come together and discuss how their institutions can ensure their financial systems don’t worsen climate change risks, and how financial institutions might be able to lower those risks,” as the Wall Street Journal described it.

As innocuous as that may sound, it injects the Fed solidly in the middle of what has become increasingly political, namely which companies – and probably, individuals eventually– banks should or shouldn’t lend money or offer their services to.

As we know, several large international banks have been under increasing pressure from shareholder activists to stop making loans to companies in the “fossil fuels” business, namely oil and coal companies and pipeline operators, and the like. And the banks have dutifully buckled under, albeit with a long lead time as to when they will actually cease doing so. Now the Fed will be providing added pressure on the banks to make loans only to those companies favored by the Washington and New York elites – or at least will feel added pressure to do so. Continue reading "The Fed Warms To Climate Change"

The Times They Are A' Changin'

Talk about charter creep. This is more like a charter leap.

As we know well by now, the Federal Reserve’s famous “dual mandate” is to promote price stability and maximum sustainable employment. But as we also know, the Fed really has a third mandate, maintaining moderate long-term interest rates (don’t ask me why they still call it a dual mandate).

So it should be no surprise, then, that the Fed has now gone way beyond that dual (or treble) mandate by wholeheartedly injecting itself into what is really a political debate, namely climate change. And how ironic it is that it rose to the forefront during the same week that the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Last week Fed officials were out in force, declaring that climate change would now be a major factor in not only how it regulates federally chartered commercial banks but also how it conducts U.S. monetary policy.

On Thursday, in a speech at the GARP Global Risk Forum, Kevin Stiroh, an executive vice president responsible for regulating banks at the New York Fed, said financial firms need to take the dangers and costs of climate change into their risk-management decisions.

“Climate change has significant consequences for the U.S. economy and financial sector through slowing productivity growth, asset revaluations, and sectoral reallocations of business activity,” he said. “The U.S. economy has experienced more than $500 billion in direct losses over the last five years due to climate and weather-related events.” Continue reading "The Times They Are A' Changin'"