[Excerpt] The global financial crisis has sparked a debate over the cause and impact of the crisis. Academics and policymakers are searching for changes in the financial system that can correct any perceived weaknesses in the structure of regulation, the content of regulations, and the coverage of financial instruments and activities. Since the onset of the crisis, numerous proposals have been advanced to reform or amend the current financial system to help restore economic growth. In the United States, the Obama Administration has proposed a plan to overhaul supervision of the U.S. financial services sector. The proposal would give new authority to the Federal Reserve, create a new Financial Services Oversight Council, create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and create a new National Bank Supervisor to replace the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision. In contrast, Senator Collins introduced S. 664, the Financial System Stabilization and Reform Act of 2009, with a companion measure, H.R. 1754, that was introduced by Representative Castle in the House of Representatives. The measures would create a Financial Stability Council and grant the Federal Reserve the authority to examine the soundness and safety of the financial system posed by bank holding companies. Other measures include: S. 1682 (Senator Cantwell), the Derivatives Market Manipulation Prevention Act of 2009; S. 1803 (Senator Merkley), the Federal Reserve Accountability Act of 2009; S. 2756 (Senator Warner) the Financial Services Systemic Risk Oversight Council Act of 2009; H.R. 3795 (Representative Frank), the Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Acts of 2009; H.R. 3968 (Representative Ellison), to amend the Bank Holding Company Act; and H.R. 3996 (Frank), to improve financial stability. The crisis has underscored the fact that national and international financial markets have become highly integrated, and problems in one market can trigger contagion that can spread both among countries and into economic sectors to affect businesses, employment, and household well being.
Similarly, governments in Europe are considering what, if any, changes they should make to their national financial systems. Along with the United States and other countries, European countries also are considering changes to the international systems of financial supervision and regulation in order to ensure prosperity through the smooth operation of domestic and international financial systems. This process may include reconsidering the roles and responsibility of the central banks in the post-financial crisis era. Various organizations and groups are advancing a large number of recommendations and prescriptions. Some goals for any such adjustments may include providing an institutional structure for oversight and regulation that is robust, comprehensive, flexible, and politically feasible while providing appropriate incentive structures to preclude excessive risk-taking. Of course, there are no guarantees that amending the current system or employing a different regulatory and supervisory structure will preclude a repeat of the most recent financial crisis given that financial markets and institutions are continually growing, innovating, and responding to government- and market-imposed constraints.
This report addresses the European perspectives on a number of proposals that are being advanced for financial oversight and regulation in Europe. The European experience may be instructive because financial markets in Europe are well developed, European firms often are competitors of U.S. firms, and European governments have faced severe problems of integration and consistency across the various financial structures that exist in Europe.