In what may be her last appearance at the annual economic summit held in Wyoming, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday warned against forgetting the lessons of the Great Recession.
And she staunchly defended the post-crisis regulatory reforms that she says have made banks safer.
Most research shows the changes have curbed risky banking activities, and yet “credit is available on good terms, and lending has advanced … , contributing to today’s strong economy,” Yellen said at the conference held in Jackson Hole, and sponsored by the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.
Yellen’s remarks appear to be at odds with statements made by President Trump, who often has claimed that excessive regulation of the financial system has hurt economic growth.
Trump has been particularly critical of the Dodd-Frank law, Congress’s main response to the 2008-09 financial crisis. “I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses. They can’t borrow money,” Trump said in February. “They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow it because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.”
In June, the Republican-led U.S. House passed a bill to replace Dodd-Frank, but it is unlikely to have enough votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
On Friday, Yellen defended Dodd-Frank, which among other things set up a mechanism to dismantle troubled banks during a crisis and required banks to draw up “living wills” that spell out how they would deal with bankruptcy.
She also reviewed other requirements passed by U.S. and global regulators in the wake of the crisis, such as higher standards for the amount of reserves banks need to hold when they lend money and requirements that banks pass regular “stress tests” to ensure they can survive downturns.
Although some tweaking of new rules may be necessary, “any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest,” she said.
Yellen’s term as Fed chair expires in February, and Trump has given mixed signals about whether he will re-appoint her. During his campaign he frequently took aim at the Fed, accusing it of keeping interest rates low to benefit President Barack Obama.
“I think she’s very political and to a certain extent, she should be ashamed of herself,” Trump said of Yellen during a CNBC interview in September 2016.
More recently, Trump has spoken approvingly of Yellen, telling the Wall Street Journal he has “a lot of respect for her” and that she is doing a good job.
In her remarks, Yellen seemed to warn that the public was growing complacent about the financial crisis, which she called “the most severe financial panic and largest contraction in economic activity in the United States since the Great Depression.”
“Already, for some, memories of this experience may be fading — memories of just how costly the financial crisis was and of why certain steps were taken in response,” she said.