Federal Reserve could be given more power

America’s Treasury Department will tomorrow put forward plans for a revamp of US financial regulation in an attempt to curb the lending excesses that triggered the credit crisis.

The new blueprint, drawn up by Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, would, if adopted, replace a system that has been built up over more than a century. The Federal Reserve would be given broad powers over financial markets, including a remit to investigate any institution thought to be endangering stability.

The main aim of the plan would be to draw together the various agencies that are charged with financial oversight. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, would be merged with bodies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which administers trading in securities based on oil and other commodity prices.

Previous attempts to shake-up financial regulation in America have proved abortive and the Paulson plan would require approval by Congress – something difficult to predict with presidential elections in the offing.

Paulson has been working on his proposals since last year. The efforts were given added impetus by the recent – and unprecedented – Fed-organised bail-out of Bear Stearns, the investment bank.

At the time, Fed officials noted that they had not had the necessary powers to monitor Bear Stearns’s financial position in the run-up to the crisis, or take measures that might have averted it.