US: Trump administration shrinks finance watchdog

The Trump administration is laying off 40 staff members at the Office of Financial Research (OFR), an independent bureau that analyzes market trends to detect financial risks.

According to Reuters, the employees were told on Wednesday, August 8, that they will lose their jobs as part of a reorganization of the agency, which was created after the 2008 financial crisis.

The news isn’t a complete surprise. A source revealed that staff at the OFR were told at the beginning of the year that jobs would be cut in order to slash the agency’s budget by 25% to around US$76 million.

As a result, some staff members had already left voluntarily. The OFR’s original head, Richard Berner, vacated his position at the end of last year. Ken Phelan, a Treasury official, is currently serving as its acting director, and the administration has nominated Dino Falaschetti, an economist for congressional Republicans, to take over the role permanently. His nomination is pending before the US Senate.

Sources said the agency is also working with the Treasury Department to find new roles for other OFR employees.

“We are working to make OFR a more efficient organization with a stronger workforce and culture to better execute on the mission,” a spokesman for the Treasury said in an email statement.

“The plan to reshape the workforce was announced to OFR employees in January, and the headcount reduction is an important step toward streamlining operations and reducing costs,” he added.

In its 2018 budget request, the OFR said its financial year 2016 full-time headcount was 208, but that it wanted to reduce that to around 139. The headcount target is still at approximately 140, around 65% of the agency’s peak 217 staff.

The OFR is one of several financial regulators being overhauled under the Trump administration, including the Financial Stability Oversight Council, also housed within the Treasury, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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