I realize this was a momentous occasion, being allowed to sit in on a meeting of the Federal Reserve board of governors and watch as they considered a proposal critical to the future of the mortgage market. I guess I just expected more. The room is austere, the governors impressive, the staff remarkable, but the meeting was unremarkable.
The new proposals offered today to change the current HOEPA (Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act) regulations that govern mortgage lenders are lengthy and complicated and not at all unexpected given what we’ve heard from previous Fed hearings on the matter. But they are proposals that fundamentally change certain aspects of lending and borrowing, and frankly I thought there would at least be a little bit more debate among the governors.
After the two opening statements from Chairman Ben Bernanke and Governor Randall Kroszner, two staff members presented the proposals in detail. After that, Bernanke, and each governor, thanked the staff profusely and asked basically one question each. I may be wrong, but the questions seemed somewhat staged, hitting some only the most key points and thereby offering the opportunity for the staff members to elaborate a bit on the fundamentals.
But there was no discussion amongst the governors, no debate, no conversations, barely any recognition from each that he was in the room with a fellow governor.
I guess this is how the meetings go, or perhaps this is how the meetings go when there are three dozen members of the media staring down the table, but given the gravity of the topic, the immediacy of the problem, the complexity of the issue and the divisiveness it provokes, come on, discuss, argue, object!