August 8, 2018 / 5:23 PM / 9 days ago

UPDATE 1-Trump administration cuts dozens of staff at financial markets watchdog -source

WASHINGTON, Aug 8 (Reuters) - The Trump administration moved on Wednesday to drastically shrink a government agency tasked with identifying looming financial risks, notifying around 40 staff members they would be laid off, according to a person familiar with the changes.

The employees at the Office of Financial Research (OFR) were formally told on Wednesday they will lose their jobs as part of a broader reorganization of the agency that was created in the wake of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis, the source said.

The Trump administration, which has pledged to reduce government bureaucracy by slashing jobs and needless regulations, had previously said it would shrink the OFR.

Staff at the OFR, which is an independent bureau within the U.S. Treasury that analyzes market trends in order to spot financial risks, were told in January that jobs would be eliminated as the administration sought to cut the OFR's budget by 25 percent to around $76 million, the person said.

Some staff have left voluntarily up until this point, this person said. They added that the OFR is also working with the Treasury 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 towards 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 aimed to reduce that to around 139. The headcount target remains at approximately 140, roughly 65 percent of the agency's peak 217 staff, the source said.

The OFR has for years been under attack from Congressional Republicans and other critics who claim the agency is unproductive, unnecessary and another form of intrusive government bureaucracy.

The agency's original head, Richard Berner, left at the end of 2017. Ken Phelan, a Treasury official, has served as its acting director since then. The administration has nominated Dino Falaschetti, an economist for congressional Republicans, to fill the role on a full-time basis.

His nomination is pending before the U.S. Senate. (Editing by Michelle Price Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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