The U.S. government plans to collect $137 million from some of the nation's biggest banks and financial firms to help cover the cost of a new research office officials hope can help prevent future financial calamities. The Treasury Department said Friday the first assessment will take place July 20 as it seeks to set up the Office of Financial Research, created as part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law. A total of 49 firms with combined assets of approximately $17.9 trillion will be subject to the assessment, which will range between about $384,000 to $17.2 million per firm based on their size. The unveiling of the assessments is likely to spark criticism from congressional Republicans, who have already targeted the OFR, suggesting it will operate as a Big Brother-type entity with access to citizens' private data. The OFR has thus far received its funding from the Federal Reserve, but with the assessments it will be able to set and fund its own budget. All the firms being required to pay fees have at least $50 billion in total assets, with roughly half of the banks located domestically and the rest from overseas and operating in the U.S. The agency was created to identify a key shortcoming regulators faced during the financial crisis: access to extensive, granular data on the financial system. The new agency is supposed to collect and analyze data to head off potential problems or better inform regulators as they set policy. The Treasury said the lion's share of the $137 million to be collected will be used to set up and collect data for its new data center. The funds will also go toward hiring employees and other administrative costs.
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