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Reaction to Dodd Financial Reform Bill Depends on Perspective
Posted to: MND NewsWire
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 12:09 PM

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Remember the tale of six blind men who were asked to describe an elephant so each grabbed hold of a piece of the beast.  The man who took hold of the tail described the elephant as a rope, the one who touched the leg said it was a pillar, and the one who felt the trunk said the elephant must look like a snake.

Pretty much the same thing happened when Senator Christopher Dodd released his proposed bill to Restore American Financial Stability. While some of the people who might be expected to react such as The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the New York Stock Exchange have thus far been silent, a lot of individuals and groups have grabbed the piece of it that they care about and are either praising the bill - or bashing the hell out of it.

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein in an interview on MSNBC yesterday called the bill "one of the silliest compromises I've seen in Washington in a long time."  He said that the bill's requirement that the Federal Reserve regulate the largest banks and only the largest banks hangs a sign over those bank's doors saying "too big to fail."  He also faulted the number of loopholes exempting various types of derivatives from the law's requirements.

The Mortgage Bankers Association focused on the bill's efforts to modernize the regulatory structure for mortgage banking firms.  In a press release that almost beat Dodd's bill into the hands of the press, Robert E. Story, Jr. CMB, Chairman of the association said that MBA was "concerned that this bill could be headed down several of the same wrong paths as the legislation that moved through the House late last year."  He said that the bill "does not provide uniform national regulation of all mortgage banking firms, and thus further solidifies the patchwork of state and local laws that increase costs for borrowers and lenders alike."

He applauded the bill for moving away from the "one size fits all" approach to risk retention" by recognizing that some underwriting requirements, loan types, and business models are inherently low risk but said that the bill should provide explicit exemptions for qualified loans that exhibit certain low risk characteristics from bill's provision that the underwriter retain a portion of those loans on its books in a risk sharing arrangement.  He singled out, in particular, commercial real estate loans and residential loans meeting conventional underwriting guidelines.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) said it opposes the new bill as it now stands and "is suggesting a number of areas that need to be changed:  including the approach to consumer protection, which continues to separate prudential and consumer regulation; the elimination of the thrift charter; the elimination of the Federal Reserve's authority over state member banks; issues within the resolution mechanism; the weakening of federal preemption; and the failure to address accounting issues in any fashion.

"We oppose this bill because it will subject traditional banks, which did not cause this crisis, to heavy new regulation, while non-banks will have even further competitive advantage," said Edward L. Yingling, ABA's president and chief executive officer.  "The future of traditional banks will be unnecessarily put at risk and their ability to provide the credit our economy needs will be undermined.  Progress has been made, there is still an opportunity to achieve regulatory reform, and ABA will support the continuing efforts of Chairman Dodd and the rest of the Senate Banking Committee to reach agreement on a workable bill."

The Council of Institutional Investors, a nonprofit association of public, union and corporate pension funds, applauded the bill's efforts to "address the serious failures by corporate boards that contribute to the financial crisis.

The Council said, it was pleased at the corporate governance provisions requiring directors of public companies to be elected by a majority vote of shareholders and reaffirms the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) authority to issue "proxy access" rules that would make it easier for investors to nominate board candidates.

 The Council also expressed satisfaction with provisions to strengthen the regulation of credit rating agencies, trading in over-the-counter derivatives, and improve the resources and independence of the SEC.

Republicans immediately criticized the process leading to creation of the bill. Senator Dodd had been working as a committee of two with Bob Corker, (R-TN), a member of the Senate Banking Committee to craft the bill, but recently had gone off on his own to finish the process.  The Wall Street Journal quoted Corker as saying that, while he was disappointed that bipartisan efforts had reached an impasse he would continue work toward a bipartisan bill.  He said, however, that he would not support any bill that included an independent, standalone Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), another member of the committee said, "I think Dodd's been pulled back by the White House and pushed to take a pure partisan bill."  He also called the Consumer Financial Protection agency "a complete nonstarter," one that no Republicans on the committee would support.

Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel that oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has become the public face of advocacy for consumer financial protection.  She expressed support for the bill and criticized the banking communities' "ferocious lobbying for business as usual."  She said that Senator Dodd had taken a important step by advancing new laws to prevent the next banking crises and that the upcoming series of votes will make the choice clear, "families or banks."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a press release, "This is a strong bill. We hope the Committee and the Senate will move forward quickly to pass comprehensive reform. We need a strong, independent consumer financial protection agency that is accountable for setting and enforcing clear rules across the financial marketplace.   And we need strong authority to limit risk-taking and protect the taxpayer.  Enacting reform will help reduce uncertainty about the rules of the road going forward.  Passing strong reforms here at home will also give us the ability to put in place a level playing field internationally, with high standards.  As the President said, as the bill moves forward, we will take every opportunity to work with Chairman Dodd and his colleagues to strengthen the bill and will fight against efforts to weaken it."

So a Wiseman said to all of the blind men, their hands still all over the elephant, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant."

Or maybe this is a different tale - one that ends with the moral "it all depends on whose ox is gored."

HERE is a recap of the bill




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