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Dodd-Frank financial protection

The US Senate election in MA is between Senator Scott Brown and challenger Elizabeth Warren. While there has been some discussion on financial concerns, there hasn’t been a lot to report of substance during the election campaign for us to post. One of the tweets making the rounds is what it would be like to be sitting on the Senate Banking etc. Committee, members who blocked Warren’s consideration as the director of the newly created Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) if Warren takes her seat at the table.

Matt Stoller writes at Naked Capitalism on whether financial regulation has teeth and addresses real problems.

Proponents of Dodd-Frank have an incentive to argue the law is a tough crack-down on Wall Street. It’s a core part of Barack Obama’s narrative, that he bailed out the banks, but then did what FDR did in the 1930s with a series of tight regulations. Of course, it was immediately obvious that Dodd-Frank was an afterthought of the Bush/Obama administrations, that the real policy framework involved three key fights – the Fannie/Freddie bailouts under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (the so-called bazooka law), TARP, and the reappointment of Ben Bernanke. These fights were supplemented by Eric Holder’s decision to give legal forbearance to Wall Street executives, to not prosecute for rigging the CDO market or any number of illegalities in the foreclosure space.

After this radical consolidation of banking power in the hands of bailed out Too Big To Fail institutions, the Obama administration went to work on Dodd-Frank, which was essentially a 2000 page mash note to regulators saying “please don’t let that crisis happen again, it was awkward’. And now the evidence is beginning to trickle out that Dodd-Frank is a nothingburger. As Yves has already show regarding bank size and profits, Dodd-Frank, unlike TARP, is not particularly relevant to trends in the financial services industry. We will keep hammering on the flaws in Dodd-Frank as the opportunities arise.

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Moyers and Volcker interview

Bill Moyers points us back to banks and fiduciary responsibilities:

“You shouldn’t run a financial system on the expectation of government support. We’re supposed to be a free enterprise system,” Volcker tells Moyers. “The problem of course is once they get rescued, does that lead to the conclusion they’ll get rescued in the future?”

From Bill Moyers and Company, an interview with Paul Volcker on the Volcker rule in Dodd-Frank, transcript included.

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Senate passes HR 4173 finance reform conference report

by Linda Beale
crossposted with Ataxingmatter

Senate passes HR 4173 finance reform conference report
[updated to add information on Geithner’s opposition to Warren 7:12 pm]

On a 60-39 vote, the US Senate passed the Dodd-Frank H.R. 4173 financial reform conference report today. While the bill imposes some new restrictions and creates a consumer protection agency, most of the impact will come (if it comes) through regulation as the new systemic risk council oversees bank issues and decides whether activities of banks pose sufficient risk to be regulated or eliminated. Capital requirements and leverage requirements, for example, are not directly set in the bill. The US is likely to settle with the capital and leverage standards set by Basle III, the discussions going on now at the Bank for International Settlements regarding updating of the 2004 standards. In those talks, thje banks lobbying are making inroads on the fairly tough standards originally proposed in December, as officials yield to fears (cited by the banks) that tough capital and leverage requirements will dampen the economic revival. See, e.g., Damian Paletta and David Enrich, Banks Gain in Rules Debate: Regulators Seen Diluting Strictest New ‘Basel’ Curbs; Credit Crunch Fears Remain, Wall St. Journal, July 15, 2010, at A1.

Query whether we have learned anything from this crisis at all. Officials remain at the mercy of banks–bailing them out, providing cheap cost of funds through implicit and explicit guarantees, and letting, even encouraging, them to get back to the old securitization games that allowed them to generate liquid and easy credit without adhering to prudential banking standards since the lender was not the one holding on to the loans over the long term. Banks argue for remaining entangled with their profitable proprietary trading and derivatives businesses, since they know that the synergies of being able to use cheap depositor funding for their investment-banking activities means high profits for them, even if it may mean socialization of losses down the road. See Simon Nixon, Barclays Capped by Regulatory Risk, Wall St. J., July 13, 2010, at C10

Interestingly, Tim Geithner has come out against having Elizabeth Warren appointed as head of the new consumer protection agency created by the reform bill. Nasiripour, Tim Geithner Opposes Nominating Warren to Head new Consumer Agency, Huffington Post, Jul. 15, 2010. Having watched Prof. Warren in action and read the scathingly honest output of her term at the head of the bailout watchdog commission, I can’t think of a better person to head the agency. One suspects that Geithner is concerned about a gradual erosion of the power of the Wall Street clique (Geithner, Summers and Bernancke) with the forceful Warren on the job with the ear of the President. Personally, I think that power needs to be eroded, so Geithner’s concern makes Warren an even better choice.

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