Financial Regulatory Forum

from Tales from the Trail:

Think brussels sprouts and cauliflower are agricultural commodities? Think again.

While the financial bailouts tossed to automakers, banks and other groups during the recent economic crisis left a funny taste in the mouth of some Americans, one former U.S. regulator hopes efforts to prevent another panic doesn't go rotten.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is immersed in drafting dozens of rules to assist it in increasing oversight of the once opaque over-the-counter derivatives market, widely blamed for exacerbating the recent financial crisis. USA/

Among the rules it must craft is what the definition of an agricultural commodity is? Of course, corn, cotton, soybeans and livestock, among other items, fall into this realm.

 But what about those "other foods" such as brussels sprouts, artichokes, cauliflower, or anything with curry? A former CFTC chairman says they are "abhorrent to American sensibilities" and should be banned.

"Like every U.S. citizen, there are certain agricultural commodities that are abhorrent to me," said Philip McBride Johnson, who is now with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

PREVIEW-Final act begins in U.S. Congress on Wall St reform

By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON, June 7 (Reuters) – Negotiators from the U.S. Senate and House will begin meeting this week to craft a final Wall Street reform bill, with banks facing changes that threaten their profits, if not their business models.

Some congressional Democrats want to fashion a bill that forces a basic banking industry restructuring, but leaders will have to balance that agenda against the need to forge compromise legislation that retains some Republican support.

Analysts are expecting that fundamental restructuring will be avoided, “This bill is more about profitability and less about viability. That means the legislation will hurt the banking sector, but it will not sink it,” said Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst at investment firm Concept Capital.

BREAKINGVIEWS-Is Obama losing control of U.S. financial reform?

– The authors is a Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are his own –

By James Pethokoukis

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Is President Barack Obama losing control of financial reform? It is starting to seem that way. With the bill nearing its finale in the U.S Senate, Democratic legislators — and even some Republicans — seem to be scrambling to out-regulate each other while the White House keeps mum. The Obama administration defied its liberal base on nationalizing the banks last year and breaking them up this year. But as controversial amendments, such as those on derivatives, continue to emerge, it may be time to pipe up.

Of course, Team Obama would understandably prefer to lie low. It doesn’t want to backtrack entirely from the populist, get-tough-on-the-banks line. Arguing forcefully on behalf of letting banks keep their derivatives businesses, in particular, would risk message mismatch. That’s especially true after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs over its involvement in a derivatives deal.

ANALYSIS – Obama tackles Wall Street reform in next big push

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON, March 25 (Reuters) – Fresh from his victory on landmark healthcare legislation, U.S. President Barack Obama is ready to take on Wall Street.

In the same week Obama signed into law his sweeping healthcare plan, his administration began a publicity blitz to sell his proposal to reshape the financial regulatory system.

Obama held a strategy session on Wednesday with two Democrats, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd and House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, who are leading the effort to pass the plan in Congress.

ANALYSIS – Dodd bill takes pass on key U.S. broker reforms

By Helen Kearney

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) – As Senator Christopher Dodd’s financial regulatory reform bill heads to the full Senate, brokerages for now have escaped tougher regulation thanks largely to fierce lobbying by insurers.

A bill approved by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday took a pass on two big issues affecting financial advisers — a uniform fiduciary standard for all professionals advising investors and rules that mandate brokerage customers take disputes to an industry arbitration panel.

While the terms of the legislation are likely to change during debate by the full Senate and when Rep. Barney Frank’s House Financial Services Committee weighs in, both issues for now will only be the subject of further study.

SCENARIOS-How U.S. financial regulation fight might play out

March 23 (Reuters) – The financial regulation debate has a long way to go in the U.S. Congress, with the action shifting to the full Senate and big headlines unlikely until April.

The Senate Banking Committee approved a sweeping Democratic bill by a party-line vote on Monday. That bill is now headed for the Senate floor, but not before lawmakers try again to hash out a bipartisan deal in closed-door negotiations.

With Congress adjourning on Friday for a two-week holiday break, the off-line financial reform talks probably will not produce results before lawmakers return next month.

BREAKINGVIEWS-U.S. financial reform process takes risky turn

– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

By James Pethokoukis

WASHINGTON, March 23 (Reuters Breakingviews) – The effort to reform the U.S. financial regulatory system was supposed to show the Senate working more or less as intended — bipartisan up to a point, and largely non-confrontational. But it’s starting to follow the healthcare bill’s more contentious path.

Hundreds of Republican and Democratic amendments to the legislation authored by Democrat Chris Dodd, the panel’s chairman, were supposed to be hashed out by the relatively expert Senate Banking Committee this week. Instead, Republicans yanked their proposed changes, and the bill was approved with just Democratic support. Now it will be hashed out on the Senate floor. Democrats will need to bring at least one Republican across the aisle to hit the 60 votes needed to be certain of passage.

COLUMN-Volcker Rule unexpectedly revived by Dodd bill: John Kemp

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

By John Kemp

LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) – Paul Volcker’s proposed ban on banks’ proprietary trading or owning hedge funds or private equity funds has been unexpectedly revived in the financial regulation bill published by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd yesterday.

The Volcker Rule’s surprise survival comes despite fierce opposition from the banking industry and after many commentators had written it off as a short-term political gimmick in the wake of the shock election defeat in Massachusetts. Dodd himself had appeared lukewarm.

Bipartisan US financial reform deal uncertain – Sen. Dodd

By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) – Senator Christopher Dodd, chief negotiator for the Democrats in U.S. Senate talks on financial regulation reform, said on Friday he was uncertain whether bipartisan support for a compromise bill could be achieved.

With one of the Obama administration’s top domestic policy priorities in the balance, Dodd sounded wary but hopeful following weeks of discussions that have snagged on a proposal to create a new financial consumer watchdog.

“While we do not have a bipartisan agreement yet at all, we’re getting there, we’re trying. I don’t know if it will happen or not,” Dodd said in remarks on the Senate floor.

U.S. Senator Shelby counters on financial consumer watchdog

By Kevin Drawbaugh and Rachelle Younglai

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) – A senior Republican U.S. senator has made at least two counter-offers to Democrats on creating a new government watchdog for financial consumers, Reuters learned on Monday from aides and documents.

Senator Richard Shelby proposed making the watchdog a division of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, with some rule-writing power and a director who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, documents showed.

Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, also has proposed setting up a three-member consumer protection council, said a congressional aide.

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