U.S. financial reform keeps getting tougher on big banks — so they need to take friends wherever they can find them. Right now, that means Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, the liberal chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
A good piece on financial regulatory reform over at VoxEu:
Furthermore, the bill does not address the risk of political capture. The same politicians calling now for stricter lending standards called for extended home ownership only a few years ago. The future roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are notably absent from this Bill, and neither is the issue of mortgage subsidisation being addressed. And there seems to be rather more political oversight than less. While accountability of regulators is important, the line between accountability and capture is a thin one.
A sigh of relief is due on Wall Street. The procedural finale for the U.S. Senate’s debate on financial reform came just in time for the big banks. The bill just kept getting tougher as the talk dragged on. But it could have been worse. While banks’ future activities and profitability may get pinched, their core business model appears intact. In the end, Wall Street got nicked, not nuked. Some observations:
Karen Shaw Petrou at Federal Financial Analytics asks a good question:
Last Friday, we outlined the systemic-risk implications of the growing EU crisis. In the days that followed, LIBOR spreads tightened, funding dried up and our fears only rose. So, we were a bit surprised to hear a senior U.S. bank regulator tell a radio audience Thursday morning not to bother their heads about any prospects that the European crisis could wash ashore. That was, of course, followed in a few hours by a classic systemic-risk crisis on the exchanges. Was the U.S. regulator keeping the game-face on so as not to scare the children? Or, more worryingly, are U.S. regulators still unprepared for another bout of systemic risk, whistling in the dark much as they did when they told us that subprime-mortgage risk couldn’t spill over?
That bankers disdain their new Washington overlords is no surprise. To many of them, Congress is plagued by “unnerving ignorance” and a refusal to admit its own role in the financial crisis. At least that is how a controversial JPMorgan report puts it. Impolitic perhaps, but not inaccurate.
Again, it isn’t just Republicans making the charge that the Dodd bill does not end Too Big To Fail. So are a quartet of regional Fed bank presidents:
A few observations, comments and highlights:
1) Three things can happen today, as I see it: a) Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby reach a deal; b) Dems pick off a few Rs, get cloture, and the debate on the bill proceeds; or c) no deal, Rs stay unified and negotiations continue. Of those “c’ is the likely option — and that will eventually lead to a bill that may be getting tougher by moment. On Good Morning America today, Shelby seemed supportive of tougher derivatives language. And although it will not be in the bill, Kent Conrad’s comments that a bank tax is coming is reflective of the growing anti-Wall Street mood on Capitol Hill.
Jonathan Chait over at TNR is strangely amazed that financial reform may happen:
What’s happening with financial reform right now is unlike anything that’s happened since I’ve been following American politics. Look at the fundamentals of the issue. This is a matter where a massive industry — one that accounts for close to half of all corporate profits — is adamantly opposed to new regulation. The merits of the issue are so mind-numbingly complex that even economists and policy wonks sound distinctly fuzzy on the details. Throw in a Republican Party that had pursued, with evident political success, a policy of total obstruction. I’d tell you this was a formula either for defeat or a toothless reform.
As HuffPo puts it:
A coalition of former regulators, left-leaning economists and Democratic insiders have slammed the Senate’s version of regulatory reform in a letter to the parties’ two leaders, warning that the current bill won’t prevent a future financial crisis.