Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Ag committee chair says new faces mean new dynamic on Capitol Hill

They are new, enthusiastic and changing the environment on Capitol Hill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says "do not underestimate the effect" of the large number of freshmen lawmakers on his committee, which will sit down to overhaul U.S. farm subsidies next year. USA/

"This session of Congress is a little different from the ones I've participated in previously. A huge number of new members," Lucas said at a Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit. "I've got a very enthusiastic bunch of new faces."

It turns out that half of the House Agriculture Committee is new -- 16 of 26 Republicans and 7 of 20 Democrats.

"Now, granted, freshmen Democrats are hard to come by," he said, not missing a beat in taking a swipe at Democrats who were pounded in the November elections and lost control of the House of Representatives to Republicans.

"So literally 23 of the 46 members of the committee -- no committee experience, no Farm Bill experience. It's a slightly different dynamic as we go through the course of this year and next year," Lucas said.

from Summit Notebook:

So how plugged in is the SEC chair? (technologically speaking)

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro says her agency has its work cut out to compete with the massive amounts of money that private firms, policed by the SEC, pour into the latest technology.

"Can we keep up with Wall Street? I think we have a fighting chance. We'll never have, under any circumstances, the kind of budgets that would allow us to spend a billion dollars a year on technology as some firms do, I mean that's just not going to happen, and I totally understand that," she said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance Summit. FINANCE-SUMMIT/SCHAPIRO

"If we can build a forensics lab for our enforcement people to be able to download data off of iPhones and iPads and other instruments, then we will be a lot better able to pursue insider trading potentially and other securities law violations," she said.

Washington Extra – Summit day

Our Washington bureau interviewed regulators and lawmakers at a Reuters finance summit today.

FINANCE-SUMMIT/WOLINDeputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told us he did not see any national security concerns with Deutsche Boerse’s planned takeover of NYSE Euronext.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said America’s big international banks should restructure their operations unless they can prove that they can easily be broken up if they start toppling during a financial crisis.

from Summit Notebook:

Dodd Rejects Carter Criticism of Ted Kennedy

U.S. Senator Chris Dodd on Monday came to the defense of his old buddy, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, against new criticism by former President Jimmy Carter.

doddDodd rejected Carter's charge that Americans could have begun enjoying the benefits of sweeping healthcare long ago if Kennedy hadn't stopped a plan by Carter in 1979.

Speaking at the Reuters Summit, Dodd declared, "All I can say is that no one cared more about the issue" of healthcare than Kennedy, a fellow Democrat.

from Summit Notebook:

Angelides: People make mistakes, take Alan Greenspan and Captain of Titanic

Phil Angelides, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission chairman, says he'd rather see some taking of responsibility than hear another "I'm sorry."

REGULATION-SUMMIT/"Personally I don't see my role as ... to obtain apologies. What I don't hear is a sense of responsibility and self-assessment about what occurred. There seems to be a disconnect between the practices that people undertook and the financial collapse," he said at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit.

"I'm struck by the extent to which all fingers point away generally from the person testifying," Angelides said.

from Summit Notebook:

Where disaster and compensation intersect you’ll find Kenneth Feinberg

You can call him mediator, or you can call him negotiator, but don't call him pay czar. REGULATION-SUMMIT/

Kenneth Feinberg says he doesn't like the shorthand title that's used to describe his role as the administration's supervisor of compensation practices at firms that received money under the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

"A very unfortunate term," he said at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit. "Pay czar implies that I'm issuing some sort of imperial edicts, arbitrary edicts on pay, without regard to consensus or the input of the beneficiaries of these decisions."

from Summit Notebook:

Eliot Spitzer loved politics, so will he run again?

This much is clear -- Eliot Spitzer loved politics, he loved being New York governor, he loved being New York attorney general.

So will he run for public office again?

Well here it gets a little bit like watching a tennis ball going back and forth over the net. REGULATION-SUMMIT/

Asked at the Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit whether he was considering running for office again, Spitzer replied "No."

from Summit Notebook:

Against high Hill drama, SEC chief mum on Goldman

First of all, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro would not talk about Goldman Sachs.

There was no drawing her out. The head of the agency that filed a civil fraud lawsuit charging that Goldman misled investors would not say a word about the case. GOLDMAN/

Quite the opposite from the high-drama being played out at the same time on Capitol Hill where Goldman Sachs executives were facing the fusillade at a Senate hearing, where one senator kept repeating "shi--y deal." (There are two t's missing from that word).

from Summit Notebook:

FDIC Chair Bair: think before you point that finger…

The latest blame game circulating in Washington on financial regulation may end up with those who point fingers  finding that they have three fingers pointing back.

During the debate on tightening financial regulations, there have been some backhanded jabs at regulators with the implication that perhaps they were asleep at the wheel. Just this morning on NBC's "Today" show, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said Wall Street had been creating things just to bet on -- "they were like the casino, but they had less regulation than Las Vegas."

Well hold on. Who's fault is that?

USA/We asked Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

She said when it comes to regulating many of the complex over-the-counter derivatives, the blame actually fell into the lap of Congress which decided against putting them under the oversight of the SEC or CFTC or insurance regulators. And in fairness to Congress, the Federal Reserve and Treasury condoned that action, she said.

from Summit Notebook:

What if there were no “too big to fail”? Fed’s Hoenig has a vision

USA/Democrats and Republicans alike on Capitol Hill say they want to toss out the concept of "too big to fail" in the financial regulation reform they are tussling over. That way if a financial firm is going to go under, it will go under, with no thought for a taxpayer handout.

Since the concept of "too big to fail" has yet to be erased by law, and its demise yet to be tested by a failing financial institution, it was interesting to hear how Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig envisioned the financial industry without that concept to lean on.

Looking back in time -- "If you had a clear resolution process, and you had clear rules on leverage," a domino-like string of large bank failures may have been less likely.