WASHINGTON Legislation drafted late last week by the Senate Banking Committee would amend the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to give current and future banking products particularly swaps contracts ironclad protection from regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Lawmakers, regulators, and industry representatives are hurrying to assemble a version of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that is acceptable to the Senate and does not vary too greatly from a House bill overwhelmingly passed in October.
Observers said the goal is to attach the bill to one of several spending packages expected to pass before lawmakers adjourn.
The proposal is being examined by Treasury Department officials, who received part of the legislative language on Thursday and the remainder on Friday. The Treasury has taken the lead on the bill for the administration, and its verdict is widely seen as the deciding factor in whether or not the legislation moves forward.
While cautioning that the legislation is complex and that Congress is liable to adjourn in the near future, a Treasury official said: We are operating under the assumption that there is enough time. We are working very hard to get this done and will work around the clock.
Administration officials have been eager to revamp commodities laws. The current antiquated statutes are driving business offshore, officials say.
The House version would modernize the U.S. commodities market by: repealing the Shad-Johnson accord, which for 18 years has barred the trade in futures contracts based on stock in a single company; insulating bank-traded swaps contracts from regulation by the Futures Commission; and enacting other changes to the ways that futures markets operate.
Among the sticking points was insistence by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm that the bill bar nonbank regulators from asserting authority over products offered by banks.
Senate Banking staff members reportedly reached agreement on the wording of the bill in negotiations with representatives of the futures exchanges last week.
One of the bills provisions would create a free-standing piece of legislation amending the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That statute, the Legal Certainty for Bank Products Act of 2000, would explicitly bar the Futures Commission from regulating bank products as currently defined by Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and would also require the commission to seek permission from the Federal Reserve Board to regulate any new banking product.
Industry reaction to the proposal was positive.
This new language is the first to be widely supported by both the futures exchanges and the banking community, said Mark C. Brickell, a lobbyist for J.P. Morgan Securities. Now everyones eager to hear from the U.S. Treasury.