While the debate over reforming our financial sector has gripped Washington for almost two years, the U.S. Senate seems less concerned with thoughtful consideration than it does with meeting an arbitrary deadline set by the Obama administration.
Last year, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank held more than 50 hearings to consider reform, and the process still felt rushed. This year, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd allowed his committee to consider the 1,300-page legislative text of his bill for a whopping 20 minutes. After such "intense" consideration, it's not surprising that the Dodd bill misses the mark and has enormous unintended consequences. It expands protection for the biggest banks, restricts credit for consumers, limits risk management options for banks and fails to address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The Dodd bill creates a special class of the biggest financial institutions, essentially providing a guarantee that they would receive financial assistance if they faced insolvency and giving them unfair advantages over their competitors while they are in operation. Rather than unfairly advantage the largest Wall Street banks, the alternative legislation presented by House Republicans favors enhanced bankruptcy for the resolution of insolvent financial institutions.
Secondly, the creation of the consumer financial protection bureau in Dodd's legislation will limit access to credit for consumers and small businesses, by determining the "appropriateness" of financial products issued by institutions already regulated by the government. House Republicans reject this paternalistic approach to regulation and seek to empower consumers by mandating increased disclosure for these products without restricting choice.
Recent news reports indicate the Dodd legislation will include a provision to ban bank-owned swaps dealers — greatly disrupting the current marketplace and risk management activities. This provision will result in the exodus of jobs from the U.S. markets as derivatives trading is forced overseas. Derivative products are important innovations for companies looking to appropriately manage their risk. They not only allow financial institutions to hedge and diversify exposure stemming from credit, interest rate and currency risk, they allow for the transformation of credit from an illiquid risk to one that can be traded in ways similar to other types of assets. The House Republican alternative establishes an over-the-counter trade repository that provides appropriate transparency without exacting punitive regulations.
Finally, the most glaring error of the Dodd legislation is its failure to address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest recipients of government assistance since the crisis began, which are projected to cost taxpayers almost $400 billion. It is very easy to connect the dots between Fannie an Freddie's affordable-housing goals and the massive explosion of the subprime market and the housing collapse. House Republicans favor ending their government conservatorship and believe that any reform that does not address Fannie and Freddie simply treats the symptoms of our recent economic crisis while failing to adequately address the actual cause.
I strongly support reforms to our financial system that will enhance corporate responsibility, regulatory efficiency and consumer protection, all while limiting government interference in the private sector. Unfortunately, the Dodd bill falls short on all fronts. There is most certainly a bipartisan solution to this problem, and I stand ready to participate in a process that will yield real, effective reform of our marketplace.