14,479 letters supporting the Volcker Rule

at 11:46 AM ET, 02/15/2012

Wall Street flooded the government with criticism of the Volcker Rule this week, as the period for public feedback on the regulation-in-progress came to a close. The SEC received 241 detailed, unique comment letters on the regulation, mostly from financial firms that have criticized the law. Industry group representatives have also held the bulk of the face-to-face meetings that lobbyists and other stakeholders have had with federal regulators. But they aren’t the only ones who have weighed in. The Securities and Exchange Commission also received 14,479 generic form letters in support of a strong version of the Volcker Rule, which prohibits speculative trading by banks for their own benefit.

This public support for Volcker is the outgrowth of a letter-writing campaign by Americans for Financial Reform, Public Citizen, and other advocacy groups that have lobbied to defend and strengthen Dodd-Frank.

Since Dodd-Frank was passed, regulators have invited the public to weigh in on the new rules before turning the blueprints into final law. In contrast to the technical, economic, and legal arguments of most of the comment letters, the pro-Volcker form letters cast the importance of strong regulation in personal terms. “I’m writing in support of a strong Volcker Rule. My family and I were affected by the economic collapse of 2008, and we don’t want it to happen again,” says one version of the letter.

The pro-Volcker letters also warn regulators against the excess influence of Wall Street firms. “It is important to not let the rule be undermined by exemptions or exceptions,” the form letter continues. “I urge you not to be swayed by financial industry interest in protecting a status quo that has benefited them and put the rest of us at risk.”

The SEC doesn’t post all 14,479 letters or their authors on the agency’s Web site, but Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen say they’re the direct outgrowth of an appeal to their supporters, which they posted online as well. “These letters came from our e-alerts to activists. People were compelled to speak out on the ‘Volcker Rule’ because it is an important regulation that we need to get right. This is about empowering our citizens to take control of their government,” says John Carey, an AFR spokesman. Public Citizen also believes that “thousands” of their members have submitted comments on the Volcker Rule, according to Bart Naylor, a financial policy advocate for the group.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has weighed in on Volcker as well, submitted a detailed 325-page comment letter that Felix Salmon analyzes here.

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