The Washington Post

Barney Frank: Republicans want to ‘re-deregulate’ financial system

House Republicans have had some success deregulating (or maybe re-deregulating?) our country’s financial system in recent weeks.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). (Jay Mallin/BLOOMBERG)

At the heart of Wall Street reform is a crackdown on derivatives, the complex financial products that played a major role in the crisis. Dodd-Frank subjects the derivatives market to stricter transparency requirements, most notably by forcing many derivative swaps to happen on open exchanges. The House is now considering two bills that would significantly weaken these new derivatives rules.

The first would undo a new rule that requires the derivatives exchanges to post prices on swaps before making a trade. By removing price reporting requirements, for instance, legislators can reduce costs for Main Street businesses that rely on derivatives and “ensure that one of the most egregious examples of regulatory overreach in implementing Dodd-Frank does not become a reality, and thus, a drag on American job creation,” said Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), who wrote the legislation.

The second would exempt U.S. swaps dealers who trade with foreign customers—or with foreign affiliates of U.S. companies—from being required to hold cash reserves as backup. Both bills have passed out of committee. Supporters argue that this is necessary to keep the U.S. derivatives market from being pushed overseas.

But defenders of strong regulation believe these bills aren’t just technical fixes to Dodd-Frank. They think they’d gut the new rules entirely. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) says the bills would effectively “re-deregulate derivatives in ways that would again make them a threat to our economy.” He believes the first bill would cripple Dodd-Frank’s effort to create a transparent market for derivatives. And he thinks the second would create a loophole for U.S. derivatives traders to simply move risky trading overseas, while continuing to risk the U.S. financial system (and U.S. taxpayers) if they went belly up.

As a whole, House Democrats will be significantly less willing to go along with these two new bills than the JOBS Act or the two earlier bills tweaking Dodd-Frank, all of which Frank supported. But the House GOP’s latest bills aren’t without support from across the aisle, as both gained a handful of Democratic votes when they were passed out of the House Financial Services Committee.

Frank, for his part, anticipates that the GOP will try to capitalize on their recent success. “You get into this bit by bit. You agree to couple bills reaffirming what’s in [Dodd-Frank] and gain momentum, a little thing here and a little thing there,” he explained. As such, Frank has doubled down on his effort to draw attention to the GOP’s latest deregulatory push. “These bills cross the line, and I want to interrupt this momentum,” he said.


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