Romney vows to repeal Dodd-Frank. The law’s biggest critics doubt that will happen.

August 10, 2012

Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal and replace Obama's Wall Street reform law. But many vocal opponents of Dodd-Frank believe that's highly unlikely — and suggest that incremental reforms to the law are the most they'd expect to happen, even in a Republican controlled Washington.


(Rich Schultz - AP)

Wall Street firms have poured a huge amount of time and resources into lobbying regulators on Dodd-Frank, urging them to rule against implementing the new rules with a heavy hand. But despite their misgivings about some of the major laws, they're also working off the general assumption that Dodd-Frank is here to stay, regardless of what happens in November. "There seems to be a narrative that derivatives and proprietary trading are the riskiest. This is a solution in search of a problem. But the battle [over deciding the narrative] has been lost, to a significant degree," said one financial services industry lobbyist.

They point out that recent scandals at big banks have made major changes to Dodd-Frank even less likely, even for the most controversial parts of the law like the Volcker Rule. "The fact that JPMorgan happened inside the banks, when it did, before the rule was final....Even people who had more vocal opponents of the Volcker Rule had some pause about thinking where the dangers lay," said the lobbyist.

Large parts of the law haven't even been written, much less implemented. And while many in the industry have warned about some potentially catastrophic impacts of Dodd-Frank, most firms don't expect major changes to the law until it actually goes into effect and the consequences become clear.

Many conservative policy experts also doubt that full repeal is slated to happen any time soon. Instead, they're focusing on more incremental changes to the law that preserve some of the elements they do favor. “It’s a false dichotomy to say we have a choice of taking [Dodd-Frank] as it is, or doing nothing. . .Reforms are necessary — the financial crisis showed us that, To Big To Fail needs to be dealt with,” says James Gattusso, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have voiced similar sentiments, as Politico's Patrick Reis recently reported:

“I’m a realist, we’re not going to have a full repeal,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), a freshman on the House Financial Services Committee. . .“There’s not a movement to repeal and replace Dodd-Frank. There’s a movement to fix it.”

Duffy’s views are being echoed in the Senate. “At this point, we’re so far into it, I realize that the best approach is to try to deal with peeling away so many provisions that should have never been in there in the first place,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who serves on the Senate Banking Committee.

*Update: I talked to another financial industry executive who had a similar take. Under a Republican-dominated Washington, "There would be a slight uptick in possibility of technical change, but not wholesale repeal or replacement. If something going to happen to change Dodd-Frank, it is in 4 to 6 years..any bill is going to take years to get through and be in the face a market disruptions."

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