‘We are on the inside’
Fine rushed back to his office. With characteristic enthusiasm, he wrote an e-mail to his board with this heading: “ULTRA SECRET – BURN BEFORE READING – EYES ONLY – DO NOT SHARE OR DISSEMINATE TO ANYONE!” After warning that any leak could be disastrous, Fine summarized his meeting with Frank in the language that many Washington operators consider English:
“I think at the end of the day we can work a deal that pretty much gets our banks out from under the CFPA rock, but hangs the megabanks out there. . . . The take-away is that ICBA is the player on the House financial reform legislation and the other financial trades [trade associations] are not. This is a very unusual position for ICBA. . . . We are on the inside, and the other guys are wondering what is happening.”
A few days later, Fine recalled that he and Frank “bumped into each other, both of us going to the same fundraiser at a Capitol Hill townhouse. . . . I said, ‘Oh, hi, chairman.’ And he said, ‘Cam, I’ve got this thing done on my side. Will you keep your side of the bargain?’ I said: ‘I shook your hand. I’ll keep my side of the bargain.’ And I did.”
The Frank-Fine deal was one of the most important made on the path to what would become, nine months later, the law now known as Dodd-Frank. But the world at large knew nothing about it. The meeting between the two men on that Sept. 25 was not reported in the news media. The small number of people who knew about it kept the secret.
The Gutierrez amendment also received scant attention. Ultimately, it became part of the final Dodd-Frank bill. It cost the big banks big bucks — at least $1.4 billion in increased FDIC payments in its first year in force.
Frank had neutralized one of the most influential interests on the CFPA issue. He felt he hadn’t given up anything that he considered vital to the reform effort generally, or to the proposed consumer agency specifically. He had made Fine a partner, and that partnership proved invaluable in the months ahead.
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The final version of the Dodd-Frank bill, signed by Obama in 2010, included the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is now operating. A compromise in the Senate placed the bureau nominally within the Fed, which meant that it could not be called an independent agency, essentially a cosmetic change to appease opponents. Since the legislation’s enactment, Frank and Dodd have retired from Congress, each choosing not to seek reelection. Warren is now the senior senator from Massachusetts.