6 key points of the financial regulation legislation

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dodd's second draft of financial reform legislation tracks closer to the bill that passed the House in December, eliminating several of the bold reforms he proposed last fall. But Republicans remain opposed, despite Dodd's decision to incorporate their ideas on some issues.

1 A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, housed inside the Federal Reserve, would write and enforce rules protecting borrowers from abuse by lenders.

WHAT IT MEANS: The location of the agency is a nod to Republicans and conservative Democrats who oppose the creation of a free-standing consumer agency, but everything else about this proposal is designed to please liberals, giving the consumer agency sweeping powers and imposing few checks on that

authority.

2 A Financial Stability Oversight Council, chaired by the Treasury secretary, would coordinate federal efforts to identify and manage risks to the financial system and the broader economy.

What it means: Dodd wanted to give the council broad responsibility for policing systemic risks. After massive administration pressure, he agreed instead to give much of that power to the Fed. The oversight council will instead function essentially as the Fed's board of directors on regulatory issues, signing

off on its decisions.

3 A new process would allow for the liquidation of large, failing financial firms.

WHAT IT ME ANS: Companies could be liquidated by joint agreement of the Treasury Department, the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which already administers bank failures and would play a similar role in the new process. Costs would be paid from a $50 billion pool of money gathered from large financial companies.

4 Credit-rating agencies would be regulated and liable for errors.

WHAT IT MEANS: Breaking with the administration and the House version of financial reform, Dodd's bill would hold Moody's, Standard & Poor's and other rating agencies potentially liable for their judgments about the safety of bonds and other investments. The industry also would be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

5 Banks would face new limits on trading and investment activities.

WHAT IT MEANS: The bill would restrict banks from running their own investment portfolios or hedge funds, an administration proposal known as the "Volcker Rule" that Dodd initially had rejected. The bill also would regulate the massive trade in derivatives, increasing the proportion of such trades that are publicly reported.

6 Some renovations would be made to the structure of federal banking regulation.

WHAT IT MEANS: Dodd abandoned his earlier proposal to create a single banking regulator after critics argued that the upside was not worth the effort. The bill still would eliminate the Office of Thrift Supervision. The Fed's authority over smaller banks would be split between the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

-- Binyamin Appelbaum


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