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House, Senate leaders finalize details of sweeping financial overhaul

House and Senate lawmakers agreed on the terms of a financial overhaul bill early Friday after a 20-hour work session, ending weeks of delay and debate.

"So much for the paperless society," Frank quipped at one point.

In reaching a deal on the Volcker rule, negotiators adopted a provision that mirrors language previously offered by Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), which would ban certain forms of proprietary trading and forbid firms from betting against securities they sell to clients. The Merkley-Levin measure never got a vote on the Senate floor.

"One goal of these limits is to reduce participation in high-risk activity that can cause significant losses at institutions which are central to the financial system," Dodd said. "A second goal is to end the use of low-cost funds, to which insured depositories have access, from subsidizing high-risk activity."

Under the agreement, firms would have up to two years to scale back their proprietary trading and investments in hedge funds and private equity funds. Banks also would be barred from betting against their clients on certain investments deals.

Even as they worked to toughen the Volcker language, lawmakers agreed to an exemption at the behest of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), one of the four Republicans who voted for the earlier version of the financial regulation bill.

Brown, whose state is a hub of the asset-management industry, wanted the bill to allow banks to invest at least a small amount of capital in hedge funds and private equity investments. The measure would prohibit a banks from investing more than 3 percent of their capital in private equity or hedge funds. It was one of a number of provisions tailored to hold onto key votes as the bill heads toward final passage.

Lawmakers squared away a handful of other lingering issues late Thursday and early Friday.

They agreed to exempt the nation's 18,000 auto dealers from oversight by a new consumer financial protection watchdog, a striking legislative victory for one of the nation's most influential lobbying groups and a blow to consumer advocates and Democratic leaders who had long opposed such a loophole. "It is time for people like myself to concede that the votes are not there to give the consumer regulator any role in this," Frank said.

Lawmakers also voted to give shareholders more of a say on corporate governance, to place new restrictions on mortgage lending and to levy a risk-based assessment on large financial firms to help pay for the wide-ranging bill, which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would cost nearly $20 billion over the next decade.

Weary lawmakers wrapped up their work just after sunrise, only hours before Obama was scheduled to leave for Canada. Both Dodd and Frank said they hoped the passage of the legislation by their committees will help the United States lead the ongoing global effort to harmonize new financial safeguards.

"We've put in the hands of the president a very powerful set of tools for him to reassert American leadership in the world," Frank said.

One of the last motions Friday was to name the bill after the two chairmen, who had shepherded the legislation through the House and the Senate over the past year. At 5:07 a.m., they agreed unanimously that it would be known as the Dodd-Frank bill, and the sound of applause echoed down the empty hallways.

More from PostPolitcs:

The "Volcker Rule" explained.

Who are the key players in the financial overhaul process?

An explainer on how financial overhaul will work.

How would the financial legislation protect consumers?

The exemption for auto dealers explained.


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