Multitudes of lobbyists weigh in on Dodd-Frank Act

By Amanda Becker
Monday, November 22, 2010; 12

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has generated more work for lawyers and lobbyists since being signed into law than during even the frenzied days leading up to its passage in the House and Senate last summer.

That's because a host of federal regulatory agencies are now in the process of trying to write the rules that will turn the law into reality.

Work has begun on drafting 243 rules and on 67 separate studies by the likes of the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commerce Department, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and other regulatory agencies, according to one estimate by the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell.

"In a way, during the run-up to the legislation, while it was very active, there was a limit to how much people could really influence the statute," said Covington & Burling's Mark E. Plotkin. "The implementation phase is really industry's opportunity to influence what the final product looks like."

During the third quarter of this year, the number of corporations, associations and other interests that hired lobbyists to influence the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act within the SEC and the CFTC rose by 45 and 22 percent respectively over those that hired such representation during the previous quarter, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of lobbying disclosure forms.

Experts say these figures likely represent only a fraction of the people appearing on behalf of clients before those agencies because many rulemaking meetings do not fall within the scope of activities that must be reported under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act.

Indeed, Commodities Futures Trading Commission records reveal dozens of meetings among attorneys, clients and agency staff that would not be reflected in the lobbying figures.

Since the commission began publishing its meetings at the end of July, firm attorneys have met with agency staff on at least 50 days -- sometimes holding multiple meetings in a single day -- and the pace is not slowing down, according to a Capital Business analysis of agency records. There are only three days in November to date when outside counsel were not in discussions with regulators.

Some of the attorneys making the most frequent appearances come from the District offices of Alston & Bird; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Patton Boggs; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Winston & Strawn's Peter Y. Malyshev, who has attended dozens of commission meetings, said the "unprecedented" scope of the rules that must be drafted over the next year has prompted the CFTC to "reach out very actively to both the business community and the legal community to explain the rules' likely impact and what the unintended consequences might be."

Delta Strategy Group's Scott Parsons was one lobbyist who met frequently with CFTC staff. Parsons says Delta's specialty in commodities and derivatives gives the firm a leg up in helping clients through the implementation of Dodd-Frank.

"We were doing derivatives before derivatives were cool," Parsons added.

Both lobbyists and lawyers say Dodd-Frank work is unlikely to dry up anytime soon. Plotkin reports he recently requested three additional associates to keep up with client demand. Most attorneys estimate the rules will be hammered out over a period that will span not months but years.

"There will be some jousting back and forth," said Dechert's Thomas P. Vartanian. "I think a fair evaluation of the period of time these rules will be in flux is probably about three years."

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