The FinReg Landscape: Other Amendments, Final Votes
The passage of the Sanders audit the Fed compromise does not signal the end of the amendment process to the Wall Street reform bill. In fact, several other measures should get a chance to become part of the legislation in a series of votes leading up to final passage. And many of them would greatly improve the financial system in this country and put meaningful constraints on the banksters. In addition, some weakening amendments from Republicans need to be fought.
Zach Carter has a really good summary of what comes next, which I’ll try to summarize and expand upon.
• Derivatives. The Lincoln legislation on derivatives includes the controversial piece to spin off the trading desks for swaps currently held mostly by the six largest banks. Judd Gregg has an amendment to remove that, and he’s grabbed establishment support. I wouldn’t be surprised by further measures to weaken the Lincoln language, including by the Coalition for Derivatives End-Users, a group which includes none other than BP, last seen polluting the Gulf of Mexico. The end users want to exempt themselves from the provision forcing trades to go through a clearinghouse.
• Merkley-Levin: This amendment would give teeth to the “Volcker rule” by banning most forms of proprietary trading at commercial banks – essentially gambling with depositor money – and ending the conflict of interest of an investment bank taking the opposite side in a trade as their own customers. Merkley and Levin claim the support of Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd, so there’s a viable chance at passage here.
• Glass-Steagall: The Cantwell-McCain amendment would go further than Merkley-Levin, or at least impose firewalls between commercial and investment banks in a different manner. This amendment would essentially force a full separation. Maria Cantwell has said that she wouldn’t be able to vote for cloture on the full bill unless her amendment got an up or down vote. Russ Feingold has also withheld his support to end debate until amendments like this got a vote.
• rating agency reform: Al Franken’s amendment would transform the process of the credit rating agencies by ending the issuer-pays model, which provided an incentive for rating agencies to up-rate securities in a bid to increase their business and maximize profits. He has bipartisan support from Republican Roger Wicker. UPDATE: I’m told that Chuck Grassley just signed on as a cosponsor as well. This amendment looks like it’ll have the votes to pass.
• Closing a hedge fund loophole. This is Jack Reed’s amendment, and it would ensure that hedge funds and private equity funds register with the SEC.
“At the heart of it is the need for increased transparency, particularly when it comes to the large pools of money,” said Reed on a conference call with reporters. “We also believe that this type of registration is not cumbersome to the industry but will afford the regulators a better sort of sense of the overall market. It will help in a way to diminish potential systemic risk. It will also be something that will allow investors to have more confidence in the market.”
The legislation drafted by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, requires hedge funds managing more than $100 million to register with the SEC, but contained a loophole or “carve-out” for private equity funds and venture capital funds.
Representatives of the AFL-CIO and SEIU said they support Reed’s amendment.
• CFPA. Republicans have launched several efforts to chip away at the strength and independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would get housed inside the Federal Reserve but have its own director and budget, and (mostly) broad rulemaking ability. The aforementioned Jack Reed has an amendment that would strengthen the CFPA even more by making it a fully independent agency without giving the regulators who failed to anticipate the last financial crisis veto power over rulemaking.
More worrisome is a crappy deal that would have the consumer protection bureau pre-empt state laws in this area, essentially taking cops off the beat at a time when we should be adding them. One area where you see that kind of pre-emption, at least of a fashion, is in the credit card industry, where one state can gobble up every credit card company and force the rest of the nation to abide by its lending laws. An amendment from Sheldon Whitehouse would reverse this loophole and force credit cards to apply the laws of the state where their customers live to each transaction, not where their headquarters are housed.
Will all these amendments get a vote? That is unclear. Chris Bowers reports:
Decision on whether to file cloture on the overall bill to come today There is a Democratic Senate caucus meeting today. At that meeting, Democrats will decide whether to file cloture on the overall bill. If they decide yes, the final vote will come as early as Thursday. The decision will be based on whether Democratic Senators feel they have had enough time to debate the bill and offer amendments.
Process speculation. Currently, it is expected that Monday will be the latest date for the final vote on the overall bill. Also, there might be all-night debates on amendments on Wednesday and / or Thursday, depending on when cloture is filed. There will also probably be a conference committee with the House after the bill passes the Senate, starting less than a week after passage. Democrats are still targeting Memorial Day for the bill to be signed into law.
I think there are some amendments where lawmakers will demand a vote, and hopefully those will be ones which improve the bill and actually set it on a path to constrain Wall Street’s activities. Obviously, this will be a long fight.