Dodd on TARP: 'I'll go to my grave believing we did the right thing'
The $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program that bailed out the financial industry was the right thing at the right time, said Chris Dodd, retiring congressman and co-author of the Dodd-Frank financial reform that grew out of the wake of the financial crisis. “I will go to my grave believing we did the right thing,” said Dodd (D-Conn.), who said a number of congressmen lost their seats in last week’s election because of their vote in favor of TARP two years ago. The program provided government funds for “too big to fail” corporations in the wake of the financial crisis. "We did exactly what we should have done, at that moment," he said. Although there was interest in reforming Wall Street for years, there wasn’t the impetus to do anything until the crisis occurred, Dodd said, while speaking at the annual Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA, conference in New York. Dodd talked about the key financial reform legislation that carries his name and addressed its critics. “This legislation was never, ever intended to be punitive whatsoever … but rather to think forwardly,” Dodd said. “One of the criticisms of the bill is that we left too much to the regulators,” he said. Dodd said certainty and predictability will come as the rulemaking process moves forward. The goal of the reform act was to create a regulatory structure for the 21st century, replacing regulations that were drawn up nearly a century ago that don’t address current market issues like flash trading and the rise of the derivatives market. In creating new rules, Dodd said he also wanted to harmonize them with the global markets. “Consumer protection and economic goals are not in conflict. Bad loans drove individual borrowers into bankruptcy,” he said, just as it also drove some of the nation’s largest financial institutions down the same path. Dodd said the reform act that carries his name ended “too big to fail,” and the idea that the government will prop up large companies that get into financial trouble going forward. Dodd said the legislation also lets regulators with their expertise, and not congressmen, play the key role of creating the rules. “All Congress did was establish a framework and a clear path forward, the rest is up to regulators,” he said. In the three months since the act was signed, the process of implementation is moving swiftly with regulators promulgating rules. Dodd said it is important not to repeal portions of the law, which some have suggested, and to give consumers the confidence they need. “No system of rules will ever be perfect,” he said. “We cannot legislate wisdom.” Strong decision-making as well as strong regulations, he said, are needed to move the financial markets forward. One of the next things on the agenda for Congress next year, which Dodd won't participate in because of his decision to retire, is reform of the government-sponsored enterprises. It was a key piece that was not included in the reform act, but something that is needed, Dodd said. Write to Kerry Curry.