Senate Begins Considering Financial Reform Legislation
The US Senate today resumes consideration of S 3217, the Restoring American Financial Stability Act. Senators could begin voting on the bill's 55 amendments this week. At the same time, a separate bill that looks to regulate the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market could potentially be wrapped into the larger financial reform legislation, with one credit rating agency concerned that certain additions to potential amendment, if passed, may sap the market of players. Senate Republicans in a statement today said they are seeking "bipartisan financial reform legislation" that puts an end to taxpayer-funded bailouts of Wall Street banks. The Senate Democratic Communications Center (SDCC) in a statement said Senate Republicans, after blocking the debate on the legislation for several days, are pushing for "carve-outs and loopholes" in the current debate. "[W]e’d rather Republicans stop playing games to let big banks off the hook and start working with Democrats to protect seniors, small businesses and middle-class families from risky Wall Street gambling,” said SDCC spokesperson Regan Lachapelle. In a blog post today, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer warned against 10 "lobbyist loopholes" being urged for the reform legislation, including a weakened enforcement authority for consumer protection rules and exemption from those rules for certain non-bank entities. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) previously proposed The Wall Street Transparency and Accountability Act of 2010, which would bring the OTC derivatives market under greater transparency. The Lincoln bill is up for consideration by the full Senate, which creates the potential for debate alongside S 3217, according to e-mailed commentary by independent credit-rating agency DBRS. The Lincoln bill may even be folded into S 3217, which omits derivatives legislation. DBRS noted that capital market participants are concerned over whether the expected regulation would force financial institutions to spin-off their derivatives trading operations, or abandon them altogether. "While many have argued that additional oversight is necessary to avoid future financial crises, some have cited that additional regulation would be detrimental to the economy by driving up the cost of lending and driving financial business to more favorable regulatory regimes outside of the US," DBRS said. "Some have even suggested that too rigid regulations that impose strict capital reserve requirements could put too much pressure on financial markets." The debate on financial reform legislation is likely to include discussion of OTC derivatives market regulation, DBRS said, whether that will take the form of an amendment to S 3217 or the separate Lincoln bill. Write to Diana Golobay.