Jul 15 2010

SHELBY: DODD-FRANK NOT REAL REFORM, JUST MORE OF THE SAME

“This bill serves only to expand the federal  bureaucracy and government control of private sector activities.  It will impose large costs on American taxpayers and businesses without creating one new private sector job. 
It will lower the availability of credit, raise its cost, and hinder economic growth.”

 U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking Republican on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, today delivered a closing floor statement regarding his opposition to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill.  Excerpts of Shelby’s speech are immediately below in bold, followed by the full text of his remarks.

…Despite broad agreement on the need for reform, however, the majority decided that it would rather move forward with a partisan bill.  The result is a 2,300 page legislative monster that expands the scope and power of ineffective bureaucracies, creates vast new bureaucracies with little accountability, and seriously undermines the competitiveness of the American economy…

…The Banking Committee never produced a single report on or conducted an investigation into any aspect of the financial crisis…
…no investigations, no depositions, and no subpoenas… 

…The difference between what we needed to do, what we could have done, and what the majority has chosen to do, is considerable.  Congress could have focused this legislation on financial stability.  It could have utilized the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission…. 

…Instead, the Democrat majority chose to adopt legislative language penned by federal regulators in search of expanded turf.  They chose to legislate for the political favor of community organizer groups and liberal activists seeking expansive new bureaucracies that they could leverage for their own political advantage.  The result is an activist bill that has little to do with the recent or any crisis and a lot to do with expanding government to satisfy special interests…

…On the Government Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie and Freddie…
…On the tri party repo market…
…On runs in money markets…
…On the reliance of market participants on short-term commercial paper funding…
…On maturity transformations that allowed the shadow banking system to effectively create money out of AAA-rated securities, thereby making the system much more vulnerable…
…On the financial system’s overall vulnerability to liquidity crises…
…the bill is silent.

…In fact, most of the existing regulators that so recently failed us have been given expanded power and scope…

…Democrats wrote a bill that hijacks taxpayer resources but hides that fact from public view…

…large financial firms on Wall Street seem to have benefitted, judging by the behavior of their stock prices, while the legislation almost surely will increase uncertainties and costs for Main Street and America's job creators… Only large financial institutions will have the resources to navigate all of the new laws and regulations that this legislation will generate.  As a result, this bill disproportionately will hurt small and medium-sized banks which had nothing to do with the crisis…  

…While a consumer protection agency may sound like a good idea, the way it is constructed in this bill will slow economic growth and kill jobs by imposing massive new regulatory burdens on businesses – small and large… Less credit at a higher price will dampen the very small-business engines of job creation that our economy desperately needs right now…

…Congress could have implemented reforms to improve derivatives market activities.  Instead, this bill’s derivative title seems to have been inspired by a desire to be punitive or to provide short-term political support during an election, or both.  Instead of imposing a rational and effective regulatory framework on the OTC derivatives market, the bill runs roughshod over the Main Street businesses that use derivatives to protect themselves… As a result, there will be fewer opportunities for businesses to grow, fewer jobs for the unemployed, and higher prices for consumers…

…throughout this process there has been a lot of talk about the influence of Wall Street on this bill… I think the American people need to know, however, that, in the end, the real influence peddlers on this bill were not Wall Street lobbyists, but rather liberal activists and Washington bureaucrats.  Wall Street and the big banks just happened to be the incidental beneficiaries of their success… 

…This bill serves only to expand the federal  bureaucracy and government control of private sector activities.  It will impose large costs on American taxpayers and businesses without creating one new private sector job.  It will lower the availability of credit, raise its cost, and hinder economic growth… 

…For any one of these reasons, I urge my colleagues to reject this bill.

 

The full text of Shelby’s speech, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to offer remarks on the Dodd-Frank regulation conference report.
           
Nearly two years ago, the financial crisis exposed massive deficiencies in the structure and culture of our financial regulatory system.  Years of technological advances, product development, and the advent of global capital markets rendered the system ill-suited to achieve its mission in the modern economy. 

Decades of insulation from accountability distracted regulators from focusing on that mission.   
Instead of acting to ensure safe and sound markets, they primarily became focused on expanding the scope of their bureaucratic reach.   

After the crisis, which cost of trillions of dollars and millions of jobs, it was clear that significant reform was necessary. 

Despite broad agreement on the need for reform, however, the majority decided that it would rather move forward with a partisan bill.   
The result is a 2,300 page legislative monster that expands the scope and power of ineffective bureaucracies, creates vast new bureaucracies with little accountability, and seriously undermines the competitiveness of the American economy.

Unfortunately, the bill does very little to make our financial system safer.  Therefore, I will oppose the Dodd-Frank bill and urge my colleagues to do the same.

Mr. President, this was not a preordained outcome.  It is the direct result of the decisions made by the Obama Administration.   
Had they sincerely wanted to produce a bipartisan bill, I have no doubt that we could have crafted a strong bill that would have garnered 80 or more votes in the Senate.  If the American people haven’t noticed by now, that is not how things work under Democrat rule.

Unfortunately, the partisan manner in which this bill was constructed is not its greatest shortcoming.  One would have assumed that the scope of the crisis – trillions of dollars lost and millions of jobs eliminated – would have compelled the Banking Committee to spend the time necessary to thoroughly examine the crisis and develop the best possible legislation in response.
 
Unfortunately, such an assumption would be entirely unfounded. 

The Banking Committee never produced a single report on or conducted an investigation into any aspect of the financial crisis. 

In contrast, during the Great Depression, the Banking Committee set up an entire subcommittee to examine what regulatory reforms were needed.  The Pecora Commission, as it came to be known, interviewed, under oath, the big actors on Wall Street, and produced a multi volume report.   
Unfortunately, this time around, the Democrat-run Committee gave Wall Street executives a pass.  There were no investigations, no depositions, and no subpoenas. 

In fact, Mr. President, Chairman Dodd never called on the likes of Robert Rubin, Lloyd Blankfein, or Angelo Mozilo, just to name a few, to testify before the Committee. 

Not a single individual from AIG’s Financial Products division was questioned by the Committee or its staff.   
Although Congress did establish the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to do the work that the majority party refused to do, the Commission’s work will not be completed until the end of this year.

Most amazingly, the Banking Committee did not hold even a single hearing on the final bill before its mark up. 

The Committee never took the time to receive public testimony or survey experts about the likely outcomes that the legislation would produce.   
We know that the majority heard from Wall Street lobbyists, government regulators, and liberal activists, but they clearly decided that they did not want the American people to have a chance to understand and comment on their bill before it was enacted.  Why?  The majority knows that this bill is a job killer and will saddle Americans with billions of dollars in hidden taxes and fees.  Allowing the public to weigh in on this bill could have spelled the end of the Democrat version of reform.

Mr. President, we owed more to those who lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings.  This truly was a missed opportunity.   
The difference between what we needed to do, what we could have done, and what the majority has chosen to do, is considerable.    

Congress could have focused this legislation on financial stability.  It could have utilized the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.  Instead, the Democrat majority chose to adopt legislative language penned by federal regulators in search of expanded turf. 

They chose to legislate for the political favor of community organizer groups and liberal activists seeking expansive new bureaucracies that they could leverage for their own political advantage.   
The result is an activist bill that has little to do with the recent or any crisis and a lot to do with expanding government to satisfy special interests.

Congress could have written a bill to address the problem of too big to fail once and for all.  In fact, the Shelby-Dodd amendment began to address this problem.

Unfortunately, the Democrats, once again, overreached at the eleventh hour and undermined the seriousness of our efforts by emphasizing social activism over financial stability. 
Democrats insisted that the overall financial stability mission of the Financial Stability Oversight Council was less important than the political needs of certain preferred constituencies. 

This dangerous mixing of social activism and financial stability follows the exact same model that led us to the crisis in the first place: private enterprise co-opted through political mandates to achieve social goals.  Fannie and Freddie proved that this combination can be highly destructive.

Congress could have written legislation to address key issues known to have played a role in the recent crisis.   
On the Government Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie and Freddie, the bill is silent, aside from a mere study. 

On the tri party repo market, the bill is silent. 

On runs in money markets, the bill is silent.

On the reliance of market participants on short-term commercial paper funding, the bill is silent.   
On maturity transformations that allowed the shadow banking system to effectively create money out of AAA-rated securities, thereby making the system much more vulnerable, the bill is silent. 

On the financial system’s overall vulnerability to liquidity crises, the bill is silent.

Mr. President, we know with certainty that all of these factors – none of which are addressed in the bill – were integral to the recent crisis.   
While we do not want to write legislation that only deals with the last crisis, we do want to  enact a law that addresses what we know were systemic problems.  This bill fails to do so. 

Congress could have written a bill to streamline regulation and eliminate the gaps that firms exploit in a race to the regulatory bottom. 

This bill does the opposite by making our financial regulatory system even more complex.  We will still have the Fed; the FDIC; the SEC; the CFTC; the OCC; and the remainder of the regulatory alphabet soup.   
In fact, most of the existing regulators that so recently failed us have been given expanded power and scope.  This bill also will add new letters to the already confused soup, such as the CFPB and the OFR.  In addition to increased regulatory complexity, there will be new special activist offices within each regulator for almost every imaginable special interest. 

Congress could have set up reasonable new research capabilities in its new Stability Oversight Council to complement financial research performed by the Federal Reserve and others.   
Instead, Democrats decided to establish the Office of Financial Research with an unconstrained director and a focus on broad information collection and processing. 

I believe that this Office will not only fail to detect systemic threats and asset price bubbles in the future, it will threaten civil liberties and the privacy of Americans, waste billions of dollars of taxpayer resources, and lull markets into the false belief that this new government power will protect the financial system from risky trades.

Congress could have been transparent in identifying the bill’s fiscal effects and costs.

Instead, Democrats wrote a bill that hijacks taxpayer resources but hides that fact from public view.  Just as the Administration refuses to acknowledge trillions of dollars of contingent taxpayer liabilities residing with Fannie and Freddie, this bill refuses to provide Americans with a transparent view of the costs of the new multibillion dollar consumer protection bureaucracy.

According to the report on the bill offered by the majority, the consumer bureaucracy’s budget is – and I quote – “paid for by the Federal Reserve system.”  Mr. President, make no mistake, “paid for by the Fed” means paid for by the taxpayers.   
Taxpayers will be on the hook for billions of dollars of unchecked, unencumbered, and unappropriated spending financed by the inflationary money printing authority of the Fed which will be hidden from the American people in the arcane Federal budget.

Congress could have also used this legislative opportunity to begin the process of reforming the failed mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie, whose ever-growing bailouts have no upper limit.  When it became clear that this was not the intention of the Democrats, Republicans sought to address the current and worsening condition of the GSEs.   
We suggested establishing taxpayer protections, such as portfolio caps, on the mortgage giants.  We recommended making the cost of the Fannie and Freddie bailouts transparent to the public.  We offered initial steps toward the inevitable unwinding of these failed institutions.  Yet, at every turn, the Democrat majority blocked Republican efforts to establish at least a foundation for reform. 

The Democrat preferred approach in this bill to reforming the mortgage giants is – a study.   
Let me repeat that notion:  in order to address a bailout that has cost American taxpayers roughly $150 billion to date, with unlimited future taxpayer exposure, the Democrats propose a study.  It does not take a study to determine that $150 billion and unlimited loss exposure needs to be addressed immediately. 

Congress could have focused on securities market practices that were known to have contributed to systemic risks in our financial system.  Instead, Democrats overreached once again.   
For example, this bill gives the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has failed to carry out its existing mandates, a new systemic risk mandate to oversee advisors to hedge funds and private equity funds.  Yet, no one contends that private funds were a cause of the recent crisis, or that the demise of any private fund during the crisis resulted in a systemwide shock.

Congress could have acted to curtail Wall Street’s speculative excesses and enhance Main Street’s access to credit.   
Instead, large financial firms on Wall Street seem to have benefitted, judging by the behavior of their stock prices, while the legislation almost surely will increase uncertainties and costs for Main Street and America's job creators. 

The actual provisions in the bill will benefit big Wall Street institutions because they substantially increase the amount and cost of financial regulation.  Only large financial institutions will have the resources to navigate all of the new laws and regulations that this legislation will generate.  As a result, this bill disproportionately will hurt small and medium-sized banks which had nothing to do with the crisis.   
While the largest financial institutions will get special regulation under this bill, the unintended result will be lower funding costs for these firms.  That will benefit the big banks and hurt the small banks.  Therefore, this bill will result in higher fees, less choice, and fewer opportunities to responsibly obtain credit for blameless consumers. 

Moreover, the bill raises taxes, which, as we all know, ultimately are born by consumers.  Make no mistake, when Wall Street writes a check to pay its higher taxes, the ones who end up paying those taxes are American consumers and workers. 

Congress could have written legislation for consumer protection that respects both American consumers and the need for safety and soundness in our financial system.

Instead, the Dodd-Frank bill was constructed by architects in the Treasury Department who have a certain condescension for American consumers and their choices. 

Their ultimate goal is to substitute the judgment of a benevolent bureaucrat for that of the American consumer, thereby controlling consumer behavior without regard for the safety and soundness of our banks.   
The American people are being told not to worry, however, because it is all being done for their own good.

While a consumer protection agency may sound like a good idea, the way it is constructed in this bill will slow economic growth and kill jobs by imposing massive new regulatory burdens on businesses – small and large. 

It will stifle innovation in consumer financial products and reduce small business activity.  It will lead to reduced consumer credit and higher costs for available credit.  
Less credit at a higher price will dampen the very small-business engines of job creation that our economy desperately needs right now.  That is a price that I am not willing to pay.

Congress could have implemented reforms to improve derivatives market activities.  Instead, this bill’s derivative title seems to have been inspired by a desire to be punitive or to provide short-term political support during an election, or both.  Instead of imposing a rational and effective regulatory framework on the OTC derivatives market, the bill runs roughshod over the Main Street businesses that use derivatives to protect themselves. 

Mr. President, the Dodd-Frank bill will increase companies’ costs and limit their access to risk-mitigating derivatives without making our financial system safer in the process.  As a result, there will be fewer opportunities for businesses to grow, fewer jobs for the unemployed, and higher prices for consumers.

Congress could have written a bill to put an end to the over reliance on credit rating agencies and under reliance on their own due diligence.  Instead, the Dodd-Frank bill sets up new regulations and liability provisions to give the impression that ratings are “accurate.” 
It then takes a contradictory direction and instructs regulators to replace references to ratings with other standards of creditworthiness.

To make matters even more confusing, the bill also provides for the establishment of a government-sponsored body that will select a credit rating agency to perform an initial rating of a security issue. 

I anticipate that the net effect of these conflicting provisions will be a reduction in competition among credit rating agencies.  
Potential competitors either will be deterred by all of the new regulatory requirements or be destroyed by the liability provisions set up in the bill.  The lack of competition led to poor quality ratings in the run up to the crisis.  This bill perpetuates and, in fact, worsens that problem.
                                                                                                                       
Mr. President, Congress could have eased regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized businesses that were not integral to the recent crisis or any crisis.  Instead, Main Street corporations will be subject to a panoply of new corporate governance and executive compensation requirements. 
These new requirements will be costly and potentially harmful to shareholders because they empower special interests and encourage short-term thinking by managers.  These features were included solely for the purpose of appeasing the unions and other special interest lobbyists, and there is no demonstrated link between these changes and enhanced stability of our financial system or improved investor protection.

Congress could have held hearings or analyzed a number of changes that this bill makes to the securities laws.  Instead, dramatic changes in those laws were written into the Dodd-Frank bill with little discussion and no analysis.   
The myriad of miscellaneous provisions will certainly generate several unintended consequences.

Mr. President, throughout this process there has been a lot of talk about the influence of Wall Street on this bill.  To be sure, in the early stages of the negotiations, Wall Street and the big banks were very engaged. 

I think the American people need to know, however, that, in the end, the real influence peddlers on this bill were not Wall Street lobbyists, but rather liberal activists and Washington bureaucrats.  Wall Street and the big banks just happened to be the incidental beneficiaries of their success. 

When Chairman Dodd and I began this process we agreed that the bureaucratic status quo was unacceptable and that radical change was necessary.  With that in mind, we agreed to consolidate all the financial regulators and constrain the Fed to its monetary policy role. 

This was not a result the big banks wanted.  The last thing a large regulated financial institution wants is a new regulator.  After all, they have spent years and millions of dollars developing a relationship with their current regulators.   
A major regulatory reorganization would seriously upset the status quo and cost them a great deal of money.  Neither, Chairman Dodd, nor I were persuaded, however.  Change was necessary, and change was going to come.

Unfortunately, that vision of reform began to die as the bureaucrats and liberal left began to exercise their influence over the Democrats.  When it became apparent that I was not willing to embrace the left’s expansive consumer bureaucracy, it also became apparent that actual regulatory reform was not what the majority was seeking.   
All other serious reform was scuttled by the Democrats in defense of the new consumer bureaucracy.  That was the point at which Chairman Dodd began to seek out a new negotiating partner – ultimately to no avail.

As the Fed and the other regulators began to regain their foothold with the Democrats, and the Administration and the activist left consolidated its support around an expansive new bureaucracy, all hope for real reform vanished.  Ultimately, all the Democrats will succeed in doing – with the help of a few Republicans – is give the failed bureaucracies more power, more money, and a pat on the back with the hope that they will do a better job next time.   
That is not real reform, Mr. President, that is just more of the same.

We had an opportunity to lead the world by creating a modern, efficient and competitive regulatory structure that would serve our economy well for decades to come. 

Instead, the Democrats have squandered that opportunity by merely expanding our obsolete, inefficient and uncompetitive system.  To make it even worse, they have added to the bureaucratic morass several more unrestrained and unaccountable agencies.
 
It became apparent early on that the Administration and the Democrat majority were not really interested in regulatory reform.  All they were really trying to do is exploit the crisis in order to expand government further and reward special interests, Wall Street, and political activist groups. 

The Dodd-Frank bill will not enhance systemic stability.  It will not prevent future bailouts of politically favored institutions and groups by the government.   
This bill serves only to expand the federal  bureaucracy and government control of private sector activities.  It will impose large costs on American taxpayers and businesses without creating one new private sector job.  It will lower the availability of credit, raise its cost, and hinder economic growth. 

For any one of these reasons, I urge my colleagues to reject this bill.