JPMorgan not aloneBy Nancy Watzman May 15 2012 10:12 a.m.
With the news focused on JPMorgan Chase & Company's $2 billion "mistake" and company's lobbying campaign at financial agencies to permit the sort of trades that led to the loss, it's worth reviewing some other examples where industry have pushed hard to limit the reach of the Dodd-Frank financial law, arguing as JPMorgan did against a heavy hand because they could handle the risk.
The emphasis is on "some:" the list really is much longer. The law famously set in motion more than 220 rulemakings of which just under a third have been completed. Dominating the dockets of these rulemakings are the financial giants and other big companies that would be touched by the law. Firms such as BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, Cargill, and major trade associations such as the American Banking Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) have weighed in early and often. Voices for strong enforcement of the law are fewer and farther apart, typically coming from groups such as consumer and labor coalition Americans for Financial Reform and derivatives watchdog Better Markets.
Just last month, financial agencies approved a final rule on who would face agency scrutiny as a "swap dealer" under the law. Critics said the new rule would create a huge carve-out, sparing all but the largest derivatives dealers from regulation. According to the New York Times, a coalition of energy firms that included BP, Constellation Energy, and Shell were among the companies that lobbied to weaken the definition. Another group of companies pushing to weaken the definition hired the law firm of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to plead its case. Overall, companies had more than 100 meetings with regulators to discuss the rule.
Remember MF Global? Before its colossal failure in which hundreds of millions of dollars of customer money disappeared, the company led by Democratic moneyman (and former Sen.) Jon Corzine had lobbied regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to back off from regulating how firms could invest customer funds. The company argued that such rules are "unnecessary, and will eliminate a liquid, secure, profitable and necessary category of investment...no foreign country that actually defaulted on its debt resulted in any [futures ocmmission merchant] being unable to return funds to its customers upon request.
Then there's the example of the foreign exchange swaps. Last year, as he was poised to make a decision on whether such swaps would be regulated under the new law, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with top executives from foreign banks who opposed regulation. In late April, he decided to exempt most such swaps from regulation. Without stronger requirements, the market remains vulnerable to a freeze in the foreign exhange market like the one that happened during the 2007-2008 financial meltdown, argued American for Financial Reform at the time.
The financial industry has also led the way in urging Congress to roll back the Dodd-Frank law through legislation. And industry has also pursued a rollback in the courts, by arguing with some success that Dodd-Frank rules be subject to cost-benefit analysis.
Now JPMorgan's loss has become a political football for the other side in the debate. Democrats are expected to use it to attack presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has said that he wants to repeal the financial law (but now is backing down a bit, saying that the loss "demonstrates the importance of oversight and transparency in the derivatives market.) "Likely up next: super PAC-fueled advertisements that trumpet the failures of Wall Street and counter-advertisements paid for by financial donors. We'll be watching.
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