The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to water down key parts of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s power to regulate derivatives. The resulting bill helps big banks and the Koch brothers.
The bill reauthorizes the CFTC’s mandate, which expired in October 2013, for five years. It would also reverse the commission’s tough rules on U.S. businesses' swaps with counter-parties abroad, requiring it to draw up a new regime together with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Critics contend that the loosening of regulations could weaken market stability, Reuters reported.
“The purpose of this bill is to remove barriers to business growth that have been imposed by over-reaching and burdensome regulations,” Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) said, according to HedgeCo.net.
Swaps markets allow borrowers with different kinds of loans to exchange those loans with each other. The borrowers are looking for an advantage they did not receive from their original loans, such as a particular currency, the Financial Times explains.
The loosening of regulations in the offshore swaps market is “derided as the ‘London Whale Loophole Act,’” according to the Huffington Post. The London Whale refers to JPMorgan Chase’s $6.2 billion in losses as a result of an overly complicated and risky scheme to hedge the bank’s deals, tied to quotations of corporate shares.
Forcing the CFTC to negotiate with the SEC “would almost certainly introduce loopholes… and may shut down the rulemaking process altogether,” the Huffington Post reported when a similar bill passed in the House in July 2013.
Some of the deregulatory measures will benefit the largest Wall Street banks and the billionaire Koch brothers, who have large financial and energy derivatives operations, the Huffington Post reported.
Better Markets, a pressure group critical of the large banks that run much of the $710 trillion swaps market, said the bill was a "wish list of deregulation provisions that put Americans at risk of another devastating financial crash," according to Reuters.
The bill also requires the CFTC to conduct extensive cost-benefit analyses for all its decisions, which the GOP says will improve the commission’s efficiency. Opponents of regulation have used such analyses to defeat CFTC rules in court.
The House passed the bill 265-144, with 46 Democrats joining Republicans in voting for it. Rep Walter Jones from North Carolina was the only GOP member to vote against it. The Senate is currently working on its own version to reauthorize the CFTC, and getting a bill through Congress is likely to be a drawn-out process, according to Reuters.
President Barack Obama strongly opposes the House’s plan “because it undermines the efficient functioning of the… CFTC by imposing a number of organizational and procedural changes and offers no solution to address the persistent inadequacy of the agency's funding,” the administration said in a statement.
“The enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act resulted in significant expansion of the CFTC's responsibilities. The proposed changes would hinder the CFTC's progress in successfully implementing these critical responsibilities and would unnecessarily disrupt the effective management and operation of the agency, without providing the more robust and reliable funding that the agency needs.”