Financial Reform Passes Another Hurdle

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Late last night the Senate passed a financial reform bill which will have some celebrating, others decrying it as woefully deficient and still others blasting it as anti-capitalist. But it’s not a done deal yet.

The House passed its own financial reform bill back in December and now both bills head to committee where sentors and congressmen will work out their differences.

The Wall Street Journal summarizes some of the key components of the Senate bill:

“• Create a new consumer protection division within the Federal Reserve charged with writing and enforcing new rules that target abusive practices in businesses such as mortgage lending and credit-card issuance.

• Allow the government in extreme cases to seize and liquidate a failing financial company in a way that protects taxpayers from future bailouts.

• Give regulators new powers to oversee the giant derivatives market, increasing transparency by forcing most contracts to be traded through third-parties instead of only between banks and their customers. Derivatives, which are complex financial instruments, are often used to hedge risk. Speculative trading in the contracts led to losses at many banks in the 2008 crisis.”

Both the Senate and the House bills are structurally similar, though there are some important differences. One of those differences is in the way derivatives would be regulated. Derivatives like mortgage-backed securities have been blamed for our recent financial mess, and the Senate bill would make it tougher for some banks to avoid the new regulations. Both bills also create a consumer financial protection agency, though the Senate version has the agency residing within the Federal Reserve, whereas the House would have it be an independent agency.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 59 to 39 largely along party lines. Two Senate democrats, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Maria Cantwell of Washington voted against the bill because they felt it didn’t go far enough. Four Republicans, Scott Brown of Massachessets, Susan Collins of Maine, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Olympia Snowe of Maine, voted with democrats in support of the bill. Two independent senators also voted in favor of the bill and two senators missed the vote.

 

For more on the meltdown and proposed financial regulations, take a look at the articles in our Wall Street vs. Main Street series.

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