U.S. Chamber: We Need the Right Bill on Financial Reform

While we’re primarily focused on next week’s primary elections in this space throughout this week, the hot topic in Washington right now is financial regulatory reform. Tom Donohue, president/CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (there is no direct relationship between state chambers and the national organization, but we do work together on supporting policy that positively impacts jobs and the economy) offers a succinct commentary that provides solid suggestions for improving the legislation currently under consideration.

Financial regulatory reform is essential, and it needs to happen this year. But it’s not enough to pass any bill—we need the right bill. The rules set now will govern financial markets for years to come, impacting job creation and economic growth. At the time of this writing, a bipartisan deal may be in the works, but here are five ways we think that the current Senate legislation can be improved:

Consumer Protection—The Senate bill creates a $410 million Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with far-reaching powers—even over many nonfinancial businesses. In fact, any business that allows customers to pay in more than four installments or assesses a finance charge would be covered—even an orthodontic practice. The bill also opens the door to a new wave of lawsuits because state regulations are not preempted by new federal rules. Strong consumer protection can be better achieved through a council of regulators.

Too Big to Fail—Instead of eliminating the concept “too big to fail,” the Senate bill embraces it, ultimately designating firms as too big to fail and creating a $50 billion bailout fund. What’s needed is an orderly and predictable system—much like our current bankruptcy process—to unwind failing institutions quickly, fairly, and without taxpayer expense.

Derivatives—The Chamber agrees we need more transparency and disclosure in the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market, but there must be exemptions for businesses using the market to hedge risk on such things as exchange rates. These businesses do not threaten the stability of the financial system and should not be forced to post cash collateral that would otherwise be used to grow the business, invest, and create jobs.

Corporate Governance—Provisions in the current bill would trump state corporate governance laws—which have worked well for 150 years—in favor of one-size-fits-all federal laws. That would give labor unions and other special interest shareholders the power to leverage their agendas at the expense of other shareholders. These issues don’t belong in this bill.

Volcker Rule—While the Chamber agrees with the intent of the Volcker Rule to stabilize the financial system, its implementation would put American companies at a global disadvantage. Better tools—such as higher capital and liquidity requirements—can be used to achieve the same goal.

Financial regulatory reform is something Congress simply has to get right. The current bill needs more commonsense provisions to attract broad bipartisan support. The changes we outlined would do just that, while strengthening our capital markets, helping prevent future crises, and boosting our economy.