Regulators Are 30 Percent Complete In Defining Rules And Regulations On Financial Services Industry
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
July 31, 2012 - The two-year anniversary of the financial reform legislation marked a day that changed the industry, for better or worse.
On July 21, organizations and legislators alike were reminded of their celebrations or protests on the day President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank was written after the collapse of Bear Sterns, and at a time when the people and Congress believed that increased scrutiny of traditional banks and an extension of government oversight of nonbank financial companies, investments and clearinghouses would help reverse the economic downturn and prevent future threats to the financial system.
“It has now been two years since the collapse of Bear Stearns and more than a year since the financial crisis peaked,” according to the White House Web site. “Trillions of dollars in household wealth were erased and over 8 million jobs were lost, in large part, because of failures in our financial system. That failed regulatory system will now come to an end. The Obama Administration has made Wall Street reform a top priority since day one, and it will now become a reality. Wall Street Reform will hold Wall Street accountable, protect and empower American consumers with the strongest consumer protections ever, increase transparency in financial dealings – including in the derivatives market – and end taxpayer bailouts once and for all.”
Federal agencies, from the U.S. Treasury Department to the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, have been working to write the rules and definitions of the more than 800-page law, which is so far just over 30 percent complete. Agencies have so far missed only a few statutory deadlines for writing such rules for derivatives, or swaps, and have filed for extensions. And, despite attempts from various agencies to delay or roll back reforms, Dodd-Frank implementation is steadily moving forward, according to the Treasury.
A presentation released by the Treasury on July 19 said Wall Street reform has created a safer and stronger financial system that is more transparent and allows consumers more power and protection. Banks have added “cushion” capital to support lending and comply with the reform legislation. “We have forced banks to raise more than $400 billion in capital, to reduce leverage, and to fund themselves more conservatively, so that they can provide credit to support economic growth even in the face of future economic storms,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said at the Financial Services Oversight Committee meeting on July 18.
“We have negotiated new, much tougher global capital requirements, with even higher requirements on the largest banks,” he continued. “To complement these important safeguards, we are in the process of negotiating global liquidity requirements for banks and global margin requirements for derivatives. We have established the ability to put all the largest financial firms under increased supervision and enhanced prudential standards, through designations by this Council, whether they are banks or nonbanks. . . . These reforms will require major changes in the way our financial system works, and as the Council's annual report recognizes, they are already helping to make our system stronger.”
In addition, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), mandated by Dodd-Frank, has transitioned the role of supervisor of consumer financial products and services from the private sector to the public sector. “In the year since the CFPB opened its doors, we have focused on making the financial services marketplace work better for consumers,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in an e-mailed statement to the Business Journal.
“We’re putting in place strong rules of the road to fix the broken mortgage market – a leading cause of the financial crisis and a key part of our economic recovery,” he noted. “We’re also working to cut down on fine print so consumers know before they owe on mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. When consumers do have questions or problems, they can check the AskCFPB database for answers or file a complaint and get help from our Consumer Response team. And to make sure consumers are treated fairly, the CFPB is holding financial companies accountable for playing by the rules. I’m proud of the great strides we’ve made in establishing this agency and in building a direct and trusted relationship with consumers.”
Dedrick Muhammad, senior director of economic programs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the organization applauds the two-year anniversary of the legislation. “To date, the biggest accomplishment of the Act has been the creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). During its first year, the CFPB successfully brought new regulations, rules, and enforcement in the areas of mortgages, credit cards, credit reports and credit scores, student loans, and other important areas. Dodd-Frank has created a 21st century regulatory structure for the financial sector and has been an essential step forward in moving the economy forward the financial crisis the nation is still recovering from.”
While it is obvious legislation has influenced the financial services and banking industries from “Main Street” to Wall Street, impacted institutions are continuing to grapple with both the enormous size and the complexity of the law. American Bankers Association Senior Director Of Public Relations Jeff Sigmund said via e-mail, “Dodd-Frank is still a work in progress. Regulators have issued more than 8,000 Federal Register pages of proposed or final rules with many more still to come, for a grand total of more than 240 rules. Managing this regulatory burden is a significant challenge for all banks, but it’s overwhelming for community banks. It creates pressure to spend more money on compliance issues than on resources that can serve the bank’s community.”
From a business standpoint, making sure the rules, regulations and implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act are correct is essential for not only the financial services industry but for all businesses and for job creation, according to U.S. Chamber Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness President and CEO David Hirschmann. “As we pass the two year anniversary of Dodd-Frank, it is imperative that policy makers understand the implications of Dodd-Frank upon Main Street growth and job creation,” he said via e-mail. “If we don’t get these policies right – efficient vibrant capital markets, providing for a clear end-user derivatives exemption, making regulatory agencies accountable – America’s job creators will be hamstrung and economic growth will suffer.”
While Dodd-Frank continues to be implemented, the full impacts of the legislation remain to be seen.
“This is one anniversary we are recollecting, but not celebrating,” Financial Services President and CEO Dale Brown said in a statement. “Hard-working Americans who need help with retirement planning, college funding and other Main Street financial goals have not reaped benefits from the Dodd-Frank Act in the two years since it was enacted. . . . Independent financial advisors and the independent financial services firms that serve them continue to operate with considerable regulatory uncertainty because of the huge backlog of Dodd-Frank rulemakings. And yet, their regulatory costs and burdens continue to grow, even though no independent financial advisors contributed to the financial crisis that led to the hasty passage of Dodd-Frank.”
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