A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives rolled back one of the key elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown.
The House voted 292-122 to pass Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act, which repeals a provision in the law that required big banks to move some derivatives trading into separate units that aren’t backed by the government’s insurance fund.
The vote followed months of heavy lobbying by Wall Street banks, and The New York Times reviewed emails that showed Citigroup lobbyists drafted at least 70 of the House bill’s 85 lines.
In addition, a MapLight analysis showed Citigroup had showered House members who voted for the bill with campaign cash in the three years since Dodd-Frank was passed.
One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Jim Hines (D-CT), has received more than $66,000 from the bank, more than any other House member, and the bill’s co-sponsors received an average of 16.8 times more money from Citigroup than other House members.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has received more than $917,000 from interests supporting the bill, more than any other House member, and primary sponsor Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), has gotten more than $136,000 from the securities and investment industry.
Banks were still permitted under the Dodd-Frank law to offset their risk directly with interest rate and foreign exchange swaps, but lawmakers had sought to remove risks in trading contracts such as futures or credit default by moving them away from banks.
But members of both parties have said banks should have more options in hedging their risk, and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, also favored the change approved by the House, saying it pushes the derivatives trading out toward less-regulated depository institutions and risked financial stability.
The White House said Tuesday it opposes the bill, but President Barack Obama hasn’t said he would veto the measure.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the second-ranking Democrat on the House financial services committee, claimed on the House floor that the bill’s namesake favored the change, which brought a swift reaction from former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who issued a statement saying it would be “a mistake and destabilizing” to repeal the provision.
Another opponent, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), said banks could still perform about 90 percent of the swaps hedges under the current law that they could before the Dodd-Frank reforms were passed.
Only three Republicans, Reps. John Duncan (TN), Walter Jones (NC), and Thomas Massie (KY), voted against the measure, which gained the support of 70 Democrats.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]