Dodd-Frank Provisions We Can All Safely Ignore

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The following post is by Dealbreaker reader and commenter Infinite Guest.

Laws go unenforced for any of several superficially distinct reasons, but ultimately because of political failure. Mostly a reiteration of desuetudinal laws, Dodd-Frank seems deliberately written so that it can’t be enforced. Dodd-Frank is a gigantic recipe for political failure.

Dodd-Frank definitely costs money. Some of the provisions of the statute, like the hedge fund regulation, will require a little finesse. Some provisions impose additional cost on the ultimate consumer. Some, like cutting states out of surplus lines and reinsurance, will reduce costs. The beauty of putting swaps and derivatives on an exchange is self-evident. But no one seems interested in the provisions that place the Executive Branch subordinate to Congress, provisions that conflict with each other, that promote regulatory capture, that rely upon Treasury Secretary Geithner to devise tough new rules, or that simply formalize the status quo. Yet the statute is primarily composed of just such provisions. Those provisions can be safely ignored.

I’ve always felt there’s something charming about trying to fix the problems in your plan by hiring new managers to execute your plan. The Financial Stability Oversight Council is something like that, although the voting members of the council (except for the insurance industry representative) aren’t new. A few obvious problems. The Council is tasked both with disabusing the industry of Too-Big-To-Fail expectations and with referring troubled institutions to the Orderly Liquidation Authority, i.e., the bailout group. The Council is headed by the Treasury Secretary. It’s set up to be exempt from just about all the restrictions that every other one of the, I don’t know, say thousands, of existing advisory committees out there, just to make sure that everyone else in Federal government is jealous and uncooperative from the get-go. And the Council members are obliged to periodically sign off to Congress on the health of the Financial System. Congress may assume that because President Obama signed the law his Council will feel compelled to report to them in some meaningful way, but I’m not so sure. Odds are good the Administration sees it’s Congressional reporting requirements as a chore, or at best, as a courtesy. Certainly not as any sort of binding warranty. Same for the Office of Financial Research – which, by the way, might not be such a bad place to work. Check it out.

I’m happy to say the Volcker Rule is completely gone, and leave it as an exercise to the reader to cogitate further. The countercyclical capital requirements bit could have been written by Jamie Dimon himself. I’m tempted to say it was.

New investor protections in Title IX are not actually new, and the new disclosure rules for retail investors are part of an ongoing discussion with the SEC. Then there’s the SEC’s funding to consider. The worst of both worlds, the SEC is self-funding except that it isn’t. They can’t afford to hurt industry too hard and they can’t afford to piss off anyone in Congress either. So it’s no better for them to rock the boat than it was before this statute. If they have any sense they’ll keep Congress in the dark and do their best to stay out of court.

The whole process around orderly liquidation is a great gift. In exchange for a small premium, Dodd-Frank has given large financial institutions a permission slip to drive each other to the brink of collapse, secure in the knowledge that a guilt-free LTCM-style bailout awaits any failing institutions, and protected from the wrath of taxpayers. The restriction imposed on the Orderly Liquidation Authority not to use taxpayer funds to finance future bailouts can be safely ignored, but it does look nice on paper.

Unfortunately the restrictions Congress wants to place on bailing out Greece is also a non-starter, but I doubt any of you people care about that.

It has often been said that in politics nothing succeeds like failure. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is by that measure a resounding success.

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CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton Uses Public Meeting On Dodd/Frank Rulemaking To Test Out Open Mic Night Bits

In full: "Thank you Mr. Chairman. There are a couple of important events coming up that I want to share with you today. First, tonight the All-Star game will be played. Also, in just 11 days, we’ll have the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Now, some of you are asking, “How’s he going to put these two totally divergent things together?” It’ll all make sense in a minute. Really. First, how many of you have heard of Bryce Harper? He’s the youngest position player ever chosen for an All Star game and plays for what is for many of you, your hometown team, the Washington Nats. He not only has a way with the bat but he seems to have a way with words, too. A couple weeks ago, a reporter asked him what he seemed to think was a silly question, and he responded by saying, “That’s a clown question, bro.” That answer went on T-shirts. It went on late-night TV. It went viral. Now, back to Dodd-Frank. There are those who say we don’t need it. Let’s repeal it—or at least parts of it. Let’s de-fund the agencies overseeing it so they can’t enforce it. Heck, let’s just take ‘em to court if we don’t like the line-up. Let’s take our bat and ball and go home. So, here’s the question they seem to be asking: “Do we even need Dodd-Frank?” Let’s not even talk about 2008 and the financial collapse and the real reason Dodd-Frank came along in the first place. Let’s talk about how MF Global (as some would suggest) got caught trying to steal. Let’s talk about JPMorgan’s losing streak. Let’s talk about Barclays’ balk. Do we need Dodd-Frank? That’s a clown question, bro. So yes, we need rules. We need the funding to enforce them. Plenty of folks still seem to think they can get around the rules. Plenty of folks in this town seem to think we don’t need umpires. Do we? That’s a clown question, bro." That's A Clown Question, Bro [CFTC]