One of our goals at Financial Reform Watch is to keep tabs on those who would influence, weaken, or delay how the Dodd-Frank law is carried out. In the early going, we’ve found that some regulatory agencies do a better job than others in publishing details of lobbyist meetings, public comments, and other relevant financial reform information on their websites.
Securities and Exchange Commission
The SEC makes it easy for the public to comment on new rules and to view the comments of others. It doesn’t provide much context for those rules, however, making it unlikely that many people without a vested interest—or an appetite for research—will bother to weigh in.
We initially had trouble finding information about SEC officials’ private meetings with outside interests. That information is mixed into the comments sections, meaning that it is somewhat difficult to gauge the totality of the lobbying—you have to click through each rulemaking item and then skim for memos. A more vexing issue is that that the content of those disclosure memos is uneven. Some just list participants with a sentence or two describing in vague terms what the meeting was about. Others include material that lobbyists submitted as a comment. None included any further detail about what was said at the meeting itself.
From an ease-of-use perspective, the web page devoted to Dodd-Frank is easy to find and fairly complete, with news updates and a calendar.
Analysis: One of the better sites, but we want to know more about what is going on with those meetings (a failing of all the regulatory agencies). More could also be done to explain to the public the meaning and background of individual rulemakings. Still, we like the calendar and general comprehensiveness of the information.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The FDIC declares that its open-door policy “will make it easier for the public to give input and track the rulemaking process as the agency implements the new law.” So far, the agency isn’t living up to this promise.
The biggest failing is the near-complete lack of contextual information about Dodd-Frank, or the FDIC’s responsibilities under it. Public comments are available, but not grouped by individual rulemaking. What are those new rules going to be about? We don’t know. Not surprisingly, there have been only a handful of comments.
Private meeting disclosures are similarly bare-bones. We appreciate the easy-to-digest chart approach to who visited and when, but no other details about the meetings are provided.
The paucity of usable information is made more frustrating in that the agency is making important decisions. Today, for example, the FDIC postponed approving a rule that would give it resolution authority over big banks and decided to wait to discuss the proposal with the new Financial Stability Oversight Council. There was no mention of this on the Dodd-Frank law page of the FDIC’s web site.
Analysis: Though lacking in depth and context, the basic information about public comments and lobbyist visits was available. Also, we appreciated the video from two roundtable forums held recently on financial reform.
The Fed has a nice presentation of the information we deem most important—details of meetings with industry representatives and lobbyists. But that is it. No calendar, no explanation of the Fed’s role as a rule maker, no database of public comments on proposed rulemakings.
Analysis: The Fed has major obligations under Dodd-Frank, including implementing the Volcker Rule, which limits proprietary trading by banks. Given the Fed’s central role, we expect more.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
The CFTC is the best-in-show among Washington regulators when it comes to Dodd-Frank rulemaking and lobbyist disclosure. The CFTC says it has identified 30 areas where rules will be necessary. It categorizes each of these by subject, and provides a link, where the public can learn more about an individual rule, offer comments, and read the submissions of others.
The external meetings page is similarly well-organized, and easily searchable. Do we want to know more about what happened at those meetings? Yes, yes we do.
Analysis: Other federal agencies would do well to follow the CFTC model on Dodd-Frank disclosure and rule-making.
Comptroller of the Currency
Nada. Nothing. Zip. Is it because the OCC is part of the Treasury Department and is deferring to the Fed and FDIC on all bank rulemakings in Dodd-Frank?
We left a message with the press office and will update this post when we hear back
Federal Trade Commission
Nothing here, either. In comparison to the rest of regulatory Washington, the FTC’s obligations are more limited—most consumer protection decisions will be made by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau But the FTC is given authority to write rules related to auto dealer financing. We left a message with the press office and will update this post if we hear back.