Lawmakers issue dueling Dodd-Frank reports

Republicans attack the financial reform for enshrining 'too-big-to-fail'

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Lawmakers celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, known as Dodd-Frank, with the release of dueling reports, one by Republicans and the other by Democrats.

The Republican report, written by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., denounced the financial reform law for failing to eliminate “too big to fail,” the situation when banks are so large that their failure would destabilize the U.S. financial system.

In a statement accompanying Monday’s report, McHenry, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said, “rather than institute market discipline and a clear rules-based regime, four years later, Dodd-Frank’s failed policies have only worsened the risks within the financial system and recklessly handed financial regulators a blank check for taxpayer-funded bailouts.”

During the 2008 financial crisis, the Republican administration of George W. Bush, with the blessing of a Democratic Congress, created a $700 billion fund to bail out banks and other financial firms that were teetering on the brink of collapse. The move angered many who saw the government protecting the financial industry over taxpayers.

Under the new rules, the Federal Reserve has the power to break up a bank if it doesn't believe it can go bankrupt or be wound down without harming the overall financial system, said Alexis Goldstein, communications director of Other98.com, an activist consumer group. 

"Dodd-Frank gives the regulators the tools they need to end 'too big to fail,' but thus far they have lacked the spine to use them," she said. 

Republicans see the government's authority to wind down banks as a back door way to bail them out. They plan to introduce legislation “to repeal Dodd-Frank’s bailout fund,” Hensarling said.

Criticism of Dodd-Frank is nothing new. Since the law passed, Republicans in the House have proposed more than 30 pieces of legislation targeting parts of the law. Most of these attempts were led by lawmakers identified by the Center for Public Integrity as the “banking caucus” in an April investigation, because of their strong ties to and support of the financial industry. The "banking caucus" includes Democrats.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., who was co-author of the reform law, will defend the law at a committee hearing Wednesday.

The Republican report labels the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by Dodd-Frank to assess systemic risks to the financial system, an “unwieldy conglomerate” and attacks plans such as orderly liquidation authority — which allows the government to wind down major financial institution whose failure would otherwise threaten the economy — for failing to live up to their task of ending “too big to fail.”

Banking caucus members have proposed bills to repeal orderly liquidation authority and to weaken the authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

Democrats on Financial Services released a counterpoint Monday detailing the successes of Dodd-Frank. They say the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created by Dodd-Frank, has returned $4.6 billion to consumers. The reform has also reduced risk, boosted oversight and added transparency to the industry and forced banks to shift “away from speculative trading to investments in the real economy,” the Democrats’ report said.

“This progress has been regularly stymied by a concerted effort by the Majority to underfund regulators’ operations, relentlessly pressure them to weaken regulations, and otherwise erect roadblocks to implementation,” the report said.

In a statement, Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking Democrat on Financial Services, accused her Republican colleagues of “an unrelenting campaign to destroy Dodd-Frank while not providing an alternative.”