September 22, 2010

Dodd-Frank: Not-So-Easy Come, Not-So-Easy Gone?

Yesterday, Reuters ran the article below (entitled “US senator wants to reopen Wall St bill”) indicating that there is sentiment from some Republicans to revisit some of Dodd-Frank if they make gains in Congress during the mid-term elections:

Republicans will reopen the broad Wall Street reform law and overhaul the newly created consumer protection bureau if they regain control of Congress after the November elections, a leading lawmaker said on Monday. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the powerful Senate Banking Committee, said lawmakers must revisit the legislation enacted this summer, which is the broadest overhaul of financial rules since the Great Depression. “The bill is so sweeping and such a game changer in many ways that it’s incumbent upon us to revisit it,” Shelby told the Reuters Washington Summit. The bill, one of the Obama administration’s legislative victories, will impose new restrictions on every aspect of Wall Street.

But lawmakers are already trying to change the bill, even though it was only signed into law in July. And that’s before the November midterm elections, which could see Republicans gaining further influence, if not control, over Congress. The House Financial Services Committee, which oversees financial regulators, is now considering tweaks to one of the bill’s provisions related to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If Democrats lose control of Congress, Republicans may try to tear apart the contentious legislation they mostly all opposed. “The consumer agency bothers me the most,” said Shelby, who failed to reach a compromise with Democrats and voted against the bill. “I thought the creation of it and the way it was created was a mistake,” he said.

Under the Dodd-Frank bill, banking regulators are stripped of their consumer supervisory duties and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau gains the power to write and enforce rules for mortgages, credit cards and other financial products. “I don’t believe it’s good for business, it’s not good for the financial sector and ultimately I don’t believe it’s going to be good for credit for a lot of people who need it. It’s gonna cost,” Shelby said. But Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, warned against Congress reopening the law, saying banks already face enough regulatory uncertainty.

“I think to go back and completely reopen it now with a whole other set of question marks and uncertainties about what people are supposed to be doing … I hope people would think hard about that,” Bair told the Reuters Washington Summit. Christopher Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the bill’s main authors, said it may be hard for Republicans to rollback the bill or water down the consumer bureau as the Treasury Department has already begun to put it together.

“I think if they (Treasury) do it and it gets going then I think the job that Richard Shelby and others have in mind of undermining and gutting (the bureau) will be difficult,” Dodd told the Reuters summit. Dodd added that Republicans would likely target the bureau’s budget and “gut it financially.” Republicans despise the consumer bureau and have long argued that consumer protections should not trump the safety and soundness of banks. They fear that the bureau would hurt the availability of credit by burdening banks with piles of new regulations.

They were also upset with the appointment of Wall Street critic Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor, to help set up the consumer watchdog. “I believe she’s got a big ax to grind and she’s sharpening that ax,” said Shelby. “I don’t think that you need somebody in a position like that with all these preconceived ideas and I believe she has a lot of them.”

Nugget #1: Conduct Board Committee Evaluations Before Board Evaluations

I tend to get nostalgic as we get into our week of Conferences as I think back on our jam-packed year. It got me thinking about the series of “50 Nuggets in 50 Minutes” webcasts that Alan Dye and I used to hold when I first started with this organization nearly nine years ago. There was some good stuff in those programs and most of those nuggets still hold value today – so I thought I would begin blogging a number of them. Here is the first one:

Committee Evaluations – Conduct committee evaluations before board evaluations – Although many companies conduct both their board and committee evaluations at the same time for convenience, we like the idea of separating them by a few months – with committee evaluations being conducted first. This should help to provide time for directors to focus on each distinct group dynamic and more importantly, the results of committee evaluations can be considered as part of the subsequent board evaluation.

More on “The Mentor Blog”

We continue to post new items daily on our blog – “The Mentor Blog” – for members. Members can sign up to get that blog pushed out to them via email whenever there is a new entry by simply inputting their email address on the left side of that blog. Here are some of the latest entries:

– Study: Corporate Governance of the 100 Largest US Companies
– Director Searches: What Can You Tell a Recruiter
– The SEC Departs from an Important Safeguard
– SAS 70 and Internal Control Issues
– Dress Code for Delaware Courts

– Broc Romanek