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Financial Reform Hits Roadblock

By Dirk van Dijk, CFA of

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It is now the end of April, 2010. That is more than two years after the collapse of Bear Stearns (which was eventually taken over by JPMorgan Chase (JPM) with substantial assistance from the Fed) and more than a year and a half since the fall of the House of Lehman Brothers nearly sank the entire world economy. However, apparently, things are being "rushed" in forming a legislative response to make sure that we don't have to go through this all over again.

Wall Street is spending more than $1 million a day to lobby Congress to make sure that whatever passes has no real teeth. Frankly, they like a system where in the good times, they win and win very big, and when it all blows up, the taxpayer picks up the tab. They know that they are about as popular right now as a piranha in a swimming pool. So their best bet is to delay, delay and then try to delay some more. They are betting on the short attention span and even shorter memories of the public.

Financial reform -- real reform -- took a significant hit last night when 41 Senators decided that the subject was not even worthy of bringing to the floor of the Senate for debate. Of particular significance is that Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted to prevent debate, joining all members of the GOP. Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote to nay at the last minute in a procedural mover that will make it more easy for him to call for another vote later this week.

Flaws in the Proposed Bill

The Dodd bill is far from perfect. However, its flaws are not that it is too stringent on Wall Street but that it is not stringent enough. That is not the direction that the opposition is pushing.

One of the key flaws is that it does very little to constrain the six of the biggest banks in the country. Collectively, the assets of the six major banks in the country amount to more than 60% of GDP, and banking assets are much more concentrated than before the crisis started. That is because during the worst of the crisis, the regulators had to turn to some of the stronger institutions to help save some of the ones that were in most trouble.
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