Even Barney Frank thought having Republicans in control on Capitol Hill might put his namesake Dodd-Frank Act in jeopardy. But he doesn't anymore.
"I thought it would be, but it isn't," he said in a phone interview with TheStreet. "It is now clear that there will be no significant rollback."
Friday marks the sixth anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which President Barack Obama signed on July 21, 2010. A response to the 2008 financial crisis, the sweeping legislation made major overhauls to the American financial regulations and oversight and resulted in the creation of items such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Volcker Rule.
President Donald Trump has pledged to "do a big number" on Dodd-Frank, and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has taken aim at the legislation with a bill to dismantle it. The House passed Hensarling's Financial CHOICE Act in June. The bill is essentially dead-on-arrival in the Senate.
"Nobody takes, frankly, what Mr. Hensarling does very seriously," Frank said.
Frank, 77, is the former Massachusetts representative who designed the bill alongside former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
"I don't think you're going to see any legislative changes," Frank said. "It's now pretty clear to me that the law is essentially going to remain in place."
Most legislative overhauls to Dodd-Frank would require 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans hold 52 seats, and they are unlikely to receive Democratic support. The one exception might be changes to the CFPB, which the GOP could target through a budget process known as reconciliation that requires only 51 votes. Frank acknowledged that worries him.
Other parts of Dodd-Frank, however, he wouldn't mind seeing changed, such as the $50 billion asset threshold for designation as a systematically important financial institution, which he would like to see raised to $100 billion. He also said he would like to see some relief of the Volcker rule for the smallest banks. Regulators are reportedly looking at making changes to the rule, which restricts banks from making certain types of speculative investments.
While Dodd-Frank is unlikely to be addressed legislatively, there are parts that can be addressed through regulation and enforcement. Frank said he expects Trump appointees won't use the laws as vigorously as Obama's did, including Randal Quarles, Trump's nominee for the Federal Reserve's vice chairman for supervision. "He will be for doing less with the regulatory authority," Frank said. "But there are other members, and he won't have freedom right away."
The Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to write and enforce many of the rules mandated under Dodd-Frank as well.
To be sure, Dodd-Frank has had both positive and negative effects, and its full impact is yet to be felt. A Brookings Institution study outlined its consequences in January. Among the wins it listed increased prudential standards, improved institutional resilience due to capital requirements and better financial stability. Among losses, researchers pointed to emergency loans and requiring Congressional approval for temporary liquidity guarantees.
"I think by any objective measure, Dodd-Frank and the financial reform legislation have made the banking system not only safer and less likely to crash the global financial system but also more focused on lending to the real economy instead of gambling for big bonuses," said Dennis Kelleher, CEO of Washington, D.c.-based Better Markets and former U.S. Senate staffer. "Dodd-Frank isn't perfect because no law is."
Banks have complained that they have been restricted from lending because of Dodd-Frank, a criticism to which Frank takes exception. "Much of these current regulatory restrictions don't come from our bill at all," he said, pointing to the USA Patriot Act enacted after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, which contain anti-money laundering, anti-terrorism and anti-terrorism provisions.
"People complain there's this rule 'know your customer,'" Frank said. "Well yeah but it's not in the bill I worked on."
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