The 10-Year Anniversary Celebration of the Financial Crash Continues in Congress with More Deregulation

On March 10, 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit the lowest level since October 2006, falling more than 20% from its peak just five months prior.

On March 14, 2008, Bear Stearns got funding from the Federal Reserve as shares plummeted.

On March 16, 2008, Bear Stearns was acquired for $2 a share by JPMorgan Chase in a fire sale to avoid bankruptcy.

In March 2018, ten years later, both the House and Senate decided to celebrate by rolling back financial regulations.

I wrote about the Senate’s disingenuously named Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (more aptly named by its critics Bank Bailout Act or Bank Lobbyist Act) last week.

The bill passed 67–31 on Wednesday, enough votes to override the veto that a president like Trump would never issue.

The same 17 Democrats who voted for cloture voted for final passage: Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

To quote myself from last week:

Many of these Democrats are up for re-election this year in red states. And I’m sure their voters were clamoring, just clamoring, for them to pass legislation to enrich Wall Street at the public’s expense.
NB: Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who voted NO, clearly wants the bill to pass, as numerous press reports have made clear. If he wanted to see it fail, he could have exerted pressure on the caucus and whipped against it. Instead, he is happy to see a giveaway to his favorite hometown industry and falsely thinks that the route to victory for red state Dems runs through Wall Street.

The House was eager to get in on the financial deregulation action this week as well, passing three bills that would weaken consumer and investor protections and increase financial risk.

First was the TAILOR Act of 2017, which would require financial regulators to tailor regulations to the needs of the big banks. In particular, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Reserve would be required to issue rules that are tailored “in a manner that limits the regulatory compliance impact, cost, liability risk, and other burdens,” making costs to the big banks a greater concern than consumer protection or overall financial stability.

This bill would not only make it more difficult to issue new financial regulations, but it would also put any of the ones issued since the recession at risk.

The TAILOR Act passed 247 to 169. Walter Jones (NC-03) was the lone Republican dissenter.

16 Democrats voted for it: Jim Cooper (TN-05), Lous Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX_15), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Denny Heck (WA-10), Dave Loebasack (A-02), Sean Maloney (NY-18), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), and Filemon Vela (TX-34).

Second was the Regulation A+ Improvement Act of 2017. The “regulation improvement” under question is the increase by 50% of the exemption threshold established by the 2012 Jump Start Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that allows for more lenient securities regulation of companies when they issue securities. Increasing this cap risks discouraging companies from raising capital through the public markets (such as the NYSE and NASDAQ), which offer greater investor protection, disclosure, and liquidity than private offerings.

The bill passed 246 to 170. Again, Walter Jones was the only Republican NO.

14 Democrats voted for it: Lou Correa (CA-46), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), John Garamendi (CA-03), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Sean Maloney (NY-18), Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Scott Peters (CA-52), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Jared Polis (CO-02), Jacky Rosen (NV-03), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09), and Tom Suozzi (NY-03).

Last, but not least, was the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness Act, which relies on the false belief that financial regulation and oversight are inherently unfair. The bill would establish a new office within the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) that would investigate complaints from financial institutions about examinations, regularly review the quality of examinations, and adjudicate appeals of determinations made within examinations. Banks would also gain the right to appeal supervisory determinations made by financial regulatory agencies (FDIC, OCC, CFPB, etc.), thus triggering a time-intensive review of the decision by the new office.

In short, the bill makes it easier for megabanks to escape or delay accountability for violating federal laws protecting consumers and the economy.

The bill passed 283 to 133. 231 Republicans and 52 Democrats voted for it. 132 Democrats and Walter Jones voted against it.

Here are the 52:

The bill’s proponents argued that the bill’s main purpose was to offer relief to community banks. If that were the case, then they should have had no problem supporting the amendment from Maxine Waters (CA-43) to narrow the applicability of the bill’s additional appeal process to only small, community banks and credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets.

The amendment, however, failed on a mostly party line vote of 184 to 223. Tom Rooney (FL-17) voted for it, and Henry Cuellar (TX-28) voted against it.

Republicans clearly didn’t care about community banks. For the Democratic supporters of the bill, the community bank provisions were a cover to vote to deregulate the bigger banks.