John Fetterman

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)—seen here in the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2023—is leading a letter expressing concerns over a proposed Commodity Futures Trading Commission rule.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Senators Sound Alarm on Push to 'Undermine the Goals of Dodd-Frank'

"We urge the commission to continue to focus on its vital work preserving market integrity and protecting the public, uphold the letter and spirit of the Dodd-Frank Act, and withdraw the proposed rule."

A trio of Democratic U.S. senators on Monday wrote to Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Rostin Behnam expressing their "serious reservations" with the agency's proposed rule on seeded funds and money market funds, a policy the lawmakers warned would "undermine the goals of Dodd-Frank" by rolling back the already weakened financial oversight law.

Passed in the wake of the 2008 global financial meltdown, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act—which was partially rolled back during the Trump administration—overhauled federal financial regulation. In a letter to Behnam, Sens. John Fetterman (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), and Tina Smith (Minn.) assert that the CFTC's proposed rule is a "step in the wrong direction" that would increase market instability by decreasing collateral requirements for certain transactions.

The Global Markets Advisory Committee, largely made up of finance industry insiders, recommended the proposed rule in 2020 during the Trump administration.

As the letter explains:

The proposed rule would reduce or eliminate initial margin requirements for up to three years for a subset of swap market participants. "Initial margin" is the collateral that participants must set aside when entering swap agreements. Initial margin requirements, along with "variation margin" and other capital requirements, protect counterparties to a swap in the event of a default. Dodd-Frank set up comprehensive rules for swap agreements after they significantly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and the federal government was forced to bail out Wall Street.

"The 2008 financial crisis showed the dangers that swaps can pose to economic stability, and Dodd-Frank directed regulators, including the CFTC, to require initial margin for uncleared swaps specifically to reduce those risks," the senators wrote. "It is vital for the CFTC to continue upholding its Dodd-Frank mandate and to maintain high standards and safeguards for this important market."

"We urge the commission to continue to focus on its vital work preserving market integrity and protecting the public, uphold the letter and spirit of the Dodd-Frank Act, and withdraw the proposed rule," the lawmakers added.

The collapse earlier this year of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank—both of which benefited from regulatory relief thanks to the 2018 rollback—brought renewed scrutiny on Dodd-Frank's Republican-engineered shortcomings. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who wrote the 2018 banking deregulation law, insisted in March that "there is no need for regulatory reform" in the wake of the banks' failures.

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, responded to Crapo's assertion by writing that "you have to be hard-core committed to mindless free-market fundamentalism—or truly in thrall to your donors—to insist there's no need for new regulations after Silicon Valley Bank."

Last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also wrote a letter to Behman sharing her concerns about the proposed rule. Noting the policy's 2020 introduction, Warren said in her October 10 letter that "it is unclear why the commission is choosing to propose these rules now, three years later, without conducting its own additional analyses of whether the changes are necessary or will strengthen the stability of the domestic financial system."

"I strongly urge the commission not to loosen the existing rules and not to roll back important Dodd-Frank Act reforms," Warren added.

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