Consumer Group Lays Out Financial Reform Strategy

Posted May 4, 2010 at 1:02pm

The consumer-backed Americans for Financial Reform laid out its amendment strategy Tuesday, saying it intends to strengthen provisions in the Senate financial regulatory reform bill while defending against Wall Street’s attempts to weaken the bill.

“The bill before the Senate is a good, strong, thoughtful package,” AFR’s Heather Booth said.

Representatives of the coalition of consumer advocates and unions said in a conference call that they are facing an uphill battle, with the financial services industry spending the equivalent of $1.4 million a day to stop the bill, according to estimates by the Center for Responsive Politics.

AFR defended much of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs bill, including derivatives language that would require the vast majority of derivatives to be cleared on an exchange. But AFR is worried that attacks from big business could weaken the final provision, according to Michael Greenberger, AFR’s point man on derivatives.

“The Chamber of Commerce, joined by the National Association of Manufacturers and others, is trying to widen the so-called end user exemption,” Greenberger said.

Many large companies, including airlines and agriculture giants, use derivatives to hedge their risks.

Greenberger also defended language in the bill that would require banks to spin off their derivatives trading desks, calling removing swaps from the Federal Reserve’s discount window “therapeutic.”

AFR isn’t just playing defense. The group is also focused on strengthening provisions that would regulate hedge fund, private equity and venture capitalists. The coalition is also supporting amendments that would strengthen the “Volcker rule” and give the largest banks three years to make them smaller, less indebted institutions.