Advancing a Free Society

Five Major Defects of the Financial Reform Bill

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A 2300 page bill is usually an indication of many political compromises. The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill is no exception, for it is a complex, disorderly, politically motivated, and not well thought out reaction to the financial crisis that erupted beginning with the panic of the fall of 2008. Not everything about the bill is bad-e.g., the requirement that various derivatives trade through exchanges may be a good suggestion- but the disturbing parts of the bill are far more important. I will concentrate on five major defects, including omissions.

1. The bill adds regulations and rules about many activities that had little or nothing to do with the crisis. For example, it creates a consumer financial protection bureau to be housed at the Fed that is supposed to protect consumers from fraud and other abusive financial practices. Yet it is not apparent that many consumers were victimized during the financial boom years, or that consumer behavior had anything of importance to do with the crisis. For example, consumers who took out subprime mortgages that required almost no down payments and had low interest rates were not victimized since these conditions enabled them to cheaply own houses, at least for a while. The “victims” were the banks, and especially Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that were foolishly willing to hold such risky mortgages.

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