Fixing Dodd-Frank Is Critical to Ending Bailouts

COMMENTARY Markets and Finance

Fixing Dodd-Frank Is Critical to Ending Bailouts

May 1st, 2017 2 min read
Norbert J. Michel, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Data Analysis

Norbert Michel studies and writes about financial markets and monetary policy, including the reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
We must fix the problems that led to the 2008 meltdown. Photo: iStock

Dodd-Frank is about to undergo a serious overhaul, and the first major part of the renovation is taking shape.

Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) Financial Services Committee has scheduled its markup of the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, the House’s major financial regulatory reform legislationfor Tuesday morning.

Based on the Committee’s hearing last week, there will be tons of fireworks on Tuesday, but little substantive debate from the Democrats.

The Democrats are treating Dodd-Frank as if it was divinely inspired. The truth, though, is that Dodd-Frank was passed before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission had even finished its report.

A charitable read of the climate from 2008 to 2010 is that key members of Congress were not sure what to do to address the financial system. Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) practically admitted as much last week when she questioned one of the Democrats’ witnesses. Waters said:

You were around when we went through the meltdown in 2008, and you know how scary it was, and we did not know what to do, we ended up with this bailout – should we go through that again? Do we have to go through that again? (1:03:24)

The many disparate pieces of the Dodd-Frank bill solidly support the first part of this statement – Congress clearly didn’t know what to do.

As for the question posed by Rep. Waters, nobody wants to go through a bailout again. That’s exactly why it’s so important to actually fix the problems that led to the 2008 meltdown. Given the turmoil between 2008 and 2010, it makes perfect sense to re-examine exactly what Dodd-Frank accomplished and fix any missteps.

It defies logic that Dodd-Frank got everything right, and a very good case exists that much of Dodd-Frank was the wrong approach. Here are a few candidates for the biggest Dodd-Frank mistake.

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The FSOC is a council of regulatory agencies with, among other things, an ill-defined mandate to stamp out risks to U.S. financial stability. It consists of 15 different federal regulators, but it includes only the chairpersons from agencies set up as bipartisan commissions, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission. There are many legitimate concerns over the lack of transparency and clear standards with respect to one of its main responsibilities: designating so-called systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) for special regulations. Above all other concerns, if the goal is to end the too-big-to-fail problem, it makes little sense to charge federal regulators with publicly identifying those firms that they consider too big to fail.

This piece originally appeared in Forbes