Fixing a Key Financial Reform Loophole

By Elizabeth Palmberg 05-24-2010

When is a law not a (real) law? When there's zero penalty for breaking it. There is a great deal to celebrate in the version of financial reform recently passed in the Senate -- but, as the House and Senate work to reconcile the different versions of financial reform legislation, they should work to fix a loophole which, if news reports are correct, leaves the bill with a very dangerous flaw in its safeguards about "credit default swaps" -- those exotic Wall Street animals that are a leading reason we need the bill to begin with, because they are central to the catastrophic financial crash of 2008. As Newsweek's blog puts it, "As the bill currently stands, nothing says that a swap that doesn't comply with the statute is illegal; on the contrary, the bill actually says the swap cannot be voided."

If this isn't fixed in conference committee, then, apparently, those who break the final law will be welcome to continue business as usual. Crime, in short, will pay.

The loophole stayed in the Senate bill despite the best efforts of Senator Cantwell of Washington State (whose constituents lost $100 billion in the Enron debacle). For all the gory loophole details, check out this blog.

portrait-elizabeth-palmbergElizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners.

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