Red-Tape Bill Threatens Financial Reform

OMB Watch reports that the lame-duck Senate may move forward on a bill that could hamstring the SEC as it works to fight fraud and implement financial regulatory reform, tying up the agency in needless red tape and lawsuits:

A pending anti-regulatory bill that targets independent regulatory agencies would significantly curtail the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) ability to protect investors from financial fraud and other economic hazards. The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act of 2012 (S. 3468) would require independent agencies to conduct formal cost-benefit analyses for all significant rules and would allow the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to review those analyses. This would cause lengthy delays in implementing the financial oversight contained in the Dodd-Frank law. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), may mark up this bill during Congress’ upcoming lame-duck session, even though no hearings have been held on the bill.

The bill would also hamper the essential work of the FDIC, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and other government watchdog agencies.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners and tweets @ZabPalmberg.




A Step Forward: The SEC Releases Rules on Conflict Minerals and Transparency

Tin miners at Nyabibwe, North Kivu. (Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project)

Tin miners at Nyabibwe, North Kivu. (Sasha Lezhnev/Enough Project)

Overall, the conflict minerals provision will have a positive effect on promoting peace and stability in Congo — but a slow one. The rule gives major companies a two-year window to implement the regulations,despite the fact that the slow release of the rule has already caused aninherent one-year delay.

Given today’s intense political climate, particularly regarding corporate responsibility and regulation standards, the release of this rule took over a year, making Wednesday’s vote a truly long-awaited and important day. The rule is a win for both American consumers and those seeking peace in Congo. However, it also  appears to have been weakened to placate the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, who have both threatened lawsuits on behalf of big-business lobbies.

According to the SEC, both provisions drew in some of the most intense public pressure, accumulating hundreds of phone calls to their offices and thousands of petition signatures for the release of strong rules. Many of activists who understand their unique connection to the conflict in eastern Congo through consumer electronics products, have joined organizations like the Enough Project and faith communities, in raising their concern as consumers to pressure electronic companies and governments to clean up the supply chain of conflict minerals. It’s been a journey of advocating with Congolese civil society for a clean supply chain that benefits rather than destroys communities in eastern Congo. 

In Congress, a Bipartisan Effort to Hold Wall Street Accountable

Reuters reports:

"Senators are planning to introduce a bipartisan bill on Monday to give the country's securities regulator the authority to seek tougher fines for alleged Wall Street criminals.

The bill, sponsored by Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, would boost the penalties that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission can seek from firms and individuals accused of wrongdoing and triple the cap on funds the agency can seek from repeat offenders.
'If a fine is just decimal dust for a Wall Street firm, that's not a deterrent,' Grassley said in a statement. 'A penalty should mean something.'"
The bill comes only months after SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro asked Congress to boost the agency's firepower, after a federal judge in New York tossed out two SEC settlements over paltry penalties.
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