Three Things You Won’t Hear at Today’s ‘Wall Street Reform’ Bill Signing

By Alex Pepper

Jul 21, 2010 11:36am

After more than a year of legislative wrangling, President Obama will sign the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” into law late this morning at the Ronald Reagan Building.

Now comes the hard part.

In no particular order:

1) Selling It.

As Vice President Biden told us in our THIS WEEK interview Sunday, most Americans don’t know what's in the bill or how it will impact them.

“When you say to people, you know, ‘We just went out and had a regulatory reform,’” the vice president said, “where I come from, it's like, ‘OK, what does that mean?’ They don't know what it means yet, understandably.”

Yesterday, deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said “You can expect to see the president, the vice president, the secretary of the Treasury, a wide-range of senior administration officials out there explaining what's in this legislation, it’s a big package, highlighting elements that are particularly important to Americans.”

2) Deciding the Rules.

Many of the key details have been punted for regulators to decide. By some counts the government and regulators now have to conduct up more than 45 studies, more than 70 reports, and engage in more than 200 acts of “rule-making.”

"There’s a lot of deferred decisions" in the law, says Public Citizen's Robert Weissman.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, will study how to best deal with rules about issuers choosing the credit rating agencies. 

Or another example: the government now has to decide who and what counts as a “major swap participant” for derivative trading.

Or, as the New York Times reported, there’s the debate over the fees merchants pay banks whenever customers use debit cards.

The new law gives the Federal Reserve nine months to come up with a level at which to cap those fees – one that is “reasonable and proportional.”

So the lobbying in many ways has just begun.

These slides on implementation of the law from the law firm Davis Polk offer an idea of everything coming down the pike.

3) Deciding Who Will Protect Consumers.

As we reported yesterday, a storm is brewing about whom President Obama will appoint to serve as director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Weissman says "the hot thing right now is the jockeying for appointment" to the bureau.

Will President Obama pick Elizabeth Warren, the congressional overseer of TARP, as liberals, progressives, and labor unions want him to?

"Elizabeth is uniquely qualified," Weissman says. "At the start of this agency the question is whether it gets launched with the power and ability to challenge the financial sector or whether it becomes just another captured part of Washington bureaucracy." He says Warren has a "demonstrated ability to drive an agenda contrary to what the big banks want."

Or will President Obama heed the advice of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who has “concerns” about Warren, given that she's been one of his tormentors — demanding that he answer questions like, say, where the billions given to AIG have gone – and a critic of the Treasury Department’s policies?

- Jake Tapper

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