October 10, 2008 -- The $700 billion bailout passed by Congress is aimed at helping boost the economy. But it's also expected to be a boon for Washington lobbyists.
Though the fall of a number of Wall Street titans is likely to hurt some Beltway lobbyists, with so much uncertainty about how the Treasury Department will transform the financial sector, companies are lining up lobbyists to make their mark on the shifting rules.
"This is a redesign of our entire financial system," said Patrick Oxford, chair of the Bracewell Giuliani lobbying and law firm. "It's potentially a lot of business."
Lobbying and law firms are certainly trying to capitalize on the new law, forming special task forces designed to create one-stop shopping for companies with issues and concerns about the financial crisis.
From the financial sector to the banking industry to insurance providers, companies are keeping a keen eye on how the Treasury Department sets prices and decides which assets to buy and sell.
They are also concerned about congressional efforts to tighten regulation of the financial sector even further. "Our work is going to be greatly expanded," said Diane Casey-Landry, chief operating officer for the American Bankers Association. "We don't want new burdens put on the banking industry. We'd like to create a basis where you have regulation that is equitable."
And the fervor in Congress over the lax regulation could ultimately impact regulation in other industries. "Something as big as what we've just been through affects all sectors. It's like the mother of all pieces of legislation as far as its impact." said W. Michael House, head of the lobbying practice at Hogan & Hartson law firm.
For instance, said Rich Gold, chair of the lobbying practice at the law firm of Holland & Knight, the current fear of deregulation could ultimately reshape how Congress deals with health care reform and climate change legislation.
"We've been angling toward a market based approach," Gold said. "All of those things now are going to get second looks and with regard to how much money we have to spend...You can see how the bailout ripples through with people saying we can't have such massive spending."
Who Profits from the Bailout?
Lobbyists won't be the only ones to profit from the bailout. The Treasury Department is turning to the private sector to help manage one of the cornerstone's of the bailout: the purchase and sale of the troubled securities.
On Monday the department issued guidelines for the selection of these asset managers. Among the key concerns is how the department will protect the process from a conflict of interest inside the private companies, many of whom could potentially benefit off the changes in other aspects of the companies' investments.
According to a copy of preliminary guidance on preventing such conflicts, the Treasury Department will require all potential asset managers to disclose all potential conflicts and create a mitigation plan that would be contractually binding.
While the details of how the bailout will work remain uncertain one thing is clear. "Any change in Washington is going to drive a lot of activity here," said Gold, whose firm represents some of the largest real estate developers on the country. "All this was was a stop-gap measure."