Slow financial regulatory reform irks industry
BOCA RATON, Florida
BOCA RATON, Florida (Reuters) - The pace of financial regulatory reform remains slow even as the global economy struggles to recover from a crisis that many say was caused by inadequacies in the current system, attendees at an annual financial conference said this week.
Now 18 months after the financial crisis that sparked a global recession, frustration and anxiety over the ongoing uncertainty was palpable at the Futures Industry Association's annual conference here.
"An astounding fact to me is that we are sitting here in March 2010 and we've done nothing in the way of financial reform up to now, nothing," Alan Blinder, an economics professor at Princeton University, said in a speech. "That's an amazing event in itself. We hope it's not going to end in nothing, but so far it's nothing."
Most players in the financial industry still expect some type of reforms to be enacted throughout the system but there was no consensus about what the new structure will look like.
"The early indications that regulators were really going to be moving aggressively were obviously very welcome by us, and it's pretty clear that that's still going to happen," Roger Liddell, CEO of LCH.Clearnet, Europe's top independent clearinghouse, said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. "But the rate at which it's happening is perhaps slower than people might have expected."
The uncertainty is making it difficult for financial firms to make any long-term plans. Some prospective clients have put off signing up with LCH until they get more guidance from regulators and legislators, Liddell said.
But some feel that the lengthy process was not having a negative effect on the industry.
"I don't have the sense that this is taking too long or that they're moving too quickly," International Securities Exchange Chief Executive Gary Katz said in an interview. "And I don't think it has anything to do with whether the stock market is going up or down."
The United States, the European Union and others continue to debate and craft new rules, some of which face stiff industry resistance. U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, said on Thursday he would present his own version of a financial reform bill after compromise talks with Republicans collapsed.
The Senate bill is expected to tighten bank and capital market oversight, and include measures for consumer protection, systemic risk, and an OTC derivatives crackdown. The European Commission is expected to publish a draft law on derivatives clearing by July.
"It seems like a lot of the regulatory efforts are losing steam, like in any other crisis," said Gerald Corcoran, chairman and CEO of R.J. O'Brien, the top independent U.S. futures brokerage with about $2 billion in client assets.
"Whatever it is, there's a high intensity level shortly after the crisis, and they tend to lose steam after a while if you don't get things done right away," he added.
It will take months to implement any laws that are passed, delaying their impact on financial dealings until more than three years after the crisis started.
"The reality is, the timing of the European Union and U.S. proposals, when you look at what it is going to take to implement them, we are looking at the same timetables," said Commodity Futures Trading Commission Commissioner Jill Sommers.
"Even if legislation in the United States were to pass this year, there is going to be a long period for rule-making. You are probably looking at 2012 for the both of us to have things in place."
(Additional reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Richard Chang)