House ag chair working to slow CFTC rulemaking

Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:28pm EDT

s By Christopher Doering

Washington (Reuters) - The U.S. futures regulator needs to tap the brakes on its rush to implement financial reform, the chairman of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee said on Wednesday, adding he is talking with other lawmakers to make that happen.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is engaged in the arduous task of writing dozens of regulations to implement the Dodd-Frank bill, which was enacted last July and gives the CFTC oversight of the $600 trillion global swaps market.

Lawmakers, those affected by the new rules and commissioners at the CFTC have criticized the agency's fast pace and questioned the sequence it has used to introduce the rules. Most of the regulations still need to be finalized.

"I'm going to attempt to work in a bipartisan way through the committee with ranking member (Collin) Peterson to try and encourage the CFTC to slow down this rulemaking process. I'm not trying to thwart the law," Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas said at the Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit."

Discussions with other lawmakers to provide some breathing room are "in the early stages," Lucas said, but if the CFTC fails to "use their authority to slow the process down" the need to get their attention becomes more critical.

The comments come as Gary Gensler, the head of the CFTC, said on Wednesday the futures regulator will miss July deadlines in the Dodd-Frank law for many of the regulations. The CFTC still has to propose a definition for swaps, and capital and margin requirements for swap dealers and major swap participants.

Lucas, who became committee chairman this year, said he talks to Gensler every couple of weeks. He called Gensler an "activist chairman" who is a "very knowledgeable, very bright fellow."

When asked if Gensler is doing what Congress intended in implementing Dodd-Frank, Lucas responded after a long pause: "In the strict spirit of the way the law was written I would have to probably say, 'yes.' I don't think the law was wisely thought through in the timetables."

Lucas and Michael Conaway, who heads an Agriculture subcommittee that oversees CFTC, have asked the CFTC's inspector general to review the accuracy of the agency's calculations of costs for four of its proposed rules, and assess whether the CFTC is living up to its obligation to perform due diligence on rules.

The Obama administration proposed in February to increase CFTC's fiscal 2012 budget by 82 percent to $308 million.

Republicans like Lucas, who now control the House of Representatives, have questioned funding boosts for regulatory agencies as they look to cut government spending and throttle enforcement of Dodd-Frank by starving regulators of additional funds.

"Remember I'm an advocate of a slower, more thoughtful, more methodical pace so at this particular moment I can't say that I support increasing their budget," said Lucas.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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