* Lawmakers afraid of another financial meltdown
* Gensler: CFTC rule-making "not against a clock"
* Under Republicans, changes to law would be minor
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON, March 15 U.S. financial market
players are resigned to the idea that the Dodd-Frank financial
reform package will not be overhauled and are preparing to cope
with the new rules, insiders said on the sidelines of a Futures
Industry Association meeting this week.
Trading firms, exchange operators and other industry players
have made a political calculation that even if Republicans make
a clean sweep in November elections, they will not rip up
reforms sold as a way to guard against a repeat of the 2007-2009
Besides the presidential race, the election season will
include pivotal races in both chambers of Congress, especially
in the Senate, where a third of its 100 seats are up for grabs.
Even if the Senate, where Democrats now hold a narrow
six-vote majority, goes Republican, lawmakers could be afraid to
overhaul the controversial 2010 Dodd-Frank only to get blamed if
another market collapse occurs.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick
Santorum and Newt Gingrich have vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank.
Industry insiders, though, aren't buying into the campaign
"If the Republicans controlled everything I think they would
be very hesitant to just gut the whole thing. Maybe you'd see
some changes in some of the details of things but my sense is
that the gist of stuff will go forward as planned," said Donald
Wilson Jr, chief executive of Chicago-based DRW Trading Group.
Rewriting it "would be a very risky thing for people to do.
If you then got another AIG blowup it would be easy to point the
finger at the guy who gutted Dodd-Frank," he said.
Widespread ignorance of the swaps exposures of troubled
investment firms such as Lehman Brothers and mega-insurer AIG
greatly aggravated the 2007-2009 crisis that led to
taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street.
In response, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank law, which in
part established a framework for regulators to boost oversight
of the previously opaque $700 trillion OTC swaps market.
Wall Street banks are anxiously waiting for the U.S.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission to finalize a series of
rules such as definition of a swap dealer, what is an end-user
and capital and margin requirements -- factors that will
highlight who will have to comply with new, onerous and
potentially costly measures.
Gary Gensler, CFTC chairman, has hinted the upcoming
election will not dictate the pace of rule-writing or how the
final measures look. The regulator will craft its rules in "a
thoughtful, balanced way to get them right -- not against a
clock", he told the industry on Wednesday.
At IntercontinentalExchange Inc, the exchange and
clearinghouse operator is preparing for the rules passed by the
CFTC to go into effect and does not expect "material" changes to
the financial reform law, said Charles Vice, ICE president.
"For there to be any meaningful change it would require
presumably a filibuster-proof Republican Senate, which no one is
predicting," Vice told Reuters at the annual FIA meeting in Boca
REFORMING THE REFORMS
Market players do expect some tweaks to Dodd-Frank, even if
they are skeptical of an overhaul.
Vice said one regulation that could change under a
Republican White House is the Volcker rule that prevents banks
which receive government backstops such as deposit insurance
from making risky trades with their own funds.
Republicans who now control the House of Representatives
have already tried to throw up roadblocks to some pieces of
Dodd-Frank and have voiced concern about what they call an
"irrational" rule-making process used by regulators.
They have introduced bills to overturn parts of Dodd-Frank
that would narrow the scope of which entities the CFTC may
designate as swap dealers and another to prevent regulators from
subjecting most farm credit institutions and community banks to
capital, margin and other expensive new regulations.
Lawmakers also have opposed funding boosts for regulatory
agencies such as the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange
Commission to put the brakes on implementation of the law.
Michael Dunn, a former CFTC commissioner who left the agency
in October before joining the Washington D.C.-based law and
lobbying firm Patton Boggs as a senior policy adviser, said he
doubted Republicans could get enough support in the Senate to
overhaul the rules even if they become the majority.
"I don't know if all the members of one party or the other
are opposed to Dodd-Frank," Dunn said. "I think there are issues
that they think might have gone too far or they think there
needs to be a clarification. I don't think anyone in Congress
wants to have another financial services meltdown."
The CFTC has finalized about 30 Dodd-Frank rules and has
about 20 more to go. The futures regulator holds its next
rule-making meeting on March 20.