While the National Association of Manufacturers has made the investment-discouraging derivatives provisions of the financial regulation bill its focus of attention, S. 3217, other sections of the bill would also add uncertainty and increase the costs of doing business in the United States. The Washington Post, among others, caught up on those provisions over the weekend. For example, there’s the corporate governance language, which would allow special-interest groups like organized labor and environmentalists to force their political agendas upon stockholders.
A rush of chief executives from a wide swath of industries has been coming through Washington over the past three weeks, talking to lawmakers about a long-debated issue called “proxy access,” which would make it easier for shareholders at all publicly traded companies — not just banks — to nominate board directors. Opponents say the rule has nothing to do with overhauling Wall Street and doesn’t belong in the legislation.
“This is our highest priority,” said John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, which represents 170 chief executives. “Literally all of our members have called about this.”
The NAM and other business groups signed a joint letter to Congress last month sharply opposing the provisions.
The consumer protection provisions of the financial regulation bill also represent a major expansion of government control over the economy, directly through the federal government as well as indirectly — and potentially even more damaging — through state attorneys general and their political allies in the plaintiffs’ bar. The Post’s story, “Lawmakers, financial firms push to limit state power on consumer protection,” reports on the efforts by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) to rein in the most harmful elements in the bill.
Carper said he shares the White House’s goal of establishing a new consumer protection bureau to guard against fraud and deceptive practices.
“All my amendment says is that we should make that bureau do its job. This is the cop on the beat that we need,” Carper said. He warned that if state regulators are also allowed to pursue cases against national banks, this would cause confusion as consumer protection rules are interpreted differently by dozens of separate governments.
Carper’s amendment, which would limit the ability of state attorneys general to enforce federal law against national banks, has more than a dozen sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It could come up for debate early next week.
Sen. Carper’s amendment is S.Amt. 3949, and the text is available here.
The NAM has also opposed Sen. Specter’s amendment to expand liability in securities fraud litigation to parties not involved in the fraud, i.e., his attempt to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Stoneridge v. Scientific Atlanta. On Thursday, Sen. Specter (D-PA) urged his colleagues cosponsoring the amendment to come to the Senate floor in support of it, but according to the Congressional Record, none did. The Senate is expected to vote on amendments this evening, but it seems safe to say the Specter amendment will not be considered until after the results of the Pennsylvania primary election on Tuesday. If Senate Majority Leader Reid files cloture on the entire 1,400-page bill today, as reported, then the Stoneridge amendment may be stone dead. That would be good.
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