New group aims to break Dodd-Frank logjam

Sheila Bair testifies during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee June 30, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Bair is a part of a bipartisan collection of heavy hitters -- including former Fed chairman Paul Volcker -- behind a new push to boost financial regulations.

David Brancaccio: A group of former bank regulators in the U.S., company CEOs and senators -- all volunteers -- is trying to make some waves in Washington this election year. They're concerned about the slow progress in fixing flaws in bank rules that led to the big financial crisis.

Marketplace's John Dimsdale reports that despite their impressive bipartisan pedigrees, they face an uphill climb.


John Dimsdale: They call themselves the Systemic Risk Council, led by the former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Sheila Bair. The council wants to put teeth in the Dodd-Frank reforms passed in 2010. Bair is especially worried about congressional efforts to de-fund the cops on the regulatory beat.

Sheila Bair: We will be making public statements and trying to bring public attention to this and some counterweight to, no doubt, there was a lot of industry lobbying behind that move. And that's really unfortunate and very short-sighted, I might say, on the industry's part.

Former senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson are on the council, as is former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is an advisor.

Columbia Law School's Ira Millstein is the group's legal counsel.

Ira Millstein: We have no axe to grind. We simply want to point out we're frustrated and it isn't happening and something's got to be done about it.

Another member, former senator Chuck Hagel, who served on the Senate Banking Committee, knows what the conventional wisdom is when it comes to outside groups trying to influence policy.

Chuck Hagel: We have no power. But we do have some aspects of, we hope, knowledge, experience and maybe even some credibility.

Of course, it is an election year and Princeton historian Julian Zelizer says these voices, as experienced as they are, will be drowned out.

Julian Zelizer: The reasons Congress is so gridlocked on this issue are very deeply rooted ranging from the interest groups who support a weak administration of these kind of regulations to ideological resistance of the government doing too much. So to overcome that will require more than some prominent voices saying we need to change the way things work.

Council members remain undaunted. They'll do what they can, they say, to persuade Congress and regulators to act on the lessons of the financial crisis.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

About the author

As head of Marketplace’s Washington, D.C. bureau, John Dimsdale provides insightful commentary on the intersection of government and money for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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