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Diane Swonk: Senate banking panel hearing on Dodd-Frank

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JEREMY HOBSON: Now let’s get to the hearing that is about to start on Capitol Hill. The Senate Banking Committee is going to be asking regulators about how the implementation of the new Dodd-Frank financial reform law is going. And Republicans are expected to criticize the law — which some in congress would like to delay and defund.

Diane Swonk is chief economist with Mesirow Financial and she’s with us live from Chicago. Good morning.

DIANE SWONK: Good morning.

HOBSON: First of all, what’s at stake today. I mean is there a chance that eventually Dodd-Frank will get de-funded?

SWONK: Well the issue about Dodd-Frank was more about what it didn’t say that what it did say. It left much of decisions up to the regulators themselves which are continuing to try to figure out how they’re actually going to implement the law so de-funding it isn’t going to make much of a difference since the regulators already have it in their hands and have been trying to figure out what exactly it means to implement it.

HOBSON: All right, but the industry has been complaining pretty loudly about how this law is already starting to impact them, particularly this new consumer financial protection bureau. Is there anything to those complaints?

SWONK: You know that’s the one part of the law where there was a lot of details. And a lot of what was passed actually the consumer protection laws before Dodd-Frank was passed. And it will in fact. Be careful what you wish for. We wanted more supervision of consumer lending for obvious reasons after the housing bust. And now consumer credit is harder to get, more expensive and less profitable for many financial services firms. So of course that’s where you’re going to hear the screaming the loudest, so I guess this is one of those things — be careful what you wish for because we got it now.

HOBSON: Diane, finally let me just ask you — put this in context for us — we’re six months after this law was passed. We’re just two years after the financial crisis — does it surprise you that we’re talking about already de-funding the law that was supposed to help us protect against a future crisis?

SWONK: You know what’s interesting is how little actually the law did. many people didn’t want to pass a law to regulations initially because they thought it would over regulate. And aside from the consumer protection laws, it actually is very loosely defined and the over regulation stuff is not as much in there. What is the problem today is the uncertainty because the regulators have not decided how to execute on the law. That is costing financial firms a lot of money, but I’m not sure there’s a lot of sympathy for that among voters.

HOBSON: Diane Swonk, Chief economist at Mesirow Financial, thanks so much.

SWONK: Thank you.

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