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House Votes to Dismantle Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would eliminate or revamp much of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law by then-President Obama after the Great Recession.

The House passed the Financial Choice Act (HR 10) by a 233-186 vote, along distinct party lines. Only one Republican, North Carolina's Walter Jones, voted against the measure, and no Democrats voted for it.

The sweeping Dodd-Frank legislation was signed into law by former President Obama in July 2010. Of particular interest to the energy industry, the legislation, which came nearly two years after the collapse of banks and Wall Street investment houses, marked the first time that the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market would be regulated by the federal government.

Dodd-Frank requires OTC transactions to be traded on regulated exchanges, much like stocks, and to be cleared in clearinghouses to limit excessive speculation in markets. Currently, shareholders with as little as a $2,000 investment in a company can file shareholder resolutions; the bill would stipulate at least a 1% holding in the company.

The bill would also change many of Dodd-Frank’s restrictions on banking, including repealing Volcker Rule restrictions on certain speculative investments by banks, removing the Financial Stability Oversight Council's authority to designate nonbank financial institutions and financial market utilities as "systemically important," and converting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau into a consumer law enforcement agency.

If approved by the Senate -- which some Democratic House members said was far from likely -- and signed into law by President Trump, the legislation would, among other things, alter the process by which stockholders introduce shareholder resolutions. That would potentially impact maneuvers like those used by ExxonMobil Corp. shareholders, who recently ignored the advice of the board of directors and voted for the oil and natural gas giant to assess and disclose how it is preparing for the transition to a low-carbon future.

Republicans who voted for the bill said it would open the door to more capital for small community banks. To Speaker of The House Paul Ryan (R-WI), it is "a jobs bill" that will "revitalize community banks on Main Street."

"Under Dodd-Frank, we're losing on average one community bank per day. So for people who come from areas like we do -- small and medium-sized towns -- small businesses, they don't get their money from JPMorgan, they don't go to Wall Street. They get their money, their credit, from community banks."

Democrats had a different view, saying the bill would strip away regulations that put the country on a steady economic track following the meltdown of 2008

"With Dodd-Frank, Democrats enacted the strongest Wall Street consumer protections in history, critical reforms to protect hard-working Americans and to insist on accountability from Wall Street," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the law created has returned nearly $12 billion worth of compensation to 29 million wronged Americans, many of them seniors, many of them service members. But with this bill, the Republicans will undo these safeguards, eviscerate the Consumer [Financial Protection] Bureau, take our country back to the days of massive taxpayer bailouts. We cannot let that happen."

HR 10 was introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Hensarling has said the bill would end Dodd-Frank's "taxpayer-funded bailouts of large financial institutions; relieves banks that elect to be strongly capitalized from growth-strangling regulation that slows the economy and harms consumers; imposes tougher penalties on those who commit financial fraud; and demands greater accountability from Washington regulators."

Total repeal or partial dismantling of Dodd-Frank has been a prominent goal of the Trump administration. In February, Trump signed a pair of executive orders designed to roll back two provisions of the Act, calling for revisions to major provisions and overhauling a rule requiring brokers to act in their client's best interest, rather than seeking their own highest profits.

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