Wall Street Details

As the Senate edges closer to a debate on Wall Street Reform, it is probably time for us to start chewing on some of the details in the legislation, rather than just some of debating points from both parties.

Like health care, this debate can be highly technical and make for very tedious reading.  But at least we all have an interaction with the health care sector.  Most of us likely understand very little about things like credit default swaps, derivatives, CDO's and more.

The goal of this legislative push is simple - it's to require more regulation on financial firms in order to avoid a repeat of the 2008 Wall Street Collapse.

I will avoid the issue of whether this bill would allow for bailouts by the government.  One side says it would, the other side says it wouldn't.  We can deal with that in coming days.  "Too big to fail" is in the eye of the beholder.

The plan seems likely to regulate the "swaps market" for the very first time, requiring trades in derivatives to not only have more transparency, but also to go through market clearinghouses to insure against excessive risk.

Much of that was in a plan approved yesterday by the Senate Agriculture Committee, which now must be merged with a bill from the Senate Banking Committee.

Those final decisions mean that there is not an actual Senate reform bill as yet.  Maybe that brings back some memories from the health care debate, eh?

The plan would create a new consumer watchdog, that would help protect consumers from shady investments and deceptive practices.

This is a highly controversial item, because critics say the last thing the government needs right now is a new office/bureaucracy to be established.

The bill from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) would also set up a Financial Stability Oversight Council, basically a board of federal financial regulators who would have to be on the lookout for broader financial instability that could threaten the overall economy and markets.

Regulators would also get new powers to break up companies that become too large and too risky for the country's financial stability.

Companies would be required to submit "funeral plans" to the federal government, which would give the feds a road map for how to quickly shutdown a company should it suddenly go off the cliff.

One main goal is also streamlining existing regulation and eliminate duplication of efforts by the federal government.  The fine print on this will be very important to many parties.

Credit rating agencies would also get new scrutiny, mainly becuase of some of their actions leading up to the 2008 Wall Street Collapse, as a new Office of Credit Ratings would be set up at the SEC.

There were clear signs yesterday that negotiations are making some progress on the Senate side - not for a final deal - but to allow debate to go forward in coming days on the Senate floor.

Today, at least part of the focus won't be on the Senate, but rather on President Obama, who will speak about the need for financial reform during a speech in New York City.

When will we see a "final" Senate bill that's ready for floor debate?  Hopefully in the next few days.

As the Senate edges closer to a debate on Wall Street Reform, it is probably time for us to start chewing on some of the details in the legislation, rather than just some of debating points from both parties. Like health care, this debate can be highly technical and make ...

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