Barney Frank Addresses Compliance Week 2010

Barney Frank is the U.S. House Representative for Massachusetts’ 4th congressional district. In 2007, Rep. Frank became the chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, which oversees much of the financial services industry, including securities, insurance, banking, and housing. Rep. Frank will address those four industries in his keynote, and will take questions from attendees.

These are my notes, live from the keynote:

Barney was his usual engaging and entertaining self. He has lots of haters.

He pointed out that the financial reform bill was held up by healthcare reform. Lots of activities leading up to the House version of the financial reform bill was over-shadowed by the healthcare debate in the Senate. Now the Senate version of the bill was produced with the full public limelight since the healthcare reform law was enacted. As a result, the Senate bill imposes greater restrictions than the House version.

He predicted that the final financial reform bill will be on the President’s desk before the July 4th holiday.

He pointed out that Sarah Palin was right when she said Congress would be imposing death panels. She wrong about which law would have death panels. Their not in healthcare, but in financial reform. The bill has a strong provision for the dissolution of non-bank financial institutions. There will be a better way to deal with the Lehman Brothers than mere bankruptcy or AIG will full government backing.

“AIG thought it was in the business of selling life insurance to vampires.”

A story about mortgage lending regulation. Some mortgage bankers complained about having to retain 5% of the mortgage loans they originate and take the first 5% of loss. Their complaint was that they didn’t have the 5% to keep. Frank: You’re complaining that you don;t have any money, but you are able to lend money?!? Maybe that is not the right business model.

One theme was financial stability. The industry needs to know what the rules will be so they can adjust their business to bring them into compliance.

Then Congressman Frank with Compliance Week Editor in Chief Matt Kelly.

One question was bout the Flash Crash. His response, it’s better to not talk about more than you know. He felt the full information was not out.

He expects that there will be the small filer exemption from SOX, probably around $70 million.

He expects there will be some proxy access rules, but it sounds like it’s still a point of contention. They will keep “say on pay.”

He pointed out that Appropriations Committee is bit upset about the self-funding provision for the SEC. It sounds like the SEC will not be fully self-funding.

He expressed concerns that derivatives became a huge area with no regulation. They were not de-regulated, they were never regulated to begin with. He wants every derivative transaction to be reported, including end-user transactions.

There was a question slipped in a bout whether we not paying enough attention to the big public accounting firms. Are we afraid to go after them because there are only four of them? (I wonder who asked that question?)

If the Supreme Court overturns PCAOB, Congress will create a new one with the boundaries dictated by the Supreme Court.

Why have the bills become so big? One, the pages are really small so it would take 4 or 5 pages to make one book page. Second, the financial system is very complicated. “The ankle bone is connected to the shoulder bone.”

(Disclosure: I live in Congressman Frank’s District and have voted for him many times.)

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