WASHINGTON -- The House Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture budgeting bill last month that would significantly restructure the U.S. bank regulatory regime as part of a GOP effort to protect Wall Street's offshore trading in derivatives -- the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 economic meltdown.
Republicans in Congress have been pressuring regulators for years to exempt derivatives that U.S. companies sell overseas from the new rules set by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. For much of 2013, the deregulatory drive enjoyed bipartisan support in the House, with lawmakers casting their efforts as an attempt to harmonize U.S. law with international regulations. But financial reform advocates have attacked the initiative for padding Wall Street profits at the expense of important public protections, and Democratic support has eroded.
In June, the House passed a bill that would completely exempt from U.S. oversight derivatives sold through the nine most popular foreign derivatives jurisdictions. The legislation is occasionally derided as the "London Whale Loophole Act" on Capitol Hill -- a reference to the overseas trades that cost JPMorgan Chase more than $6 billion in 2012. London was the epicenter of much of the derivatives trading by U.S. financial firms leading up the 2008 crash, including AIG's infamous Financial Products division. If banks can simply route trades through loosely regulated overseas affiliates, financial reform advocates warn, the most critical aspects of Dodd-Frank will be effectively nullified. POST