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Nearly Three Years After Dodd-Frank, Reforms Happen Slowly

May 8, 2013 (Fresh Air from WHYY)

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On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as the Dodd-Frank bill. Reporter Gary Rivlin says "the passage of Dodd-Frank was something of a miracle." But to the chief lobbyist for the Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying group that represents 100 of the country's largest financial institutions, it was just "halftime."

Rivlin is an investigative reporting fellow at The Nation Institute. In his article "How Wall Street Defanged Dodd-Frank," he tells the story of what he calls the fight that has taken place "in the back rooms of the bureaucracy." He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, "You've got regulatory lawyers and lobbyists doing hand-to-hand combat over every comma, every clause in the rule-making process. And then finally if a rule makes it, if in fact it's put into law, then you've got the legal challenge." Rivlin reports that the financial industry has spent more than $1 billion on hundreds of lobbyists who have been working to chip away at Dodd-Frank in the three years since its passage.

"It's a long and arduous process that just adds months and months," Rivlin says, "and so even though we're nearly three years out from Dodd-Frank, of those 398 rules requiring action by a regulator, only about 148 of them ... have been finalized, in large part because we've created a process in Washington that has openness and fairness. But if you have mighty forces that have these battalions, they're able to really choke the process and slow it down."

So, as Davies asks Rivlin, "Is the financial system any less vulnerable to a crash than it was in 2008?"

Rivlin's answer is "No."

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