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March 25, 2010
Treasury Official Criticizes Chamber for Opposing Financial Reform
    by Robert Kropp

Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin says the Chamber's $3 million lobbying campaign is designed to defeat financial reform legislation.

In a speech before the US Chamber of Commerce, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin took the association to task for what he called its "puzzling" opposition to financial reform legislation that, he said, "is long, long overdue."

On Monday, the Senate Banking Committee voted out the legislation, along strict party lines. The full Senate is expected to take up the bill after its two-week break. Despite the absence of bipartisanship in the Committee's vote, there are signs that Senate Republicans are interested in taking part in whatever legislation eventually comes up for a vote. After all, as Wolin pointed out in his speech before the Chamber, "We have seen that the fate of Wall Street and the fate of Main Street are bound together. Responsible American businesses and families have paid a heavy price for the financial industry's failures."

Among the provisions of the
draft legislation voted out by the Banking Committee are the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, ending Too Big to Fail, and regulation of over-the-counter derivatives, asset-backed securities, hedge funds, mortgage brokers, and payday lenders. The draft bill also provides shareowners with proxy access to director nominations and annual non-binding votes on executive compensation.

In his speech, Wolin questioned why the Chamber would go to such lengths to defeat financial reform legislation. Stating that "We must guarantee that the taxpayers never have to foot the bill for Wall Street's irresponsibility," he said that the Chamber's description of the too-big-to-fail provision as a "permanent bailout fund" was "precisely backward."

Describing the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency as "the main target of the Chamber's attacks," Wolin said, "In the years leading up to the crisis, millions of Americans and small businesses were sold products they didn't understand and couldn't afford…the result was also devastating for the economy as a whole."

Yet, Wolin continued, the Chamber "has launched a lavish, aggressive and misleading campaign to defeat the proposed independent agency."

"The idea that we have to choose between, on the one hand, protecting families and small businesses against unfair and deceptive practices and, on the other hand, keeping banks safe and sound is – quite simply – a false choice," Wolin said. "We can do both."

Noting that "The Chamber's campaign comes on top of the $1.4 million per day already being spent on lobbying and campaign contributions by big banks and Wall Street financial firms," Wolin said, "We face a stark choice: will we learn the lessons of the financial crisis and enact comprehensive reform? Or will we let special interests win the day, delaying and chipping away at reform until it no longer represents real change?"


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