It's the futures market regulator that everyone despises until some brokerage firm takes $700 million from customer accounts a day before it belly-flops into bankruptcy (MF Global in 2011) or a good-hair commodity broker blows $200-million-plus of customer cash (Peregrine Financial Group Inc., 2012) into the Iowa atmosphere.
The CFTC watches more than American schemers and reamers.
In 2012, the agency whacked overseas banks whose employees allegedly skinned an estimated $6 billion from American governmental bodies by playing the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, like a rigged slot machine. Futures for LIBOR, used in interest rate-setting for the $350 trillion global debt market, trade in Chicago.
No one on either the Senate or House Ag committees, in charge of CFTC oversight and its renewal, wants to shut down the regulator. Some, however, want to micro-manage, even strangle, the huge role Congress gave the CFTC when it passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. You remember Dodd-Frank, right?
Congress passed the massive reform law in mid-2010, two years after global financial giants nearly blew up the global economy through little known, completely unseen market instruments called “swaps.” When the swaps market tanked in 2008, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, the “Federal Reserve Bank system rescued both U.S. and European OTC (over the counter) broker dealers with more than $19 trillion … in emergency loans” and put up “another $10 trillion in loans” for European banks.
To keep that from happening again Congress ordered the then-unregulated swaps market regulated and gave the CFTC authority through Dodd-Frank to do it.
Some Ag Committee members, however, want to limit Dodd-Frank's reach into the global market. These mostly GOP, anti-regulation backers claim the “free” market will reward saints and slay sinners and global money markets will be better with fewer, not more, rules. Not surprisingly, that's also the view of big bank boys.
You remember the big bank boys, right?
They designed, ran and then ran off the rails the shadow “swaps” financial system that, in 2008, required $700 billion of your money to fix. They believe – rightly, as it turns out – that if you and I are going to bail them out whenever they burn through a trillion or so bucks on bad bets, they don't need no stinkin' swaps rules.
And they've working hard and spending heavy to ensure it.
OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan watchdog that tracks money in politics, estimates that the top five bank biz lobbying efforts opposed to Dodd-Frank spent a collective $163.5 million in 2012 to delay, defang and dilute it.
And that's after an estimated $1 billion they spent in a massive, failed attempt to defeat it in Congress in 2010.
The boys are having better luck now; three years after passage, barely half of the administrative rules to enforce Dodd-Frank are in place. The rest are tied up in a foot-dragging Congress and, unbelievably for a law not yet in force, in court.
One of the banking boys' best friends in Congress is Frank Lucas, R-OK, chairman of the House Ag Committee. Like the bankers, he's perfectly happy to use CFTC reauthorization to re-fight Dodd-Frank.
And he is. In a May 21 Ag Committee hearing titled “The Future of the CFTC,” Lucas lectured colleagues to “keep at the forefront the prevailing issue facing the country: economic growth and job creation,” not the “unrealistic timeline established in Dodd-Frank.”
Most Americans would say the “prevailing issue facing the country” is the safety of the nation not the success of bunch bone-headed, bailed-out bankers.
You remember the nation, right?