Republican leader proposes weakening Dodd-Frank, spotlights U.S. political divide

The chair of the House Financial Services Committee is proposing to wipe out much of the U.S. regulation put in place after the financial crisis with a plan expected to ignite debate in the presidential election but flame out in Washington.

Republican Representative Jeb Hensarling will present the plan in a sweeping speech at the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, as six states hold presidential primaries.

According to his prepared remarks, Hensarling’s plan would primarily weaken the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. It would allow banks to choose between complying with the law or holding a much higher amount of capital. It would also throw out the Volcker Rule that restricts banks from making speculative investments and eliminate the authority of the Financial Stability Oversight Council consisting of regulatory agencies’ heads to designate firms as “systemically important,” also known as “too big to fail.”

Few expect the plan, previewed in a video last week, to become law soon. While it could pass the Republican-controlled Congress, it would then have to be signed by President Barack Obama, who also signed Dodd-Frank into law.

But Obama leaves office in January and the three people vying to replace him – real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders – have distinct views of regulation and the lessons learned from the massive crisis that came to a head in 2008.

Hensarling’s speech will likely tilt the election-season spotlight onto those differences.

“Those on the left who gave us Dodd-Frank believe in the principle that human nature is self-destructive and that people – except themselves, of course – are fundamentally ignorant,” Hensarling will say, demonstrating the political charge of his plan.

Trump, who has already sewn up the Republican nomination, also advocates for dismantling Dodd-Frank, but has given few clues to his plan. Last week Obama said Trump would let companies do “the same stuff that almost broke our economy‚Äôs back.”

Meanwhile, Clinton hopes to secure enough votes on Tuesday to take the top of the Democrats’ ticket. She has proposed edging farther left of Dodd-Frank to break up large banks that take excessive risk, charge institutions a “risk fee,” tax high-frequency trading, and create more oversight of “shadow banking.”

Sanders wants to break up the largest banks, reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law that separated commercial and investment banking, and tax some speculation.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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