Last week, Congress passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act — legislation that will protect consumers, investors and taxpayers by ensuring that the financial services industry has the appropriate oversight to avoid the type of financial collapse that has rocked our nation and global markets.
Over the last 30 years, our regulatory framework has not kept pace with financial innovations. Decreased regulation led to irresponsible behavior by many financiers, investors, lenders and consumers. Collectively, we failed to follow established principles of finance – prudence, solvency and accountability.
Many people played a part in the crisis — risky mortgage lenders, Wall Street firms, credit rating agencies — and American families and our nation’s economy suffered the consequences. The lesson learned from the financial disaster proves that big business cannot be left to police itself. There must be a regulatory structure that reigns in the financial services industry without being unduly burdensome. We must create a regulatory structure that protects Main Street from the greed and abuse of Wall Street.
I believe that the House-Senate conference report that passed the Senate last week and now goes to the President for his signature strikes the right balance. It will put an end to the reckless gambling by Wall Street that created the need to help “too-big-to-fail” financial firms. It also creates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new, independent consumer watchdog that will oversee all financial institutions offering consumers financial services or products.
This bill goes a long way to restoring the order we need in financial markets, improving oversight of the mortgage industry and addressing the numerous other issues that led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
I am particularly pleased that a bipartisan amendment I offered to increase transparency in the oil and mining industries was included in the final reform package. My amendment requires all foreign and domestic companies to include in their annual reports how much they pay each government around the world for access to its oil, gas and minerals. This provision will help ensure that the wealth of poor nations goes to its people and not to corrupt officials.
I was extremely pleased to have had the strong support of Bono for this amendment. As the lead singer of U2 and head of the ONE campaign to fight poverty and disease, particularly in Africa, Bono worked very hard to build congressional support for my amendment. In addition to providing greater transparency, my amendment will help increase our energy security and improve overall governance in countries that are often riddled with corruption. I thank Bono for all his support.
Two other amendments I introduced had strong bipartisan support and also were included in the reform package. They are:
- A permanent increase of the FDIC and credit union insurance funds that guarantees deposits up to $250,000; and,
- An extension of whistleblower protections to employees of credit rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. Overestimates of value by these agencies contributed to the housing bubble that resulted in foreclosures and dragged down the housing market.
For too long, our nation embarked on a policy of deregulating financial services — from insurance to banking to investing — easing rules and lessening oversight. Unfortunately, Wall Street took advantage and millions of Americans lost their jobs, their savings, their homes and their retirement security. Now it’s time to rebuild our management and oversight of the financial services industry in a way that protects our economy and our citizens. Enactment of this Wall Street reform bill moves us forward in restoring confidence to a badly broken system.
Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SenatorCardin or on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/senatorcardin.