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Investor protections imperiled by Wall Street, GOP assault on financial reform

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It's no secret that a powerful, well-funded coalition of mega-banks, derivatives users and insurance brokers wants to see major pieces of the Wall Street financial reform law dismembered and defunded. They are partnering with mostly GOP House members to do so.

What's lost in this complex cyclone of industry lobbying, free-market ideology and campaign contributions: some of the most pro-investor protections of the law are at risk of disappearing, including safeguards that would help every American who deals with a broker, bank or insurance adviser.

Among the pro-investor measures facing an uncertain future:

  • Requiring stock brokers and insurance agents who offer financial advice to act as "fiduciaries" and put client interests ahead of their own profits;
  • Creating an Office of the Investor Advocate and a new Investor Advisory Committee within the Securities and Exchange Commission. Both have been put on hold for lack of funding;
  • Supplying all the funding mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
  • Increasing the annual funding sought by the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to carry out their Dodd-Frank mandates.

The all-out assault on the reforms began almost as soon as the law was signed in July 2010.

Following the money

Financial industry dollars have been pouring into congressional coffers for years and have mushroomed in the wake of the Dodd-Frank law.

While both Democrats and Republicans receive money from Wall Street, banks and insurers, several House GOP members have aggressively led efforts to dismember key provisions of the Wall Street reform law.

The House Financial Services Committee, now chaired by Republican Spencer Bachus of Alabama, has been at the forefront of trying to delay or dismantle Dodd-Frank investor rules. This was the committee that did the heavy lifting for financial reform under former chairman Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat and eponymous co-author of the law passed in 2010.

Bachus has not only opposed the formation of the CFPB, he has introduced several bills to delay its start-up and replace its sole director with a five-member board answerable to a financial crisis committee of top regulators.

Bachus' frontal assault on the consumer bureau and other Dodd-Frank regulations reflects the disdain of GOP House leadership in general. Only three Republicans voted for the Dodd-Frank bill when it passed the House in a 237-192 vote on June 30, 2010.

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