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OP-ED: Dodd-Frank is hurting consumers and the economy
Five years after the enactment of Dodd-Frank, it's past time for a change in the debate over financial regulatory reform.
Those who continue to argue that the law is perfect, or that it must be repealed, are wasting their breath — and precious time. We must focus, instead, on getting the regulation right to help generate the growth we need.
Giving credit where it's due, important steps have been taken to improve transparency and make the system safer and more stable. But much more must be done to create a coherent regulatory system to ensure that consumers are well served and Main Street businesses can help drive our economy.
Even before the crisis, there were calls for fixing and modernizing our disjointed, duplicative and outdated financial regulatory system.
Rather than fixing it, Dodd-Frank set 21 different federal agencies to the task of writing or implementing 400-plus rules. And three brand new regulatory bodies were added to the mix for good measure.
The result is a maze of regulators who often disagree and compete with each other and fail to provide clear rules of the road.
For markets to work, we must aggressively root out the wrongdoers. But honest businesses shouldn't be left to guess what rules will apply to them.
Under Dodd-Frank, financial institutions have essentially been told to go ahead and drive down the road. And eventually they'll be told what the speed limit was and if they incurred any tickets along the way.
Consequently, financial institutions — including banks and non-banks of all sizes — are not able to do what we need them to do: provide the products and services that fuel our economy.
Nearly every day we hear from institutions that are forced to stop offering needed products or serving markets because the regulatory risks outweigh the business benefits.
What happens when Main Street businesses can't get a commercial loan or a line of credit or no longer have access to a market for corporate bonds?
It becomes harder to buy equipment, purchase seasonal inventory, manage payroll or even keep the lights on.
Consumers are also impacted. Without access to a variety of financial tools, Americans wouldn't have the opportunity to get ahead — to go to school, own a home or buy a car to get to work — and, in turn, power our economy.
We need to ensure that consumers are fairly treated, disclosures on products or services are clear, and bad actors are put out of business. But we must also make sure that consumers are served.
So we must not foster a system where a regulator gets to decide what credit card you can have or loan you should get.
Many Americans, for example, rely on short-term lending in the form of paycheck deposit advances to help make ends meet, particularly when facing unplanned expenses.
Regulators have concerns about those products, but rather than work to improve them, agencies have taken steps that essentially shut down this option. Sure, not lending is the safer course, but it's also the least productive — and it fails to meet consumer needs.
It's past time to create a financial regulatory system that truly works. In the wake of a crisis, it's easier to simply add more regulation than to make sure we have the right regulation. Politicians can take credit for being "tough" on Wall Street while fighting sensible fixes.
Fortunately, it's not too late to make needed improvements and reasonable changes to strengthen the overall system. We can fix the provisions the law got wrong, add what was left out, and replace what doesn't work.
If we really want to avoid another crisis and have a growing economy, we should put partisanship aside and focus on getting financial regulation right.
— David Hirschmann is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. Readers may write him at U.S. Chamber, 615 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20062-2000.