The flurry of Congressional legislation related to regulations and regulators continued unabated this week, targeting disclosure rules for oil companies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and governmental conflicts of interest.
The House of Representatives, on Feb.1, voted 235-187 to repeal a controversial Dodd-Frank Act regulation “that puts American public companies at a disadvantage against many foreign competitors like state-owned companies in China and Russia.”
The legislation would repeal the Dodd-Frank Act’s extractive payments rule. It requires oil, gas, and mining companies to report—in disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission—payments made to governments (foreign or domestic) for extraction rights.
Critics claim it will cost American public companies nearly $600 million each year to comply with the regulation. The rule, they saw, forces publicly-traded American energy companies to disclose proprietary information, giving their foreign competitors access to valuable information.
The regulation was re-issued by the SEC this past summer after an earlier version was struck down by a federal court.
The legislation to disapprove the rule was sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment. “For too long, regulators have saddled U.S. companies with burdensome regulation that provide little to no benefit while putting them at a competitive disadvantage on the global stage,” he said in a statement. “By having Congress send the SEC back to the drawing board it demonstrates that Congress is serious about strengthening the economy, boosting private sector job creation, and helping American workers.”
Oxfam America, which sued the SEC over a delay in reissuing the rule, is fighting back. “The House of Representatives voted for corruption,” Isabel Munilla, senior policy advisor for extractive industries, said in a statement. “Voting to roll-back basic transparency rules provides zero benefit for the public but will instead allow corrupt elites continue to stuff their pockets with oil money and steal from their citizens.”
The ‘revolving door’
On Jan. 31, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) reintroduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, an effort “to slow the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, prohibit ‘golden parachute’ bonus payouts, and combat conflicts of interest.”
Baldwin and Cummings first introduced the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act in 2015. Concerns have long been raised on conflicts of interest for nominees, including the Obama Administration’s nomination of Antonio Weiss for U.S. Department of the Treasury Under Secretary for Domestic Finance in 2014. The legislators single out nominations by President Donald J. Trump for similar scrutiny. “Recently, many of President Trump’s nominees have been found to have troubling conflicts of interest and golden parachute payouts,” they wrote.
Among the troubling nominations they cite are Gary Cohn, Trump’s choice for Director of the National Economic Council, who they say will receive more than $100 million (including $35 million in stock awards and $23 million in corporate shares) when moving from Goldman Sachs to the administration. Rex Tillerson, recently confirmed as Secretary of State, is poised to receive a nearly $180 million payout deal from ExxonMobil, where he served as CEO. These golden parachute payouts and bonuses would likely be illegal under the Baldwin-Cummings legislation.
The legislation would prohibit government employees from accepting bonuses from their former private sector employers for entering government service. The bill would also increase the prohibition on lobbying the federal government from one to two years and expands the definition of “lobbying contact” to include any lobbying activities and strategy. It also increases the current prohibition on federal examiners from accepting employment with any financial institutions they oversaw from one year to two years. The prohibition is expanded to include supervisors and prohibits procurement officers in the federal government from working for companies that received contracts they oversaw during their last two years in government service.
The legislation would require senior financial service regulators to recuse themselves from any official actions that directly or substantially benefit the former employers or clients for whom they worked in the previous two years before joining federal service.
Targeting the CFPB
U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) reintroduced legislation that would make changes to the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The Consumer Financial Protection Board Act would replace the Director of the CFPB with a bipartisan board of directors comprised of five individuals. Additionally:
Each board member would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The president would appoint one of the five members of the board to serve as chairperson of the board.
Board members would each serve staggered five-year terms, and no more than three members would be from the same political party.
The legislation would take effect on the date on which not less than three persons have been confirmed by the Senate to serve as members of the board of directors.
Cosponsors include: Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.). Fischer introduced similar legislation in both the 113th Congress and the 114th Congress.