Your Handy Guide to Gutting Dodd Frank After the Fact

Here’s what you do. First, you get the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable to file a lawsuit arguing that the SEC didn’t conduct sufficient cost-benefit analysis when implementing a provision in the law giving slightly greater rights to shareholders to nominate candidates for corporate boards, and you hire Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene as your litigator.

Then you make sure the case is brought before the corporate-friendly U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Then that circuit empanels three GOP-appointed judges, including Douglas Ginsberg and David Sentelle (the judge who overturned the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter and later appointed Ken Starr to investigate Whitewater), to hear the case.

Then, when the case–surprise surprise–goes against the SEC because the judges find that the agency didn’t factor in the possibility that union pension funds might use their new-found power to require corporations to actually pay their employees better, you use the court ruling as a precedent to put the fear of God in every financial regulatory agency in town. Now, you have the agencies worried that all the initial rulemaking they’ve been doing on Dodd Frank, the months and months of meetings and drafts and so forth, could be similarly overturned. So they extend the deadlines and conduct more economic studies and water down the draft regs in order to make sure they can get past the incredibly high new bar created by the most conservative and partisan members of the federal bench. And so you get SEC yesterday voting for rules on credit default swaps, which played a lead role in the financial crisis, that exempt from government supervision dealers who engage in up to $3 billion in such transactions per year, which is 30 times higher than the threshold the agency proposed in December 2010.

That, my friend, is how you play the game.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.