June 29, 2016

Warren, Warner, Cummings Introduce Legislation to Improve Federal Oversight of Risky Derivatives Trading and to Protect Taxpayers

Fact Sheet
Bill Text

Washington, DC - Today, United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, introduced the Derivatives Oversight and Taxpayer Protection Act to strengthen federal oversight of the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market and to ensure that big financial firms - not taxpayers - are on the hook for derivatives losses.  The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission found that derivatives were at the center of the storm in the 2008 financial crisis.  A glaring lack of federal oversight of derivatives allowed firms to build up massive levels of leverage and risk, setting the stage for the crisis and forcing taxpayers to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on bailouts.  

The Dodd-Frank Act sought to fix these problems, but thanks in part to Republican obstruction in Congress and weak rules from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), much more needs to be done to oversee derivatives, close up loopholes in existing rules, and force private firms to bear the full risk of their derivative positions.  

"The only way to make sure that derivatives can never lead to a financial crisis and taxpayer bailouts again is to put in place clearer rules and stronger oversight," Senator Warren said. "Otherwise, big financial firms will be able to rake in billions when things go well, then come back to taxpayers with their hands out when things come crashing down.  That might be just fine for Republicans and their allies on Wall Street, but Democrats are standing together to make sure that never happens again."

"Reckless derivatives trading at AIG helped precipitate the global financial crisis of 2008 and usher in the Great Recession.  That is why Congress required stricter capital, margin, and clearing requirements for derivatives activities in Dodd-Frank.  This bill builds on our financial reform efforts by improving transparency, closing gaps in regulatory oversight, and giving CFTC resources adequate to accomplish these goals," said Senator Warner, Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance & Investment.

Ranking Member Cummings said, "This bill would strengthen oversight of the derivatives market by closing loopholes bankers exploit to put the financial system-and taxpayers-at risk.  It also gives the CFTC a stable funding stream and the tools necessary to help deter future illegal acts by permitting penalties large enough to impact the bottom lines of even the largest financial firms."

The legislation introduced today would strengthen federal oversight by authorizing the CFTC to collect user fees from financial firms (like the SEC) and to impose much tougher penalties on wrongdoers.  It would also stitch up loopholes allowing firms to easily evade CFTC rules.  The Act would protect taxpayers by ending the special treatment of derivatives in bankruptcy, creating an incentive for private parties to better assess the risk of derivatives contracts they enter, and closing loopholes in the CFTC's margin rule.