A year ago, Mother Jones reported that a House bill that would allow banks like Citigroup to do more high-risk trading with taxpayer-backed money was written almost entirely by Citigroup lobbyists. The bill passed the House in October 2013, but the Senate never voted on it. For months, it was all but dead. Yet on Tuesday night, the Citi-written bill resurfaced. Lawmakers snuck the measure into a massive 11th-hour government funding bill that congressional leaders negotiated in the hopes of averting a government shutdown. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation.
“This is outrageous,” says Marcus Stanley, the financial policy director at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform. “This is to benefit big banks, bottom line.”
As I reported last year, the bill eviscerates a section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act called the “push-out rule”:
Banks hate the push-out rule…because this provision will forbid them from trading certain derivatives (which are complicated financial instruments with values derived from underlying variables, such as crop prices or interest rates). Under this rule, banks will have to move these risky trades into separate non-bank affiliates that aren’t insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and are less likely to receive government bailouts. The bill would smother the push-out rule in its crib by permitting banks to use government-insured deposits to bet on a wider range of these risky derivatives.
The Citi-drafted legislation will benefit five of the largest banks in the country—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. These financial institutions control more than 90 percent of the $700 trillion derivatives market. If this measure becomes law, these banks will be able to use FDIC-insured money to bet on nearly anything they want. And if there’s another economic downturn, they can count on a taxpayer bailout of their derivatives trading business.
In May 2013, the New York Times reported that Citigroup’s proposed language was reflected in more than 70 lines of the House financial services committee’s 85-line bill. Mother Jones was the first to publish the document showing that Citigroup lobbyists had drafted most of the legislation. Here is a side-by-side of a key section of the House bill: