Tag Archives: Senator Kaufman

Senator Ted Kaufman: Financial Reform Against The Odds

By Simon Johnson, an excerpt from my latest column on Project Syndicate

America’s financial sector has shown renewed strength in recent months – political strength, that is – by undermining most of the sensible proposals for banking reform that remain on the table. If we are still making any progress at all, it is because of the noble efforts of a small number of United States senators.

Most notable has been the work of Senator Ted Kaufman, a Democrat from Delaware (yes, a pro-business state), who has pressed tirelessly to fix the most egregious problems in the US financial sector. Kaufman understands that successful reform requires three ingredients: arguments that persuade, the ability to bring colleagues along, and a good deal of luck in the form of events that highlight problems at just the right time. On two fronts, Kaufman has – against long odds – actually managed to make substantial steps.

The rest of this article is available (free) on Project Syndicate.

Senator McConnell Is Wrong, Senator Kaufman Is Right. Any Questions?

By Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and The Next Financial Meltdown

Senator Mitch McConnell continues to insist that the Dodd bill creates permanent bailouts – and that it would be definitely better to do nothing.  Apparently, he has indicated a willingness to make a Senate floor statement to that effect every day. 

Senator McConnell is completely wrong on this issue – and, if he gets any traction, we will feel the need to point this out every day.  His remarks today and yesterday go far beyond any reasonable level of partisanship.  This is about playing games with the financial stability of this country and the world; it should stop.

Don’t take my word for it – Senator Ted Kaufman is a strident critic of our current financial system and a tough voice for greatly strengthening the Dodd bill.  But today he was as clear and as forceful as you can be on the floor of the Senate:  Senator McConnell’s proposed approach is “dangerous and irresponsible.” Continue reading

Larry Summers: “Senator Kaufman is exactly right”

By Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and The Next Financial Meltdown

Senator Ted Kaufman (D., DE) has given three blistering speeches recently, individually and collectively cutting to the heart of the financial reform matter: the deregulation of finance has gone too far and big banks now need to be reined in; the continued prevalence of fraud among Wall Street’s biggest bankers; and why the administration’s proposed “resolution authority” would do nothing at all to end the problems associated with Too Big To Fail financial institutions.

You might think no one listens to Senate floor speeches, but you’d be wrong.  Yesterday, on “This Week” (ABC), Jake Tapper asked Larry Summers – head of the White House National Economic Council and key strategist on financial reform – point blank about one of Senator Kaufman’s most important points.

Summers started this part of the interview with a fiery anti-finance industry moment, citing their lobbying spending against financial reform (“$1 million per congressman”) and arguing that the legislation currently before Congress will provide basic consumer protection, more effective regulation, and the ability to handle the failure of large financial firms.  “How can anyone take the position … that we don’t need comprehensive financial reform?”

To which, Jake Tapper responded,

“TAPPER: Some Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough. Here’s Delaware Democrat Ted Kaufman talking about the Dodd bill.”

  Continue reading

Hard Pressed, Senator Dodd Gives Ground

By Simon Johnson

Senator Chris Dodd has good political antennae.  He knows that his financial reform bill will come under severe pressure because it has a weak heart – the provisions that deal with “too big to fail” are simply “too weak to make any sense.”

Stung by the hard-hitting critique of Senator Ted Kaufman earlier on Friday and unsure exactly where an increasingly combative White House is heading on the broader strategy vis-à-vis banks, Mr. Dodd took to the Senate floor yesterday afternoon – actually immediately after Senator Kaufman – in an attempt to sustain the momentum behind his approach to “reform”. 

Note the prominent and rather defensive mention of Delaware, Senator Kaufman’s state, in what Senator Dodd said (the wording here is from the verbatim recording, not the official transcript):

“A business, as I say respectfully, in Connecticut or Delaware or Colorado, a homeowner in those states shouldn’t have to pay the price because a handful of financial institutions got too greedy, too risky, they were unwilling to examine what they were doing or did, recognizing that the federal government would bail them out if they made a bad choice, which they did.” 

Perhaps it was this picture that did it: Continue reading

Senator: Which Part Of “Too Big To Fail” Do You Not Understand?

By Simon Johnson

When a company wants to fend off a hostile takeover, its board may seek to put in place so-called “poison pill” defenses – i.e., measures that will make the firm less desirable if purchased, but which ideally will not encumber its operations if it stays independent.

Large complex cross-border financial institutions run with exactly such a structure in place, but it has the effect of making it very expensive for the government to takeover or shut down such firms, i.e., to push them into any form of bankruptcy.

To understand this more clearly you can,

  1. Look at the situation of Citigroup today, or
  2. Read this new speech by Senator Ted Kaufman. Continue reading

Senator Kaufman: Fraud Still At The Heart Of Wall Street

By Simon Johnson

Last week, Senator Ted Kaufman (D., DE) gave a devastating speech in the Senate on “too big to fail” and all it entails.  A long public silence from our political class was broken – and to great effect.  Today’s Dodd reform proposals stand in pale comparison to the principles outlined by Senator Kaufman.  And yes, DE stands for Delaware – corporate America has finally decided that its largest financial offspring are way out of line and must be reined in.

Today, the Senator has gone one better, putting many private criticisms of the financial sector – the kind you hear whispered with conviction on the Upper East Side and in Midtown – firmly and articulately on the public record in a Senate floor speech to be delivered (this link is to the press release; the speech is in a pdf attached to that – update: direct link to speech, which will be given tomorrow).  He pulls no punches:

“fraud and potential criminal conduct were at the heart of the financial crisis”

He goes after Lehman – with its infamous Repo 105 – as well as the other entities potentially implicated in those transactions, including Ernst and Young (Lehman’s auditors).  This is the low hanging fruit – but have you heard even a squeak from the White House or anyone else in the country’s putative leadership on this issue?

And then he goes for the twin jugulars of Wall Street as it still stands: The idea that we saved something, at great expense in 2008-09, that was actually worth saving; and Goldman Sachs. Continue reading