Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

House Financial Services Committee Passes Financial Stability Improvement Act

Today, the House Financial Services Committee approved legislation that, according to its press release,  will put an end to “too big to fail” financial firms, help prevent the failure of large institutions from becoming a systemwide crisis, and ensure that taxpayers are never again left on the hook for Wall Street’s reckless actions. The Financial Stability Improvement Act (H.R. 3996) passed by a vote of 31-27.

H.R. 3996 specifically targets the issue of systemic risk within the financial system and the potential harm that regulatory gaps and large, interconnected companies like AIG can pose to the economy. The legislation will:

  • Identify and subject systemically risky firms to increased scrutiny and regulation: H.R. 3996 will create an inter-agency oversight council that will identify and monitor financial firms and activities that could potentially undermine the nation’s financial stability. Once identified, these firms and activities will be subject to stricter oversight, standards, and regulation.
  • Ensure that the collapse of a large, interconnected financial institution does not lead to another taxpayer bailout or jeopardize the economy: Currently, there is no system in place to responsibly shut down a failing financial company like AIG or Lehman Brothers. This bill establishes an orderly process for the dismantling any large failing financial institution in a way that protects taxpayers and minimizes the impact to the financial system.
  • Hold Wall Street accountable for its actions: If a large institution fails, the bill holds the financial industry and shareholders responsible for the cost of the company’s orderly wind down, not taxpayers. Under H.R. 3996, any costs for dismantling a failed financial company will be repaid first from the assets of the failed firm at the expense of shareholders and creditors. Any shortfall would then be covered by a “dissolution fund” pre-funded by large financial companies with assets of more than $50 billion and hedge funds with assets of more than $10 billion.

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