During his presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump said he would "get rid of" Dodd-Frank — the sweeping legislation passed in 2010 to address problems underlying the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Many Republicans hate the 2,300-page law, saying it is layered with far too many regulations. But Democrats say it provides valuable oversight of an industry that they believe took too many risks on Wall Street and too much advantage of customers on Main Street.
Now President-elect Trump's transition team is promising to "dismantle" the complex Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
"Bureaucratic red tape and Washington mandates are not the answer" to improving the financial system, the team said Thursday on its website.
Repealing the entire law probably would take more time and attention than Congress could muster in a 100-day rush. In fact, Dodd-Frank is such sprawling legislation that it has taken years to write and implement all of the detailed rules.
But even if repealing all of Dodd-Frank would be too much to do quickly, the Republican-controlled Congress likely would be eager to approve big revisions. Written primarily by Democrats — then-Sen. Chris Dodd and then-Rep. Barney Frank — the law passed without a single House Republican vote. Only three Senate Republicans signed on.
One possible target of the "dismantle" efforts might be the so-called "Volcker rule," which bars banks from making certain speculative investments that could boost profits, but not benefit their customers. The rule was first proposed by Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who wanted a firewall between a bank's consumer operations and its risky trading activities.
Another target could be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a Dodd-Frank creation that imposed new regulations in areas such as mortgage-servicing, foreclosure relief services, debt collection and more.
Republicans might be reluctant to wipe out the agency just months after a scandal at Wells Fargo involving sham customer accounts. But the new Congress is widely expected to change the CFPB's management structure so that instead of having a single, powerful director, it would operate under a slower-moving commission.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, in testimony to Congress in September, defended Dodd-Frank, saying the new rules have improved safety in the financial industry. "It would be a mistake to roll back the clock on these protections," he said.
In contrast, the Trump transition team said the law has flopped because "big banks got bigger while community financial institutions have disappeared at a rate of one per day, and taxpayers remain on the hook for bailing out financial firms deemed 'too big to fail.'"
In an analysis of possible rollbacks of Dodd-Frank, Moody's Investors Services reached this conclusion: "While a reduction in regulatory compliance costs would bolster bank earnings, reduced oversight and a roll-back of requirements would also result in a weakening a of banks' capital and liquidity positions, a negative from a credit perspective."
On Wall Street, investors have — at least so far — focused on the positive aspects of pulling back on Dodd-Frank. Bank stocks have shot up, with the KBW Nasdaq Bank Index gaining more than 7 percent since Trump won the election.