In 2006 and 2008, the U.S. Chamber spent more money lobbying members of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee than it did on any other House committee. Three of the top 10 bills it lobbied for in 2013 were designed to deregulate the financial sector.
The U.S. Chamber has about a dozen large financial and insurance companies on its board of directors, and more on the board of its anti-civil justice associate, the Institute for Legal Reform. Along with lobbying and advertising vehemently against financial safeguards such as the Volcker Rule, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a conflict minerals disclosure rule and other parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act.
The U.S. Chamber is particularly concerned about the Volcker rule, which, when implemented, will stabilize the financial sector by greatly limiting U.S. banks’ ability to engage in proprietary trading. The U.S. Chamber has been exploring legal arguments calling the rule unduly burdensome, even though banks were highly profitable for decades without engaging in proprietary trading. It also worked for a loophole exempting oil, manufacturing, financial, real estate and other types of companies from regulations on the highly volatile practice of derivatives trading. After pulling out all the stops to delay and kill Dodd-Frank, the U.S. Chamber had the audacity to then criticize it for not being implemented expeditiously.
The U.S. Chamber frequently opposes financial reform in the name of “small business,” failing to acknowledge that small businesses in fact will be big winners with a strong Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A majority of America’s small firms now use bank-financed credit cards to help finance their daily operation. The small businesses reliant on these cards for operations were subject to the same predatory abuses from the banks as retail consumers: hidden fees, arbitrary rate increases and opaque terms buried in the card agreements’ fine print. Moreover, in the current recession, the big banks have continued to punish these businesses by arbitrarily raising interest rates and lowering credit limits regardless of the business’ economic situation.
During the worst phase of the Great Recession, the U.S. Chamber did nothing to help small business regain access to lower-cost credit. Instead, the U.S. Chamber launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign to defeat the small business protections in the proposed financial reform legislation, falsely claiming that every small business owner who offered store credit would be regulated by the bills. Independent analyses found these claims false time after time .
When the Obama administration’s pay czar Kenneth Feinberg ordered executive pay limits at firms bailed out by the federal government, an ABC/Washington Post poll found 71 percent of the public endorsed the move, with 58 percent strongly in support. Yet in the summer of 2009, when the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation that would give shareholders an advisory vote on executive pay and eliminate the perverse incentives in compensation practices that led to the financial crisis, U.S. Chamber lobbyists attacked the measure as an “unprecedented governmental intrusion into matters that have historically been addressed by private actors.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s stances on financial reform are characterized by efforts to delay, weaken and kill stabilizing safeguards. It has consistently used the vague call for “job creation” to push back against regulations meant to stabilize a system that, when it crashes, causes massive job loss. This comes after the U.S. Chamber lobbied for weakened financial regulations, and then demanded federal bailout money when the risk caught up to the banks – a contradiction with the U.S. Chamber’s rhetoric against government intervention in the free market.