How the nation’s biggest banks use the little-covered House Agriculture Committee to gut regulations
Imagine you’re a finance lobbyist and want to move deregulation and other industry-friendly policies through Congress. While you might think the House Financial Services Committee would be the logical place to do it — since it has jurisdiction over financial issues, naturally — what if there were a sneaky way to maneuver it through a far less scrutinized committee, so most people would have no idea what you were doing?
This is the story of how the world’s largest banks came to love the House Agriculture Committee.
In Washington, we often witness politicians forgetting the lessons of a year or five years or 10 years ago. It takes some special obliviousness to forget the lessons of Friday. Five days ago, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., delivered a critical report and held an explosive hearing detailing the “London Whale” trades, made by a JPMorgan Chase satellite office in London. As you may have read, these trades turned sour and led to a $6.2 billion loss for the bank in a matter of weeks. More important, JPMorgan misled regulators about the nature of the trades, altered its internal processes to take on more risk, and then hid the losses by improperly mismarking the value on its balance sheet, pretending the shortfall was inconsequential to avoid oversight and present a positive financial picture to investors.
The Whale trades, which totaled $157 billion at their peak, are known to the industry as derivatives, massive bets on bets that present outsize risk to financial institutions and the broader economy. And of course, derivatives helped fuel the financial crisis of 2008.