If Barney Frank's recently reported statements are accurate, banks and financial institutions may have a surprisingly friendly advocate on Capitol Hill. Frank, who also happens to be the influential chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, contends that banks should be exempted from SOX 404 compliance because they are already subject to similar provisions in an earlier law.It's hard to stick a label on Frank, a Democratic Congressman from the fourth district in Massachusetts, especially when it is so easy to place a liberal or conservative label on so many of Frank's peers in Washington DC. No doubt, he's liberal. But he is one of the few so-called liberals that business should be happy to see as the chair of the financial services committee. In today's polarized Washington, he tends to stand out. He supports stronger personal data security legislation, fine-tuning regulations to ease business burden, but doesn't believe the U.S. capital markets are at a severe disadvantage.
The congressman, now in his twenty-sixth year in office, wants companies to allow shareholders to have an annual nonbinding advisory vote on their company's executive compensation plan. Frank doesn't believe that last year's SEC executive compensation rules went far enough to change the way compensation is determined between boards and chief executives, nor does it give shareholders a better way help tailor their company's executive compensation approach. This stance certainly doesn't sit well with big business. And expect tougher rules on executive compensation, especially since the House Financial Services Committee oversees the SEC.
Yet, as mentioned, Frank thinks that banks shouldn't be forced to comply with SOX 404 because they already comply through the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), according to a spokesperson from Frank's office. This stance, alone, should make Frank the Congressman of the Year on Wall Street.
But don't expect Frank to jump on the save-the-U.S.-financial-markets-from- gloom-and-doom bandwagon that many policitians have hopped upon, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor Eliott Spitzer -- hey wasn't Spitzer part of the problem? While Frank does advocate lessening SOX 404 provisions and fine-tuning some rules, he does see their value. Also, he doesn't think, as some do, that business in the capital markets is flocking to London and Hong Kong just because of excessive U.S. regulations. Frank contends that there are larger forces at work, namely globalization and an increasingly open global financial market.
Although confusing, it's refreshing to see a committee chairman have an agenda that doesn't fall in line, lock step, with his party's traditional mantra. Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio