Realty Check

Barney Frank Faltering? He Gets It, But Why The Shaky Footing?

Barney Frank

I’ve been reporting on the new proposals from House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank that he put forth in a news conference this morning. A lot of it is very complicated and has to do tighter regulations of capital markets and investment banks.

The first proposal from Chairman Frank is to “Consider establishing a financial services systematic risk regulator.” Ok, what’s that? Some kind of regulatory body--maybe the Fed, maybe not--that has “the capacity and power to assess risk across financial markets regardless of corporate form and to intervene when appropriate.”

The idea is to limit risky practices, many of which got us into all the trouble we’re in now. Risk assessment, or lack thereof, brought down the credit markets last August.

What’s so interesting to me is that in an interview in the 10 am hour on "Squawk on the Street," when questioned about this clearly controversial idea, Frank immediately backed off. He kept saying, “We’re just considering it” and “We’re not rushing into anything.”

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I’ve already heard from one analyst who claimed Frank wasn’t serious about this but was just putting it out there to scare everyone so they would bend on his other proposals, like consolidation of regulation in the industry.

I’m not saying Frank doesn’t want to see it; he says it would help instill confidence in the market and bring investors back. “Investors are on strike,” he claims.

I will say this: Frank gets it. He’s one of the few lawmakers I’ve heard who clearly seems to understand not just what he’s talking about but the nuances and complications of what he’s talking about. I’m just wondering why the shaky footing.

Questions?  Comments?