What Does Wall Street Reform Mean?

For details on the outcomes of certain issue areas, follow the links at the bottom of this page.

Nearly two years after Wall Street crashed our economy, and after a year of work, the House and Senate are finally ready to vote on a comprehensive package of Wall Street reforms. When we began this effort we agreed that any legislation we support would have to hold Wall Street accountable, reverse the years of de-regulation and rein in the reckless behavior of the big banks and the predatory lenders.  Americans for Financial Reform believes this bill is very significant and goes far toward achieving these goals.  It is also a basis on which we can build for greater reform in the future.

The bill will include a tough, new set of consumer protection rules and enforcement of those rules to replace the system that failed so egregiously in cracking down on the sleazy practices that led to the financial crisis. We got that.

We agreed that in order to restore stability to our financial system and keep something like this from happening again, we need to dramatically increase both oversight of the markets as a whole and by extension, transparency – particular in those areas that had been virtually unregulated, notably in the derivatives market. We also wanted to make sure that there were capital requirements to back up these trades. We got that.

We needed new safeguards and protections from the risky behaviors that led to the bailout of billion-dollar banks. We got those.

We wanted greater protection for investors and more democracy in corporate governance.  We got that.

None of this is to say that we got all that we wanted. The forces arrayed against us were spending $1.4 million a day to chip away at what we won piece, by piece, by piece. They were successful far too often. They carved loopholes that will make the protections less effective than they should be. They won special-interest carve-outs that defy logic.  They stood in the way of structural changes we need.

There is more to be done—on foreclosure, on limiting the size of the too big to fail banks, on creating a financial speculation tax, on democratizing the Federal Reserve.  But this is a significant start.

All of that said, Main Street won a series of important and hard fought battles in this bill.  And the people on Main Street face a more stable economic future as a result. This was a win.

The following pages give more detail about what we believe we won, we lost and where there were compromises.  This is so we can both appreciate the real victories that organizing has helped to achieve and to outline some of the struggles that still lie ahead.

For information about specific issue areas, check out the following links.