Bob Corker

Finance bill favors interests of unions, activists

By Patrice Hill

The financial reform bill expected to clear Congress this week is chock-full of provisions that have little to do with the financial crisis but cater to the long-standing agendas of labor unions and other Democratic interest groups.

Principal among them is a measure to make it easier for unions, environmental groups and other activist organizations that hold shares to put their representatives on the boards of directors of every corporation in the United States.

The so-called “proxy access” provision, which activist groups say they will use to try to improve oversight of corporate financial practices, has provoked a backlash from the Business RoundtableU.S. Chamber of Commerce and other major non-Wall Street business groups.

“This legislation includes provisions totally unrelated to the financial crisis which may disrupt Americas fragile economic recovery” and lead to increasing political battles in the boardrooms, said John J. Castellani, president of the roundtable.

Business groups are also rankled that the legislation would impose costly new burdens on airlines, utilities and other non-financial businesses that were victims rather than villains in the crisis, simply because they use financial derivatives to hedge their businesses against risks such as fluctuations in oil prices, interest rates and currencies.

Such hedging practices played no role in the crisis, though they helped many businesses weather the financial turbulence and recession that followed in the aftermath of the Wall Street storm.

Other provisions of the financial legislation, which goes before the fullSenate on Thursday for a vote and likely passage, favor Democratic constituencies directly by requiring banks and federal agencies to hire and do more business with them.

The bill would create more than 20 “offices of minority and women inclusion” at the Treasury, Federal Reserve and other government agencies, to ensure they employ more women and minorities and grant more federal contracts to more women- and minority-owned businesses.

The agencies also would apply “fair employment tests” to the banks and other financial institutions they regulate, though their hiring and contracting practices had little or nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis.

“The interjection of racial and gender preferences into America’s financial sector deserves greater media exposure” before Congressdebates and passes the massive 2,400-page bill, said Kevin Mooney, a contributing editor for Americans for Limited Government‘s daily newsletter.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/14/finance-bill-favors-interests-of-unions-activists/

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