Dodd-Frank Financial “Reform” Violates Property Rights and Equal-Protection Guarantees

Last week, I described how the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” law passed last summer violates constitutional separation-of-powers safeguards by giving unaccountable bureaucrats the power to seize companies and legislate through administrative fiat.  But that is not the only way Dodd-Frank violates the Constitution.  It also violates property rights and equal-protection guarantees.

For example, it contains racial preferences that were criticized by members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. It “imposes race and gender employment quotas on the financial industry,” noted economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth in the Washington Examiner. Its “Section 342 states that race and gender employment ratios must be observed by all government agencies that regulate the financial sector, as well as private financial institutions that do business with the government.”

This unconstitutional requirement is the brainchild of Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Castro-loving, left-wing ideologue who earlier praised the Los Angeles race riots that destroyed scores of Korean-owned businesses as an “uprising” against injustice. Waters once told a CEO in a public Congressional hearing, “This liberal will be all about socializing . . . .uh, uh . . . would be about, basically, taking over and the government running all of your companies.”

Law Professor Richard Epstein notes that Dodd-Frank is also an unconstitutional “taking” of private property, since it deliberately forces certain banks to process debit card transactions at a loss. (That provision is being challenged in a lawsuit called TCF Bank v. Bernanke. Debit cards did not contribute to the financial crisis in any way, but Dodd-Frank regulates them at the behest of large businesses that objected to being charged any fee by banks for processing debit card payments. Thanks to Dodd-Frank, some customers will now be charged annual fees for their debit cards.)

Dodd-Frank itself contains little “reform,” reinforcing the very features of the status quo that spawned the financial crisis.  Congressional Democrats blocked a GOP amendment that would have reformed the government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Obama administration lifted a $400 billion limit on bailing them out and showered their executives with $42 million in pay — even though Treasury Secretary Geithner has admitted that “Fannie and Freddie were a core part of what went wrong” in the financial crisis.

Fannie and Freddie helped spawn the mortgage crisis by buying up risky mortgages and repackaging them as prime mortgages, thus creating an artificial market for junk: “From the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime.”

At the direction of the Obama administration, Freddie Mac ran up more than $30 billion in losses to bail out mortgage borrowers, some of whom had high incomes. Federal regulators sought to make Freddie Mac hide the resulting losses from the SEC and the public.

Dodd-Frank is not unique in containing racial preferences. Many bills backed by Obama are riddled with racial set-asides, including the health care law passed last year. Obamacare has attracted criticism from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for containing both racial preferences and lower standards for treatment in predominantly-minority institutions, potentially harming both white applicants and minority patients. This racial discrimination appears to violate court rulings like the Supreme Court’s Adarand decision, and the Rothe and Western States Paving decisions issued by the federal appeals courts.