WSJ Follows the Loopholes on Regulation Bill

The Journal found a good angle for its curtain-raising story on the House financial-regulation vote today.

The paper digs into the fine print of the bill and looks at the treats buried there for favored lobbies. It finds carve-outs tailored for USAA, General Electric, and Pitney Bowes.

For instance, it reports this about a special USAA provision:

The amendment doesn’t mention USAA by name. It caters to any industrial bank—a financial institution regulated by states—owned by a savings-and-loan holding company that “predominantly provides financial products and services to current and former members of the military and their families.” USAA Savings Bank, chartered in Nevada, appears to be the only company meeting that description.

Why did USAA get special treatment? Well, this didn’t hurt:

USAA, one of the country’s 50 largest federally insured financial companies, has one of Washington’s more aggressive lobbying operations. It spent $5 million on lobbying in the first nine months of 2009, according to government filings, more than larger rivals such as Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. Its political-action committee also gives generously to lawmakers.

That’s nice context. As is the fact that it was “buried in a 239-page amendment” and that the exemption will enable it to shop for a favored regulator—something the bill is supposed to stop.

Compare this story to The New York Times goes with a political angle: Democrats defend the bill. Republicans attack it. The two position for political advantage. Blah blah blah. He said, she said—who cares?

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.