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Promo Executives Evaluate Dodd-Frank Reform

With potential far-reaching deregulation of the financial industry high on President Donald Trump’s agenda, leaders within the promotional products industry and beyond are closely watching Washington D.C. and weighing in with insights about the potential economic impact – good and bad – of reform.

In a recent survey from BizBuySell, nearly four-in-10 American small-business owners and prospective business buyers said they favor the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. More than a third (36%) had no opinion on repeal, while 24% are against dismantling the legislation, according to the study from the online business-for-sale marketplace. In surveying more than 650 business owners and prospective buyers, BizBuySell also found that nearly half (49%) believe that the law restricts banks from lending to small businesses. Only 10% said the act encourages lending. Nonetheless, federal data indicates lending has been strong in recent years, though bankers, some business owners and financial industry representatives say the numbers fail to paint a complete picture of the reality.

Enacted in 2010 to prevent another financial crisis like the one that in 2008 triggered, the Dodd-Frank Act aims to create economic stability by bringing greater accountability and transparency to the United States financial system. The act has been in the headlines again after President Trump last month ordered a wholesale critical review of the legislation – an outgrowth of his campaign pledge to abolish what he believes are excessive regulations that inhibit economic growth.

The way Thomas B. Rector sees it, repealing Dodd-Frank would be a benefit for small business and the promotional products industry. “Less restrictions on the banking industry will allow for additional lending within our industry,” said the CEO of ScreenBroidery/Rector Communications (asi/305623), adding that the act’s requirement that banks keep a large portion of their assets in securities inhibits the institutions’ ability to loan. “The repeal will enable banks to invest more in term loans, which means fast growing businesses like ours can finance larger projects, equipment and people.”

Robert Fiveash has a different take. The president/co-owner of Brand Fuel (asi/145025) said his experience working as a stockbroker makes him leery about deregulation. Back when he was a stockbroker in the mid-1990s, Fiveash said that Wall Street firms were being asked to pitch investments called “collateralized mortgage obligations.” These pools of mortgages, when packaged together, suddenly became AAA-rated, even though “you couldn’t tell what mortgages made up the product and no one really knew exactly how they worked,” said Fiveash. “When I look back on that time, and fast-forward 10 years later when all of these mortgages were blowing up, I have a hard time thinking fewer regulations on the sector are what’s needed.”

Brandon Mackay has a mixed view on Dodd-Frank. On the one hand, the CEO of SnugZ USA (asi/88060) doesn’t believe it’s feasible to enact a full-scale repeal of the law given the current state of the U.S. economy. “There are some checks and balances in there to keep financial institutions from doing high-risk, self-serving lending that could leave the American public holding the bag again,” Mackay said. Nonetheless, he believes there are elements of the law that could be addressed to make it easier for responsible entrepreneurs to obtain the funding they need to grow their businesses, which could help counteract the current trend of large businesses getting bigger while smaller firms find it increasingly difficult to compete. “This is one of those areas where our leaders need to reach across the aisle and find a balanced and fair approach to this act and help the American people,” said Mackay.

Mark Ziskind takes a similar view. While the chief operating officer of CSE (asi/155807) believes that the cost to operate enforcement agencies and comply with regulations can place a drag on economic growth, he also feels that common sense reform of Dodd-Frank is what’s needed, not total repeal. “The idea would be to reduce the financial burden, but still keep the key components in place,” said Ziskind.