Representative Barney Frank harshly criticized a former senior adviser on the House Financial Services Committee for taking a lobbying position, adding that as long as he chairs the committee, the former staffer would be barred from contacting it.
Peter Roberson, who played a role in crafting provisions dealing with such derivatives as credit-default swaps as part of the House’s financial regulations legislation, left the committee in February to become vice president of government relations for Intercontinental Exchange Inc.
Intercontinental runs the world’s largest credit-default swap clearinghouse and would be regulated by any rules from a final regulations law. Frank, a Democrat from Newton, shepherded the House version to final passage late last year; the Senate Banking Committee last month passed its version of the overhaul bill along a party-line vote. The full Senate has yet to take up the bill.
“When Mr. Roberson was hired, it never occurred to me that he would jump so quickly from the committee staff to an industry that was being affected by the committee’s legislation,” Frank said in a statement released yesterday.
Ethics rules prevent any lobbyist who had worked for a House committee from contacting that committee for a year.
Frank said that in this case, one year is not long enough.
“Fortunately, examples of staff members doing what Mr. Roberson has done are rare, but even one example is far too much,” Frank said, “and that is why I wanted to make clear I share the unhappiness of people at this, and my intention to prohibit any contact between him and members of the staff for as long as I have any control over the matter.”
Roberson’s role as a lobbyist in a position to help a company influence final legislation angered government watchdog groups.
“This is a classic example of a revolving door abuse,” Craig Holman of the advocacy group Public Citizen told Bloomberg News, which first reported Roberson’s departure. “He will be instrumental for Intercontinental.”
The House bill would for the first time regulate privately traded derivatives, which are a group of complicated financial instruments that helped bring down Lehman Brothers in late 2008, leading to the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Depression. The use of credit-default swaps, a special kind of derivatives serving as insurance on an investment, nearly toppled American International Group, prompting tens of billions of dollars of US money to prop up the firm.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.