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Lawmakers Urge U.S. Court to Uphold CFTC Speculation Limits

April 13 (Bloomberg) -- Wall Street’s challenge to U.S. regulations limiting speculation in commodities including oil and natural gas should be dismissed because Congress required the rules under the Dodd-Frank Act, 35 Democratic Senators and Representatives said in briefs submitted to a federal judge.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank law “was designed and intended to make those position limits mandatory,” 18 Democratic and one Independent senator said in a friend of the court brief submitted to the court. In a separate brief scheduled to be filed, 17 Democratic House members said the law didn’t require an analysis prior to completion.

Trade associations representing companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley sued to overturn the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulation approved last year that would cap the number of contracts a derivatives trader can have.

The lawsuit is one of the financial industry’s highest-profile challenges to the Dodd-Frank law that bolsters regulation of derivatives after largely unregulated swaps helped fuel the 2008 credit crisis. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association argue that the agency used a flawed analysis of Dodd-Frank when it completed the rule and didn’t adequately consider the costs of the rule. A ruling is pending from U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington.

High Oil Prices

“Oil supplies are plentiful and demand is down, so high gas prices can’t be explained by ordinary market forces of supply and demand,” Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement announcing the court filing. “An ongoing contributing factor is excessive speculation in U.S. commodity markets.”

The Senate brief was also signed, according to the statement, by Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, also signed the brief.

‘What Congress Intended’

“Amicus briefs from the Hill are rare, but when they are used, they are the stuff, they really mean something,” Bart Chilton, a Democrat on the CFTC and supporter of the limits, said today. “These folks actually wrote the law, making them a key voice in knowing what Congress intended.”

The 17 Democratic Representatives said position limits have traditionally been established before a problem is identified in markets. “Such limits were required in order to prevent possible harm, not merely to address harm that has already occurred,” the representatives said.

The brief was signed by Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Maxine Waters of California, Leonard Boswell of Iowa, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Henry Waxman of California, Luis Guiterrez of Illinois, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Mel Watt of North Carolina, John Conyers of Michigan, Gregory Meeks of New York, Howard Berman of California, Gary Peters of Michigan, Edolphus Towns of New York, Nydia Velazquez of New York, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

The case is International Swaps and Derivatives Association v. U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 11-02146, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Silla Brush in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maura Reynolds at

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