Dodd casts doubt on need to revisit SEC's power to withhold information under FOIA

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Wednesday cast doubt on the need revisit whether the financial overhaul bill gives the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) too much power to withhold documents under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws.

The language is part of 2,300-page financial bill enacted in July and has come under fire from Republicans and some consumer advocacy organizations for granting too much leeway to the SEC.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on Wednesday scheduled a September hearing, which he said would "provide ample time to take corrective legislation action if it is needed."

Dodd told reporters later on Wednesday that he is not concerned with the way the legislation is currently written.

"I'm really not," he said. "That was a ridiculous charge. I think [SEC Chairwoman] Mary Schapiro answered it effectively."

The law provides some additional powers to the SEC for exemptions and was requested by Schapiro and former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, according to the House Financial Services Committee. The law allows an exemption for documents provided to the commission for "surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities."

Schapiro defended the legislation this week, arguing that it is necessary for the commission to receive documents from companies it regulates without concern that they will necessarily be made public. She said the law does not provide a "blanket" exemption to the commission.

"If you don't get the information how do you ever find out about the fraud and abuse. It's kind of a Catch-22. If you're going to demand essentially that you don't get information or it's not forthcoming, then your ability to do exactly what we want them to do becomes more difficult to do," Dodd said.

Dodd said he is not planning any hearings into the matter.

"If something needed to be done then we can listen and someone can respond to that come January," Dodd said.

Dodd is retiring at the end of this session of Congress.