Senate Dems press court to reverse ruling on speculation caps

Nineteen Senate Democrats are urging a federal appeals court to reverse a decision they say endangers a federal effort to limit market speculation and keep gas prices in check.

The 2012 federal district court ruling essentially invalidates proposed federal regulations limiting speculation on 28 commodities, including crude oil; natural gas; and gasoline.

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Rampant speculation on those commodities has led to higher prices for consumers and businesses, the lawmakers argue.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, enacted in 2010, requires the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to impose the new limits meant to tamp down on excessive speculation. But last year’s ruling blocked the CTFC from finalizing the rule. The ruling followed a challenge from the financial industry, which argued that Dodd-Frank is ambiguous on the subject.

Led by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the senators filed a brief this week asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to overturn the lower court.

"Three years ago, Congress took action to clamp down on excessive speculation driving energy, metal and food prices by imposing mandatory trading limits on speculators,” Levin said in a statement. “Those measures have never taken effect due to industry legal challenges while roller coaster prices have continued to plague our economy.”

The 42-page amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief seeks to clarify Congress’ intentions.

“Dodd-Frank was designed and intended to make position limits mandatory,” a section of the brief reads, noting that the provision was based on seven years of Senate investigations into the effects of market speculation.

The other senators who signed the brief were: Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).