Maria has led some of the toughest fights to protect consumers from market manipulation on Wall Street. As a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Maria has championed legislation to rein in excessive speculation on Wall Street, shine light on the dark derivatives market, stabilize the price of oil, and reinstate vital financial safeguards from the Glass-Steagall Act.
Maria has spearheaded efforts to protect consumers from excessive Wall Street speculation by bringing transparency to the derivatives markets, which – without oversight or regulation – ballooned to approximately $600 trillion in 2008. During the Wall Street Reform debates, Maria fought to pass legislation that – for the first time – requires oversight and transparency in the dark, over-the-counter derivatives markets that contributed to the financial crisis. Maria’s efforts to pass strong derivatives reform in the financial reform legislation, which passed into law in 2010, brought long overdue transparency to the derivatives markets, and empowered financial regulators to enforce rules against market manipulation and abuse. return to top

Maria has led the charge to restore vital safeguards from the Glass-Steagall Act, which separate commercial and investment banks – protecting money, customer deposits and small business loans from being exposed to massive risks on Wall Street.

Originally established after the Great Depression, Glass- Steagall helped preserve the integrity of the financial system for decades by maintaining a clear separation between investment banks and commercial banks. The repeal of Glass-Steagall erased that division, and the combined activities of investment and commercial banks enabled Wall Street to use other people’s federally-insured life-savings as collateral for risky investments.

Maria has continually spearheaded efforts to restore Glass Steagall’s safeguards so commercial banks invest on Main Street rather than on Wall Street. Maria championed bipartisan legislation in 2010, which she also fought to pass the previous year, that would have reestablished the wall separating commercial and investment banks.

“Banks need to be lending to small businesses and homeowners, not fueling risky Wall Street investment schemes,” Maria said, urging her colleagues to support her legislation in 2009. “We must return stability, security and confidence to commercial banking for the American public.”

Over the years, commercial banks, investment houses and insurance companies have folded into financial institutions so large that their investments put the economy at risk. The financial crisis of 2008 showed that when major financial firms take on more risk than they can afford, the whole economy absorbs the loss of their failed investments. This freezes lending capital in banks and prevents small businesses on Main Street from creating jobs. Restoring Glass-Steagall would rein in Wall Street, bringing stability to commercial banking and protecting the life-savings of millions of Americans.

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In 2010, Maria championed the passage of legislation to prevent speculators from manipulating the derivatives market. Maria’s law strengthened the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) authority to investigate, prosecute and deter manipulative schemes in derivatives, including in the oil market. Before this law, the CFTC had successfully prosecuted only one manipulation case in the last 35 years. 

“I particularly thank Senator Maria Cantwell for her leadership on the anti-fraud and anti-manipulation provisions,” said CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton in a prepared statement. “Without Senator Cantwell these provisions wouldn’t exist.”

Maria also helped lead the fight to put limits on the size of transactions a company could make in the oil market. This tool enables the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to help stabilize the oil market and the price of oil. Without meaningful position limits, speculators can acquire too large a number of oil futures, causing volatility in the price of oil, which consumers pay for at the pump.

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Maria championed bipartisan legislation that toughened penalties for gas price manipulation and gave the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expanded authority to monitor the oil market. Maria shepherded her legislation into law in December 2007, after successfully urging the FTC to investigate gas price gouging earlier that year. Maria also pushed for similar legislation previously in order to make gas price gouging a federal crime.

“[Maria’s law] will allow us to crack down on fraud and manipulation that can drive up prices at the pump,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “We will police the oil markets – and if we find companies that are manipulating the markets, we will go after them.”

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