After a near-fatal fall, the U.S. financial system has moved from the emergency room to intensive care, where the doctors in Congress, the administration and regulatory agencies are searching for therapies to return the patient to healthy vigor and a new regimen to prevent a deadly relapse from occurring. Legislation that was mired in controversy has recovered momentum and now seems likely to transform corporate treasuries' relationships with commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, investment companies, rating agencies and even shareholders. For better or worse, treasury teams will have to use different tools, negotiate different deals, find different strategies and rerun cost-benefit analyses to stay on top. They face a once-in-a-professional-lifetime challenge.
Fear is widespread that political expediency will push Congress and regulators to overreact. Tom Deas, treasurer and vice president at $3 billion FMC Corp., a Philadelphia-based chemical company, laments that "not one committee or agency or government economist has tried to calculate the cost to end users of their derivatives trading reforms. They haven't attempted a cost-benefit analysis, and we don't think the trade-off is there."