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The Empire Strikes Back

On December 2, 2011, two of Wall Street’s top lobby groups launched an assault on a newly reinstated “position limits” regulation, which aims to curb speculation in commodity futures markets–and a key factor behind rising food prices–in the first ever case brought against the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC).

The two lobby groups, the Security Industry and Financial Markets Association and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association have challenged the extremely controversial position limits rule, which the CFTC passed in a narrow 3-2 vote this October. Wall Street has recruited the lawfirm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, whose lawyers Miguel Estrada (among Bush’s counsel in Bush v. Gore) and Eugene Scalia (who overturned a Securities and Exchange Commission rule earlier this year) are determined to hold the scepter of market regulation at bay.

The rule caps the total future interest of a given commodity (such as wheat, corn, soy, etc.) a market participant can hold, aimed at preventing “excessive speculation” in those markets. Position limit supporters argue that their absence in recent years has led to price volatility and price spikes, such as the 2008 food crisis that plunged millions of the world’s most vulnerable people deeper into abject poverty, and rising oil prices which in turn drive up the price of food. Read more