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Chris Dodd's wife and derivatives trading

March 19, 2010 |  2:14 pm

In the middle of a blog item about credit default swaps, Felix Salmon of Reuters drops the following nugget  about Sen. Chris Dodd and the CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"Dodd’s wife, Jackie Clegg, is a director of the CME, which paid her $153,219 in 2009; she also owns shares in the company worth about $235,000. (The CME makes no mention of her husband on its website  or in its SEC filings, despite the fact that he’s surely a big part of the reason why she has the position.)"

Why is this notable?

Because Dodd, as the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is leading a charge to pass legislation from which the CME Group would likely benefit greatly. The CME Group's two exchanges in New York and Chicago are among the leading exchanges for derivatives in the world. Currently, manyDodd derivatives are traded over the counter – not on any exchange – but the legislation recently introduced by Dodd seeks to change that and put more trades onto exchanges like those owned by the CME Group. This is anticipated to be a boon for the company. 

The move to put derivatives on exchanges is something that has widespread support in the House of Representatives and the Obama administration, but what about the connection between Dodd and one of the major beneficiaries of this potential reform?  

Well, it turns out that Dodd's wife has made a business of being on corporate boards, and last year, before the current financial reform legislation was proposed, the Hartford Courant described how she decides which assignments to take:

“She's turned down board seats that pay more but could entangle her in issues her husband works on. She's hired an ethics lawyer to screen out corporations that might have business before her husband.”

The CME, though, would certainly seem to have business before Dodd. The CME’s code of ethics would also seem to touch upon situations like this:

"Conflicts of interest may also arise when a director, or members of his or her family, or an organization with which he or she is affiliated receives an improper personal benefit as a result of his or her position as a director of CME Group. Certain situations are so likely to create the appearance of a conflict of interest that they must be avoided."

Press officers at the CME did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Dodd, said, "Jackie Clegg's work on this Board does not affect Chairman Dodd's work on the Committee and vice versa." 

--Nathaniel Popper

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