The Easy Question in Financial Regulation

Many questions in the field of financial regulation are hard to answer:    Would the separation of commercial banking and investment banking help prevent crises?   To what extent should individual consumers be protected against foolishly borrowing too much?  Should Credit Default Swaps be regulated out of existence?    What should regulators do about patterns of high executive compensation that is evidently not a reward for performance?  I have views on these questions, just as other observers do.  But in these cases I see the arguments on both sides.

The question of funding the U.S. financial regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is easy to answer, however.  I do not see the argument for cutting funding of the SEC and CFTC or for the other ways that Republicans in Congress are finding to make it difficult for these agencies to do their jobs.   They are also deliberately impeding two new agencies set up in response to the 2008 financial crisis — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lodged at the Fed, and the Office of Financial Research at the Treasury — from doing their respective jobs.

Bernard Madoff was the most obviously venal of the figures in the financial crisis of the fall of 2008.  There is nothing hard to understand about the swindle he perpetrated, no ambiguities about where the legal line is drawn, no free-market interpretation that anyone uses to justify what he did.  The SEC had been warned over and over again in the years before 2008.   Why did it do nothing?  In large part because it had been given a mandate in effect to regulate as little as possible.

I realize that in the United States, as in every country, we have some regulations that are excessive or undesirable.  But how anyone can think that regulation by the SEC was excessive during 2001-08 and that this contributed to the financial crisis?

That is the irrationality on the Right.   There is an equally irrational point of view on the Left.  It goes like this:  because the head of the CFTC is a former investment banker from Goldman Sachs, it must necessarily be that he is serving the interests of the financial community.  It happens that Gary Gensler is doing a great job, against great odds.   He has been trying to force derivatives trading into clearinghouses with lower counterparty risk, as required by the Dodd-Frank bill, to try to avoid repeats of September 2008.  I can see, when an investment banker is appointed to such a position, asking questions that one would not ask otherwise.  But he has been in office for 2 ½ years, pursuing regulation of derivatives with sufficient vigor to make most of Wall Street angry.  Reading the words “Goldman Sachs” on someone’s resume should not be a substitute for all other thought processes.

This post originally appeared at Jeff Frankel’s Weblog and is posted with permission.

4 Responses to “The Easy Question in Financial Regulation”

Odelia CaverlyNovember 22nd, 2011 at 4:53 pm

There are many interesting things this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There is some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and i want more! Added to FeedBurner as well.

free filesonic premiumNovember 25th, 2011 at 9:40 am

A person necessarily help to make severely posts I’d state. This is the very first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this particular post incredible. Magnificent task!

Mercy QuarantaNovember 26th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

you’re really a good webmaster. The website loading speed is incredible. It seems that you’re doing any unique trick. Furthermore, The contents are masterwork. you have done a great job on this topic!

Most Read | Featured | Popular

Blogger Spotlight

Richard Wood Richard Wood

Richard has published papers on wages policy, the taxation of financial arrangements and macroeconomic issues in Pacific island countries. Views expressed in these articles are his own and may not be shared by his employing agency. He is the author of How to Solve the European Economic Crisis: Challenging orthodoxy and creating new policy paradigms