Securities Regulation in the USA: Unending madness

September 14, 2011

In response to my recent lambasting of the Securities and Exchange Commission's ("SEC") Dodd-Frank implementation progress report:

The SEC's Dodd-Frank Fruminous Workstream Implementation Plan for Regulatory Infrastructure ("Street Sweeper", September 13, 2011) 

a number of "Street Sweeper" readers voiced support for my critique.  In fact, some of you recalled an equally tongue-in-cheek 2009 column titled:

SEC, FINRA: New Wine in Old Bottles ("Street Sweeper," October 9, 2009)

Some die-hard fans even remembered an older (now vintage) take from 2006 on much the same bureaucratic nonsense:

New NASD Job Available

Sadly, I just never seem to run out of material. 

NASD has become FINRA, and FINRA now is positioning itself to take on the self regulation of thousands of investment advisers.  And that's, what? - a reward for FINRA's incredibly adept regulation of Bernie Madoff, Alan Stanford, and the rest of the Wall Street crew? 

2006.  2009. And now 2011. From idiotic job titles, to over-the-top puffery of mundane tasks - the more we need efficient and competent regulation, the more we get consultants, cronies, and sycophants. Be it at the SEC or FINRA. Doesn't matter. It's apparently in the regulatory DNA.

On top of all this lunacy, FINRA is actually making a push to be given more responsibility over more individuals and firms, but now in the entirely new sector of Registered Investment Advisors ("RIA").  Having done such a wonderful job fumbling the self regulation of Wall Street's broker-dealer community, FINRA is now claiming to be qualified for the added role of overseeing the RIAs.  Ya gotta love it!

What's even more amazing is that there are politicians who seem to be sidling up to support this expansion of FINRA's powers.  Some purported consumer advocates have also made noises favoring the regulator's jurisdiction grab.  The same toxic mix that got us into this mess: compromised politicians, inept regulators, and starry-eyed consumer advocates.  I guess it's the power of campaign contributions, charities funded by corporate contributions, and the lure of all those cushy seats on those public Boards.

Our imagination has become so sterile that when faced with failed or failing institutions, we insist that the solution is to make them bigger and to give them even more responsibilities to handle.  Too-Big-To-Fail financial institutions are regulated by Too-Big-To-Work public and private regulators. We see it. We know it. But we pretend otherwise.

The madness of Wall Street has taken on a life of its own.