Let's Go to the Video: SEC Gamifies Wall Street Regulation During Pandemic And Economic Crisis

June 2, 2022

The other day, the SEC published "SEC Launches Game Show-Themed Public Service Campaign" https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2022-95 This is one of those times when something is so stupid, so asinine, that it's difficult to make fun of it because the inanity speaks for itself. I mean for godsakes, the SEC is launching a game-show themed public service campaign? A game show??  As set forth in part in the SEC Press Release: 

The Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy today unveiled a game show-themed public service campaign to help investors make informed investment decisions and avoid fraud. Recognizing that sometimes investing may look and feel like a game, the campaign titled "Investomania" reminds investors to do their due diligence when making investment decisions.

One of the goals of the Investomania campaign, which features a 30-second TV spot, 15-second informational videos on crypto assets, margin calls, and guaranteed returns, and interactive quizzes, is to reach existing, new, and future investors of all ages. The campaign encourages investors to research investments and get information from trustworthy sources to understand the risks before investing. The campaign also reminds investors to take advantage of the free financial planning tools and information on Investor.gov, the SEC's resource for investor education.

As to the so-called information videos, here's how the SEC Release presents them to us:

A game show host asks two contestants to pick a square on a video game board with investment options including: internet rumors, celebrity endorsements, stock tips from your uncle, crypto to the moon, FOMO, meme stocks, tulip bulbs, guaranteed returns, and timing the market. The video is designed to show investors the consequences of their investment decisions and to help investors understand the importance of protecting themselves when making investment decisions. After the contestants make their choices, the video shows, in a fun and comedic way, the consequences of a good or a bad choice.

15-second videos

Crypto - In the video, a celebrity encourages investors to take their advice and buy crypto-assets. The video is intended to remind investors not to be tempted by celebrity endorsements and to do their own, independent research when making investment decisions.

Easy Money - This video reminds investors that there are no guaranteed financial returns on investments and that every investment - no matter how good it may sound - has a risk.

Margin - This video warns investors that borrowing money to invest can be very risky.

In the midst of the Covid pandemic that has killed over six million people, the SEC thinks that this is a good time to run a game-show-themed antifraud campaign. On top of that, our economy is challenged by rampant inflation and supply chain disruptions, but, hey, why not roll out "Investomania" because, sure, we don't have enough mania in our lives right now. 

Could the SEC have launched a more tone-deaf program? 

Amid all the calls by investor advocates to end the so-called "gamification" of Wall Street, the SEC gamifies Wall Street.

What prompted the outcry by investor advocates against the gamification of Wall Street was the financial devastation caused by meme stock trading and the attractive nuisance of trading platforms that looked like computer games. What prompted outrage was the tragedy of a 20-year-old investor, Alexander E. Kearns, who committed suicide after apparently misunderstanding how the options clearing process worked. And the SEC's response to such heart wrenching stories is a video showing "in a fun and comedic way, the consequences of a good or a bad choice." No matter how often you watch the video, it is neither fun nor comedic. I've watched all of the videos posted in the SEC Release (click on the links above for your own viewing) and, frankly, they're painful to watch and nothing more than generic, non-specific silliness. 

There's nothing funny about being the victim of investment fraud. 

There's nothing comedic about finding that your retirement nest egg has been stolen. 

There are bad guys on Wall Street. Lots of them. The SEC has a job to do. A damn serious and important job. The SEC must target the bad guys. Find them. Charge them. Put them out of business. Sure, that requires a lot of staff and a big budget, but sometimes you just have to manage with what you have -- and that doesn't give you license to divert valuable funding into ridiculous videos. Surely, there is enough serious antifraud work for the SEC to do without the lunacy of a game-show-themed public service campaign. Which makes me wonder just how much money the SEC spent on producing this garbage? Maybe Congress should ask that very question?

Also read: "SEC Director Calls Awkward Football Audible During Wall Street Gamification Bowl" (BrokeAndBroker.com Blog / February 14, 2022)