Sitting and fuming while watching the politicos and bankers

February 11, 2009

I'm sitting in front of the television today, listening to the House Financial Services Committee hearing--and not sure who I find more naive and more annoying.  For years I have argued against the destruction of the independent/regional financial services community as part of what I saw as an overall strategy to further the development of international financial supermarkets and national firms.  Frankly, I was (as I always am) blunt about it.   I stated in stark terms that I believed the Wall Street regulatory community had a secret agenda to favor the big boys.

Why do I believe this was a policy?  For one, year after year it became increasingly onerous for smaller financial firms to expand; but, at the same time, their larger competitors seemed to find their expansion needs accelerated.  Similarly, what should have been disinterested, neutral regulators seemed to have been co-opted over and over again to come down harder on the small fry. 

Why did this happen? Well, there are many fathers to that answer. One, larger firms pay greater salaries and regulators may well have been dazzled by their job prospects at the humongous financial firms seeking to grow even larger.  Two, larger firms contributed massive amounts to politicians with gaping pockets and lawmaking for sale.  The conflicts of interest were disgraceful.

And so today I sit and fume.  The banks would have us believe that a train appeared out of nowhere and ran them over. No one saw anything in time to do anything about it. The persistent congressional questioners would have us believe that they are shocked to learn that large, national organizations don't provide the touchy-feely service that smaller, indie/regional firms did-- did, that is, before regulation and laws drove them out of business. 

So here we now stand.  Seeking answers from folks who were clueless and driven by unrestrained aggrandizement.  Hoping for questions from folks who should have pulled the reins and stepped on the brakes as regulators and lawmakers.