The Blog Of The Securities Industry Professional Association

Regulatory Overhaul??

Today the Treasury Secretary began outlining his vision of a new Regulatory structure to replace the old one. This new system will save us all from another catastrophic meltdown in our financial system and make sure corruption and greed is caught early on. The SIPA response? Yadee Yadee Yadee…

With all due respect, why create a new broke system when we can enjoy the fruits of our old broke system? All the rules in the world are wonderful and make politicians and regulators alike feel like they re protecting investors but at the end of the day  if NOBODY enforces them what’s the difference?

Lets take a step back to our past to see why a ‘New” regulatory system is a waste of time unless there is fundamental changes in the mind set. Years ago I worked in operations for a wire house and would remember Brokers and correspondents running to the back office at 2:05 pm begging to get their mutual fund purchase/sale in. At this firm we required all Mutual fund tickets be in OPERATIONS HANDS by 2:00 pm eastern. Some where around 2003 the after hours mutual fund scandal broke due to the efforts of Elliot Spitzer (not a securities regulator). Billions and Billions were made by firms running tickets at 6, 7, sometimes 10:00 pm. The market closes at 4:00 pm yet for some reason, not one Securities regulator had a problem with a Mutual fund ticket time stamped at 8:00 pm? Since when is 4:00 not 4:00? This illegal and fraudulent behavior occurred for 10+ years yet we had to rely on Spitzer to out it.

Let’s look at the research scandals that also plagued Wall Street. I remember working Compliance and handing out the restricted list of securities the firm was involved with. We would prohibit any buy or sale until the updated recommendation was published. Yet for many years some of the larger firms on the street were putting out fraudulent reports about liking certain stocks while at the same time unloading their positions. They did this for many years yet once again it was the Attorney General who found the crimes. Think about some of the other scams and scandals that plague Wall Street and then ask your self if a new regulatory system would solve the apathy regulators tend to carry toward the elite Wall Street firms.

Now think about this: Lehman brothers , Bear Stearns and several other elite firms were so over weighted down with CDO’s and other toxic assets, yet no securities regulator ever questioned their risk management, their FOCUS reports or anything else. Once again, I draw upon my own previous experience when my examiner let me know during an audit that the firm currently had 12% of its total holdings in ABC stock. They informed me of the potential risk and we began restricting the stock and lowered our exposure. However, for some reason this same regulator sent employees into Lehman, Bear, Goldman and Merrill and saw absolutely no risk with holding billions in toxic assets or did they see the risk and just refused to say something?

Naked shorting of stock then cannot be readily borrowed has always been illegal, yet it wasn’t until last summer when the largest firms on Wall Street were being crushed by shorters that the SEC finally jumped in to enforce Short sale rules. Our Government is not without fault either in this mindset. For instance, the SEC took over Sanford Financial as well as several other small firms and hedge funds in the past year. A receiver was immediately appointed to oversee the day to day operations. Our government announces that AIG is broke and puts hundreds of Billions into the company but didn’t send a receiver be appointed? So now the Government wants to talk tough and take a 90% tax out of greedy bonuses that were given with the Fed Chairman’s consent?

At the end of the day it’s obvious that selective regulation does not work. Yet we have seen no indication of that mind set changing anytime soon. In fact, we fear the scandals can get worse then ever before for one simple reason: The large Elite firms now have ‘can’t fail status” due to tax payer money totaling 2 trillion and counting. Do you really think the Wall Street elite is now concerned that if they screw over investors with bad prints, bad research and inside information that it will have any effect on them? Chew on this for a moment: how are you going to levy a huge fine for future fraudulent behavior of you already have trillions invested in them? Imagine a fine of 100 Million for bad acts against Merrill for some atrocity all the while knowing they have a line of credit with the government and if they did pay, it would delay repayment of the TARP money. A new Regulatory overhaul will change what? Nothing.

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March 30th, 2009



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