Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The 10 Missteps of Financial Reform

From MarketWatch.com:

In hopes to create a new and safer game, Washington has shuffled the deck with which Wall Street plays, but anyone who's gone back to the table after a big loss knows the score.

Same cards, same risks, and the house always wins.

There are a lot of good intentions built into the Dodd-Frank bill. Lawmakers have tried to create standards for mortgage underwriting, preserve and strengthen bank capital and move risky derivative exposure off the balance sheet and into the open.

The banks with the most to lose include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

If you had to boil down the complex bill's main flaw it's that it puts too much emphasis on regulators who have failed in their charged tasks. The Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Reserve -- at least based on their track record -- are short on the kind of man and brain power required to successfully oversee Wall Street risks.

Without trained and well-paid regulators and without closing the revolving door, it's hard to feel hopeful about financial reform, as well-intentioned as it may be. And even with the best intentions, the bill leaves plenty of loopholes to exploit. Here is 1 obvious one:

1. The Volcker Rule. Intended to reduce bank risk, the rule curtails bank participation in proprietary trading, private equity and hedge fund investments -- businesses that arguably were tangential to the financial crisis. Don't believe it? Name one depository institution that teetered due to investments in these businesses.

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