Government Looks to Strengthen Regulatory Web
As the chart from the Financial Times shows (BELOW), our messy regulatory cobweb system needs to be straightened out, so it can efficiently function. Not only to encourage risk taking and capitalism, but to also deter and punish those that take advantage of the U.S. system and its citizens. The President and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will address the inefficient, entangled set of regulatory issues surrounding the intertwined agencies in our financial regulatory system. With a mix of federal, regional, and state- driven oversight, the current structure leaves potential gaps for rule-breakers to slide through.
As the FT article explains (http://is.gd/13YuS), a “council of regulators,” comprised of the agency heads, will be formed along with another consumer-related agency designed to protect areas such as home mortgages and credit cards. Will new unproductive layers be added to merely bog down risk-taking and innovation (i.e., Sarbanes-Oxley legislation), or will substantive reform occur, thereby allowing businesses to innovate and grow. The proof will be in the pudding when Geithner reveals the details of his plan.
What should regulatory reform include?
1) Consolidation: You can call me crazy, but simply looking at the layers of agencies cries for consolidation. Do we really need six different sets of regulators overseeing the banks?
2) Transparency/Capital Requirement Changes: When it comes to derivatives, heightened transparency and capital requirements feel like moves in the right direction. We have perfectly functioning options and futures markets that integrate margin and capital requirements for the various constituencies; I do not see why Credit Default Swaps should be any different. For more customized, exotic over-the-counter products, you could avoid much of the AIG debacle by increasing the capital requirements of the counterparties. I believe these aims without stifling innovation.
3) FDIC of Mega-Institutions: FDIC insurance has succeeded in managing the failures of retail depository institutions, so I see no reason why the same model for mega financial institutions. Certainly, managing the collapse of a global money center bank would be more convoluted; however a system to handle an orderly failure would limit the fallout effect we experienced with the folding of Lehman and crumbling of Bear Stearns.
Although many lawmakers will hunt for a silver bullet, we all know that in this complex global economy a path for reform will involve more evolution rather than revolution. Most controversial will be the consumer protection agency, as details still remain sparse. In my a healthy regulatory system boils down to more simplified structures with tighter oversight, mixed in with proper incentives and harsher punishments for criminals. We’ll know soon enough whether the government can weave a solution tight enough to capture the Bernie Madoffs and Allen Stanfords of the world without sacrificing our position as the global financial capitol of the world.