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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Financial reform--Real or fanciful?

Two articles in the New York Times today point up the need for financial sector reform and the problems doing it.

The first, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, observes that the regulators must have been aware of Lehman's illegal financial deals to hide its financial weakness, since the company made no effort to hide them even as the feds made no mention of the questionable moves in its reporting link here. It is no great leap of logic to conclude that the regulators had no interest in disclosing what amounts to fraud on Lehman's part in hiding its truly precarious financial condition from its creditors and stockholders. One need not exert too much effort to recall that the regulators at the time were appointees of the Bush administration--and then to also observe that many of the same guardians are still on duty.

The second article, by Sewell Chan, reviews the financial reform bill and provides lots of detail about its new provisions, ostensibly to overcome the shortcomings revealed by recent experience link here. However, the drafts remain a confusing array of agencies and responsibilities among them such that there is plenty of room for regulatory arbitrage and little certainty that provisions will be appreciably strengthened in practice. None of this addresses the question of restructuring the banking system so that the big banks are radically reduced in size and the threat that as a group they are "too big to save" in a catastrophe like the one we have just experienced.

So the opportunities for extreme leverage remain, as do the temptations of excessive risk for hugely overpaid bank executives. The probability? Disaster.


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