Reuters set to spotlight financial regulation in DC

April 23, 2010

The fight over new rules that will dramatically change Wall Street and financial markets is approaching the finish line in Washington, with both lawmakers and the financial industry making last-ditch efforts to put their stamp on the reform effort. Reuters will be hearing from the key players in the debate on April 26-29 during the 2010 Reuters Global Financial Regulation Summit.

Top regulators, watchdogs, lawmakers and stakeholders will provide their perspectives on how this landmark legislation will impact banks, investors, traders and consumers. The talks will focus in on proposals for a strong new consumer agency, strict oversight of derivatives and attempts to end the perception that some financial firms are “too big to fail.”

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There are a few questions I have about blaming Wall Street for the financial mess and the need for regulation:

Was not the financial catastrophe caused because lending standards were lowered by banks? Is not the Federal government supposed to oversee these laws so that this doesn’t happen? If lending standards were not lowered there would be no subprime mortgages and securities created based on them would have no problems. By 2008 Fannie and Freddie, which are govt. sponsored enterprises, owned directly or indirectly 5.1 trillion in residential mortgages which is about half of the entire US mortgage market. A big mandate of Fannie and Freddie was to give loans to people who had lower incomes (52% by 2005).

Also, the rating agencies were giving AAA ratings to securities based on these subprime mortgages. Whose job is it to make sure these agencies are doing their job properly? Is it not the govt.?

Based on this did the govt. not create this whole atmosphere of irresponsible lending? How can you blame Wall Street for selling securities based on these mortgages when it was the govt. that was either promoting or looking the other way when millions of these subprime mortgages were being created by banks?

For example: in the 19th century there were a lot of monopolies. Would one say that capitalism is bad because it leads to monopolies or would one say that the govt. needs to create proper laws to deal with this, i.e. anti-trust laws which took care of the problem? Another example: let’s say that the govt. suddenly becomes very lax on enforcing pharmaceutical laws and as a result all kinds of bogus drugs and elixirs come into the market seriously affecting the health of a large number of consumers. Would you say that this is a failure of capitalism or would you blame the govt. for not doing its job?

If the govt. ensures that banks follow proper lending standards and rating agencies don’t give bogus ratings isn’t the problem solved? What is the rest of the regulation all about? After all, there is nothing inherently wrong with securitization of mortgages or with selling credit default swaps that are just insurance for these mortgage based securities.

Does capitalism not work wonderfully if it is encapsulated within the right laws that are enforced properly and create a level playing field? Do you think the govt. is blaming capitalism for its own failures?

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