It’s Not Just the $50.0 Billion

In the continuing story of excess greed on the part of a few bad apples on Wall Street, the story isn’t just the estimated $50.0 billion in losses, but also the complete breakdown of oversight by regulators.

 The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) own Chairman, Christopher Cox, came out with a scathing assessment of his own agency and its failure to investigate Bernard Madoff, the alleged architect of the $50.0-billion investor Ponzi scheme, properly. Despite being made aware on a number of occasions of suspected wrongdoing by this so-called money manager, the Chairman blamed the SEC’s staff attorneys for not properly investigating this guy.

I guess this is just another black eye for the entire financial industry and its lack of discipline to play by the rules. Like the derivatives business, this is just another example of good intentions gone awry. We really need to rethink how the financial industry does business and how we enforce fair play for all market participants. We’ve had the shake-up on the sell side of Wall Street and now we need it for the rest of the business. Everything eventually comes out in a bear market.

 For the most part, public companies have been playing by the rules. Since the WorldCom and Enron debacles, companies listed on a stock exchange have had to spend a lot more time and money complying with the enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Now its time for new rules for the financial industry — those that are in the business of creating, distributing and managing money.

I remember when the aptly named Long-term Capital Management hedge fund collapsed and former Fed Chairman Greenspan had to intervene to get a bailout of this hedge fund so that the entire financial market didn’t collapse. If we don’t get new rules and new oversight for the managing of leverage and large pools of capital, we are going to get a total breakdown of capital markets in the future.

 Now is the time to address these issues. Now is the time for the financial industry to step up to the plate. The good news right now is that the bank takeovers of what’s left of the investment banking industry on Wall Street will go a long way to bringing morestability to the system. There remains, however, a lot more work to be done.