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Is Washington Enacting Financial Regulatory Reform or Merely ‘Studying’ It?

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 8, 2010 1:27 PM |

How often have you experienced a situation in which somebody tries to project an air of leadership while truly dodging an issue? In the course of my career, I have witnessed this reality all too often. When and why does this occur? Typically, managers who are weak and overly political play this card. Washington plays this game all the time. The Obama administration has made an art of forming committees to study issues.

Our ‘so called’ leaders would like to project themselves as real leaders doing the people’s business, meanwhile they are beholden to other constituencies. God forbid they actually take a stand and show their true mettle. So we witness our politicians agreeing to ‘study’ issues, which is more often the equivalent of putting issues on the back burner or letting them die on the vine. Who wins? Lobbyists. Who loses? Average Americans. Who tries to save face? Our political cowards.

This charade is being played at historic levels in the midst of trying to pass comprehensive financial regulatory reform. I have always believed that the critical components within financial regulatory reform revolve around increased transparency and integrity more than sufficiency. Regrettably, the terms ‘transparency’ and ‘integrity’ are not typically synonymous with Washington.

Just how many studies will Washington undertake under the umbrella of financial regulatory reform? Are you sitting down? As CNN reported the other day, Congress Fixes Wall Street–and Orders Up 68 Studies:

In Washington, there’s a code phrase for the middle ground that lawmakers find after a torrent of industry lobbying or partisan debate: “Let’s do a study.”

The Wall Street reform bill may be the most extreme example: The legislation, which could become law later this month, orders government officials to conduct some 68 studies, according to a CNN Money analysis.

Instead of toughening up ethical and marketing standards for financial planners, Congress studies the issue in the financial overhaul bill. Instead of making it easier to sue lawyers, accountants and bankers who help commit securities fraud, Congress studies the issue.

There are obviously times when studies are appropriate, but when timelines and deadlines for the completion of the study are not established, who will truly prepare for the test, which is the vote. In my opinion, studies are nothing more than political gridlock utilized by gutless politicians.

Congressional veterans who watch financial legislation say they can’t remember a banking bill that commissioned more studies. Former Republican Senate Banking staffer Mark Calabria said the large number of studies reflects the wrangling strategy, chasing 60 Senate votes needed to get the bill passed.

“Studies help provide sufficient cover to sometimes gain a vote,” said Calabria, who directs financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Not exactly the virtues embraced by Sense on Cents. Self-interested politicians commissioning studies for political cover are a large part of the problem in America and why Congress has such abysmal approval ratings.

No need to study that.


  • Shark

    Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the time off will allow them to prepare and dare I say possibly attempt to know a little more about what they are trying to reform. Last time they took a stab at Goldman they looked like idiots.

  • ourdad1

    Ditto Shark + this is not the right administration to look, debate, and especially pass anything. They won’t fix the problem. But they will expand the Gov’t by using the problem.

  • coe

    LD – Ronald Reagan often warned of the many dangers related to the growth in government spending and the resulting hazards that attacked the core of the American spirit, moral compass and economy by the misguided notion that bigger government was a good thing. His vision seems to be diametrically opposed to that of the present Administration and Congressional majority – and, if the polls are capturing the trend line correctly, the American people are getting sick and tired of the direction this President is committed to in his righteous arrogance. So now turn to FinReg…the complexities found in all corners of this bill are enormous, the implications staggering, and at the end of the day, does it even remotely adequately address the cornerstone objectives of dealing with “too big to fail”, systemic risk, derivative leverage, regulatory improvements, among other key elements – if the bill were a test, at best the grade would be “D” but more likely garner an “F” when all is said and done…truth is, we have to give it an “I” as in “incomplete” (or even “insane” or “incomprehensible”), and wait for the results of these many absurd studies and the follow-on rule-making developments. One only has to look at similar work done throughout time by Congress – e.g. the Clinton health care study group, the Financial Crisis commission, and/or even the farce of the bank stress test studies to permit some cynicism to creep in…
    It is clearly part of the political process and the kabuki theater of bill passage, and maybe some good will come of it, but let’s not hold our breath…

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