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Posts Tagged ‘Mary Schapiro and Wall Street’

A Real Regulatory Review: Sense on Cents Interview with Bill Singer

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 15th, 2009 1:35 PM |

I feel so strongly about my interview last evening with Bill Singer, the preeminent veteran Wall Street regulatory lawyer and market reform advocate, that I am providing a transcript of highlights. My transcription is not totally word for word, so at the end of this post I will provide a BlogTalkRadio audio player so that you can playback the complete interview.

As time allows, I sincerely hope you read the entirety of this transcript and will listen to the complete interview. In my opinion, the issues addressed are that important. You will not be disappointed.

Given Bill’s extensive experience and relationships, he is uniquely positioned to comment on these timely and cutting edge issues. And now, on to the transcript . . .

Sense on Cents: Bill, we have just gone through a tsunami of epic proportions. Our financial industry brought our nation to its knees. We now get the sense that the regulatory oversight of our financial industry may not truly change. What are your feelings about that?

Bill Singer: I think you are right on point. My greatest fear is at the end of the day, we all go back to square one. It’s like asking for a mulligan in golf. People’s lives have been shattered and businesses destroyed. If you listen to the ‘garbage’ coming out of Washington, it’s as if the solutions are the same old things. We’ll set up panels, write papers, but what will really change?  I don’t know what planet these people are living on, but last I looked, we haven’t gotten out of this crisis. We owe the next generation a much better regulatory system and a much fairer market. You just get this overwhelming sense that the ‘fix is in.’

Wall Street is wiping their brow and sweat and saying “whew, that was a close one.” It’s as if Wall street is telling Washington, “You’re still with us, aren’t you? We’re still paying for your campaigns.” I’m just afraid that nothing will really change other than some cosmetic changes.

Sense on Cents: I hope some real statesmen step up to address these issues. Since I’ve been writing, I believe we always get into the sufficiency of regulations. Which regulations need to be improved and which should be wiped away. I strongly believe, first and foremost, any industry has to have transparency and integrity in its process. As you just mentioned, it seems as if the ‘fix is in.’

Bill Singer: Larry, I’ve been reading your columns for quite some time now. This is not the time for anybody to be blowing smoke up anybody’s “you know what.”  We have a career cast of politicians and regulators who by and large have never really worked for a living and who don’t really have a sense of what the ‘everyday Joe’ goes through. What we need right now is new ideas, new blood. You can’t break into the system. If you have been one of the individuals who has been warning about the major issues for years, you’d think that you would be invited in to ask to contribute ideas to fix them. That never happens. Those folks who regulate us are a very closed society. We have a system in our country that feeds cronyism and there is no way out of it.

I have reached out repeatedly over the years to regulatory bodies and as a 30 year veteran, and a former regulator, if I can’t even get an interview (and I’m not saying I would even want the job; they probably couldn’t afford me), that tells me how corrupt the system is.

When the public reads about Harry Markopolos and Gary Aguirre who have tried to expose issues and they aren’t embraced, that speaks volumes. Regulation has been “in bed” with Wall Street for very long. We need a vibrant and intelligent regulatory system to protect the public against fraud and the industry against its own folly. (more…)

How Courageous Is Mary Schapiro?

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 4th, 2009 11:57 AM |

mary-schapiroDoes SEC chair Mary Schapiro have the personal courage to lead a new and emboldened financial regulatory regime?

Ms. Schapiro has always been viewed as being far too cozy with the financial industry. Sense on Cents first crossed paths with current SEC chair Mary Schapiro this past January at the time of her exceptionally easy confirmation hearing.  At that point and since, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and others have weighed in that Ms. Schapiro is “no regulatory heavyweight.”

Let’s check back and see if Ms. Schapiro is breaking off the Wall Street shackles. The Washington Post does us the favor of reporting this morning, SEC Chief Strives to Rebuild Regulator:

Schapiro is working to step up enforcement efforts, pushing cases linked to the financial crisis and freeing investigators to more vigorously pursue financial wrongdoing. She is also pursuing regulations to govern hedge funds, derivatives, short-selling, money managers, corporate disclosures and governance.

I am heartened by Ms. Schapiro’s aggressive posture. That said, I am not about to accept purely on face value that Ms. Schapiro is “changing her game.”

On the heels of the financial fiasco on Wall Street, there is doubtless lots to clean up. However, Ms. Schapiro has to appreciate that many question her courage in taking on this task. Why? Very simply, her track record as head of Finra saw an unprecedented drop in sanctions and fines. As the WSJ highlighted this past January:

Fines collected and sanctions assessed by Finra under Ms. Schapiro’s leadership dropped by 73% (in 2005, prior to Ms. Schapiro assuming leadership, Finra collected $150 million in fines. In 2006, Schapiro assumed the leadership reins and that number moved to $75mm. It dropped further to $50mm in 2007, and $35-40mm in 2008).

Against that backdrop, Ms. Schapiro has a lot of work to do to change her own image along with that of the SEC. The WaPo reports that Schapiro is aware of this fact. Schapiro states as much:

“I wanted to be very clear almost from my first day — not just with words, which are pretty easy to string together, but with actions — that this is a new SEC that is moving in a decidedly different direction and at a decidedly different pace,”

Additionally, Schapiro comments,

“Our markets are vulnerable if we’re not able to restore confidence,” Schapiro said. What investors “need to see is that the rules that are in place and will be in the future are enforced and aggressively enforced. If they don’t see that, their reluctance to engage the capital markets will be pretty significant.”

The media continues to rail on Schapiro, the SEC, and Finra for having missed the Madoff scam. Those protests are totally justified. It has been almost 7 months since Bernie turned himself in to authorities and little progress is provided to the public on the investigation.

In my opinion, though, Ms. Schapiro has other dirty laundry that needs a full and public airing.

The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn along with the SEC are currently investigating former executives from Lehman for potentially front running the Auction Rate Securities market in 2007. I call upon Ms. Schapiro to release information regarding Finra’s liquidation of its own Auction Rate Securities holdings in the same time period. Full details on this story are included in U.S. Attorney and SEC Investigate Lehman’s Auction Rate Securities Sales; They Should Also Investigate FINRA’s.

Ms. Schapiro may have to recuse herself in the process of a full and thorough investigation of Finra and its ARS sale. As with any real leader, if she has absolutely nothing to hide, then she should have no problem recusing herself. As she herself said, “our markets are vulnerable if we’re not able to restore confidence.”

Does Ms. Schapiro have the courage to investigate Finra and her own tenure in an attempt to restore that confidence?

LD






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