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July 9, 2013

Mark Wetjen- Wall Street Shill or Main Street Hero?

The Onion recently joked that Wall Street is just about ready to ruin the world again. But what is truly terrifying about this headline is how accurate it is. Wall Street has been busy trying to con US regulators into gutting the very reforms meant to prevent a future crisis. What is at stake in this fight is nothing less than future bailouts. And one regulator—Mark Wetjen—will ultimately decide whether or not to endanger Main Street for the benefit of Wall Street.

Following the financial crisis, Congress took pains to ensure that any derivatives trades that could impact the country should adhere to US financial reform rules. This is crucial to prevent history from repeating itself: many of the firms bailed out by taxpayers in 2008 were US firms operating overseas. The most infamous of these was AIG, a company of 116,000 brought to its knees by the trades made by its 377-person office in London. The toxic derivatives done out of the London-based AIG Financial Products unit led to a $182 taxpayer bailout.

To prevent a bailout like AIG from happening again, Congress created new rules to bring more transparency to the derivatives markets. But Wall Street hates transparency, as it encourages competition, pushing profits down. Rather than compete in the new, safer environment, Wall Street wants to do what it has always done—move their riskiest trading to the parts of the world with the most lax rules.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is the regulator tasked with deciding precisely which trades must obey the new US rules. The specifics are hashed out in what is called ‘cross-border guidance’. And there is debate within the agency over just how much leeway Wall Street will get in obeying US rules.

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Read full The Nation article here

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