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May 17, 2013

Wall Street's Laughable Spin

It is just laughable what Wall Street will say and spin when fighting financial reform and defending the indefensible.  Two examples from just the last two days illustrate this.

Yesterday the CFTC finalized four rules.  We fought to make them stronger to increase transparency and competition while reducing the risk of bank failures and, most importantly, more bank bailouts funded by taxpayers.  

Wall Street and its allies fought to make the rules as weak as possible.  They are, after all, trying to protect their oligopoly:  4 of Wall Street’s biggest too-big-to-fail banks control 93% of the derivatives markets.  Transparency, competition, regulation and a level playing field are their enemies.  When you have 93% of a market, in large part due to no transparency or regulation, the last thing you want is competition cutting into your markets share, bloated profits and even more bloated bonuses.  

As we said, the rules had some important and valuable parts to them, but they also had needless weaknesses embedded in them by Wall Street and its allies.  No matter.  Wall Street still complained about the rules.  

SIFMA is one of Wall Street’s biggest lobby organizations and it’s acting President was quoted by PoliticoPro (sorry, behind their paywall) as saying of one of the CFTC rules: “Restricting an institution’s ability to manage risk will discourage responsible capital management, limit job creation and dampen economic growth.”  

George Orwell could not have said it better.  Wall Street and the other too big to fail firms demonstrated clearly to the American people that they have little if any “ability to manage risk” or conduct “responsible capital management” — they caused the biggest global financial collapse since the Great Crash of 1929 because they either had no risk management or it failed totally. 

Also, their unregulated gambling brought on the worst economy since the Great Depression of the 1930s which has killed “job creation” and “economic growth.”  That is going to cost the US more than $12.8 trillion.  Financial reform and the rules implementing it aren’t causing any of these terrible things; Wall Street caused them;  the law and the rules are trying to prevent them from doing it again.  That’s what they are fighting against and that’s what the fight for financial reform is all about.

Here’s another laughable comment quoted in an excellent New York Times article by one of Wall Street’s many hired guns, this time a lawyer, arguing against a provision of one of the rules:

“If someone told me I needed to shop five different places for a pair of jeans, I don’t see how that would help me,” said Gabriel D. Rosenberg, a lawyer at Davis Polk, which represents Sifma and the banks.”

It wouldn’t help you if you were a big Wall Street bank trying to prevent competition and protect your profits.  But, it would be fabulous if you were a customer because, having five or more banks compete openly for your business, will allow you to shop around and get the best product at the best price.  (And, because the markets are electronic, you can do all this “shopping” from the convenience of your desk without moving anything other than a finger or two.)

Transparency, fairness, competition, a level playing field and no unfair advantage for Wall Street’s too big to fail banks is what the fight is about, spin notwithstanding. 

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