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January 22, 2014

Why Wall Street wants you to think it lost the war over regulation

Talking up your opponent’s skills is a tactic that permeates sports, politics and business. The idea is to lower expectations of your own success so your subsequent victory looks even more spectacular and defeat (if it comes) less demoralizing. There’s no glory in beating up on a weakling.

Thus, the football team warns its fans that its rival shouldn’t be sniffed at; the candidate praises the debating skills of the opponent before facing him lectern-to-lectern; the chief executive downplays profit forecasts just before a quarterly blowout.

A sterling example of the form was delivered the other day by Politico, in an analysis headlined ‘How Washington Beat Wall Street.’ After five years of contention over regulations to rein in risky behavior by big financial firms, the piece declares, “That war is largely over. And Washington won in a blowout.”

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The important question is whether there’s anything in the new regulations that will prevent a recurrence in a different market. That’s doubtful, because the lawmaking and regulating cats are always a few steps behind the Wall Street mice.

Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a Wall Street critic, is quoted in the Politico piece stating that many high-risk activities by banks are ‘at least reduced and often totally gone.’ But he says his quote is taken out of context and that he disagrees with the article’s premise. The truth, he wrote in a rebuttal, is that even though a few things have changed in the financial markets, the bankers are still in the saddle.

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Read full LA Times article here

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