Monday, March 26, 2012

Bill Black: The insanity of regulators' race to the bottom

Regular readers know that your humble blogger likes to provide other perspectives on why ultra transparency is needed to shine light into all the opaque corners of the financial system.

A post by Bill Black that appeared on Naked Capitalism looks at what happens when the regulators engaged in an insane race to the bottom.

Mr. Black uses as his example the JOBS Act - an Act that will repeal most of the 1930s disclosure regulations for firms with less than $1 billion in revenue.
The JOBS Act is insane on many levels.  
It creates an extraordinarily criminogenic environment in which securities fraud will become even more out of control.   
One of the forms of insanity is the belief that one can “win” a regulatory “race to the bottom.”  The only winning move is not to play in a regulatory race to the bottom.  
The primary rationale for the JOBS Act is the claim that we must win a regulatory race to the bottom with the City of London by adopting even weaker protections for investors from securities fraud than does the United Kingdom (UK). 
The second form of insanity is that the JOBS Act is being adopted without any consideration of the findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), the national commission to investigate the causes of the current crisis.  I am not aware of any proponent or opponent of the JOBS Act (other than me) who has cited the findings of FCIC.  Everyone involved has ignored the detailed finding of a huge investigative effort.  
The FCIC report explained repeatedly how the three “de’s” (deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization) had produced the criminogenic environment that drove the financial crisis.  
The FCIC report specifically condemned the “regulatory arbitrage” that the worst actors exploited by choosing to be (not very) regulated by the “winners” of the regulatory race to the bottom.  The FCIC report shows repeatedly how damaging the anti-regulatory fervor in general and the race to the bottom in particular proved....

The tenth form of insanity is that the JOBS Act’s primary theme is dramatically reducing transparency in securities law.  
If there is any nearly universal principle that writers about the ongoing global crisis emphasized that we needed to learn it was the exceptional virtue of transparency.  
Greater transparency makes private market discipline possible, it greatly enhances regulatory effectiveness, it discourages fraud, and it aids investors in making decisions.  
The JOBS Act repeatedly embraces opaqueness.  
We have known for millennia that this increases fraud. 
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.   John 3:20 – 1769 Oxford King James Bible ‘Authorized Version

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