Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sean-Paul Kelley: What Might Real Financial Reform Look Like?

Sean-Paul Kelley at The Agonist is one of the brightest people I know and one of the things I love about him as a blogger is that he never shoots his mouth off unless he knows what he's talking about. He had a great piece up yesterday that talked about the Wall-Street mess and, based on his experience having worked in that business, what can be done to bring true reform -- and not the kind of "reform" faked by the McCain-Palin ticket.

An excerpt:
Another key reason for this is that all of them need to relearn the idea of "fiduciary responsibility." When I was an asset manager I was on the hook if I accepted 'little grannies' order for writing 1000 call options on her deceased husband's Exxon stock. If it was not in her interest I couldn't take the order. And believe me, this happened more than you think. And I lost a lot of clients because of it. (Of course, there were also guys who didn't care, but they usually washed out of the business quickly enough.)

Fourth: executive compensation and clawback provisions. It is simply obscene that Lehman Brother's filed for bankruptcy but in those proceedings their executives were allotted $2.5 billion in bonuses. Are you fucking kidding me? (You didn't know this had happened did you? Well, it is true.) They should disgorge every last penny possible from Fuld, the former CEO. And they've already found a work-around for the executive compensation limits Congress enacted, in case you were curious. Who would enforce these provision? Well, one would hope the Justice Department would, although it's probably been FEMAfied to the point of emasculation.

Fifth: enforce anti-trust laws. If it is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. I repeat: if it is too big to fail, it is too big to exist!

Enforce anti-trust. Break up Wal-Mart, the media conglomerates, the mega-banks, the mega-retailers, Microsoft and quite possibly Google. ATT? You bet. Other phone and cable companies? Oh yeah. We're not a national-socialist state, but we're getting there. Let's have real competition in key markets! No more duopolies (like Wal-Mart and Costco) or the cable companies, or the phone companies. Remember how prices for telecommunications fell through the floor in the eighties and early nineties because there were 7 or 8 good telecom companies? Enforce anti-trust laws so we have real competition. The laws are already on the books and this is not anti-capitalist. Just ask Teddy Roosevelt!
You may have to read this twice to absorb every one of the ideas Sean-Paul puts forth but, in addition to being a great read from a solutions perspective, it will also help clear up confusion you may have about how (technically) we got here in the first place.

Please go to The Agonist to read more.