Monday, January 5, 2009

Mixing Regulatory Failures is Wrong

In an effort to come up with a New Year angle, the LA Times calls 2008 the end of the Masters of the Universe era on Wall Street. Fortunately, the fact that the Bonfire went out in March of 2000, nearly 8 years ago does not undermine the real point of the article - Washington needs to fix this mess.

Blaming the Fed for the losses at the investment banks makes no sense, since there is a difference between a bank and an investment bank. A huge difference, not the least of which the identity of the regulator. Banks are regulated by the Federal Reserve. Investment banks are regulated by the SEC and FINRA.

And calling the piece Wall Street Follies when the main point of the article is subprime lending in the housing market, only demonstrates a misunderstanding of our financial system. Banks made those loans, not Wall Street.

Of course, Wall Street repackaged those loans into securities, and this may all be a distinction without a difference. However, pushing the blame onto the wrong entities clouds the enormous nature of our current problem - it was a failure of Treasury, the Fed and the SEC that leads us to where we are, and a failure that lasted for many years.

We find ourselves where we are because of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Paulson, Bernanke, Cox and Bush, so the distinctions probably don't matter. They all failed at their mission.

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