What’s wrong with Wall Street and what should be done about it?
I am trying to figure out the top five (or so) most important corrupt and actionable issues related to the financial system. I’m going to compile this list in order to conduct a “teach-in” at the Occupy Wall Street protest next week. The tentative date is Wednesday, October 12, at 5:30pm.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: please tell me if I’m missing something or got something wrong or left something out.
The list I have so far:
- Investment bankers trading their books and taking outrageous risks which lead to government-backed bailouts because they are “too big to fail”. The related action in the U.S. might be the “Volcker rule” (i.e. reinstating something like Glass-Steagall); unfortunately it’s being watered down as you read this.
- Ratings agencies in collusion with their clients. The actions here would be changing the pay structure of the ratings agencies and opening up the methods, as well as having better regulatory oversight. We also need to change the structure of ratings agencies, and either make it easier to form an agency or make the agencies that already exist and have government protection actually accountable for their “opinions”.
- SEC and other regulators in collusion with the industry. The action here would be to nurture and maintain an adversarial relationship between regulators and bankers. We’ve seen too many people skip from the SEC to the banks they were regulating and then back. There should be rules against this (how about a minimum time requirement of 5 years between jobs on the opposite sides?). There should also be much better funding for the SEC and the other regulators, so they can actually meet their expanded mandate.
- Conflict of interest issues from economists and business school professors. If you’ve seen “Inside Job” then you’ll know all about how professors at various universities use their credentials to back up questionable practices. Moreover, they are often not even required to expose their industry connections when they do expert witnessing or write “academic” papers. The action here would be, at the very least, to force full disclosure for all such appearances and all publications. I’ve heard some good news in this direction but there obviously should be a standard.
- Rampant buying of politicians and influence of lobbyists from the financial industry. This is maybe more of a political problem than a financial one so I’m willing to chuck this off the list. Please tell me if you have something else in mind. Someone has suggested the opaque and elevated pension fund management system. Although I consider that pretty corrupt, I’m not sure it’s as important as other issues to the average person. I’m on the fence.