This guest post was contributed by Bond Girl, a frequent commenter on this site and author of The Bond Tangent, a very good blog on the esoteric but important world of municipal bonds. I invited her to write it after reading her comments on the topic of financial regulation on this post.
In June, the Obama administration released a report outlining various financial regulatory reforms. The proposed reforms are intended to meet five objectives, essentially: (1) to eliminate regulators’ tunnel vision; (2) to regulate certain financial products and market participants that have so far evaded supervision; (3) to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive sales practices; (4) to provide a framework for responding to financial crises and the failure of major financial institutions; and (5) to promote these efforts globally. Much of the subsequent policy debate has been focused on whether or not the reforms detailed in the report address these objectives. This is a political triumph for the administration because it distracts from the report’s one glaring omission – how to address a culture of sustained affinity between the supervisors and the supervised.
The administration’s proposal appears to portray the financial crisis as nothing more than an accident of reasoning. Because financial regulation in our country evolved in a fragmented manner, regulators’ perceptions of risk were determined by their respective niches when a holistic understanding of risk was required to predict a market failure of this magnitude. It logically follows then that the administration’s preference would be to create a meta-regulator (in this case, by extending the powers of the Federal Reserve and establishing an advisory council) to oversee the supervisory project as a whole and seek out system-wide threats.