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[Westwood Capital] Punting On Financial Industry Regulatory Reform


Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, no?

We don’t seem to be laying adequate groundwork for placing a regulatory infrastructure in place that will reduce the odds of repeating another financial market meltdown. Congress had the spotlight turned away from them during the recent Greek/Euro crisis but continues to push the coherent decisions to future study.

My friend and colleague, Daniel Alpert of Westwood Capital [2] lays out all out for us in his position paper on NYT’s Dealbook Blog today: Another View: Punting Financial Reform [3].

Politically, it turns out, the Senate bill owes its surprisingly robust content to its ambiguous scope: 1,566 pages that don’t really address how the landscape of our financial system will look. To move the legislation through the various committees that came together to promulgate it, onto and off of the Senate floor (and ultimately, over the next several weeks, through conference committee to pair it off with an even less specific bill, H. 4173, passed by the House of Representatives in December), both the Senate and House effectively leave most of the heavy lifting to future study and regulation-writing by a host of new and existing regulatory bodies.

My own obsession with a financial reform resolution lies on the laps of the credit rating agencies, the enablers of the debacle that crushed the financial positions of millions of people by placing market share/greed ahead of objectivity/investor protection. Even as an outsider to Wall Street (I’m an appraiser) I could see the disconnect as early as 2004.

The Congressional hearings via C-Span on the role of credit ratings agencies were riveting [4] but the agencies are still doing business nearly as usual and haven’t been hit hard legally, financially and structurally. How can you improve investor confidence when the same agencies with no real modifications, are still placing letters like AAA next to securities?

I draw a lot of parallels with my profession (appraisal) and mortgage brokers. The person ordering the service can’t pick an expert to value the collateral that others rely on if they are paid on the outcome of that advice. Its an insane concept.