This economy is not working for most Americans. The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the longest run since the Great Depression.
When elites are held in check, typically by effective legal mechanisms, everyone else in society does much better and sustained economic growth becomes possible. But powerful people - kings, barons, industrialists, bankers - work long and hard to relax the constraints on their actions. And when they succeed, the effects are not just redistribution toward themselves but also an undermining of economic growth and often a tearing at the fabric of society. (“Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.)
U.S. corporations and investors alike entrust federal banking and market regulators to not only safeguard their investments, but also to maintain trust and confidence in fair and equitable capital markets.
The private sector can create jobs faster than the government with efficient access to capital, but the government must ensure capital markets are worthy of the public's trust. The fact is, Americans no longer trust Wall Street.
Law firm Labaton Sucharow LLP recently polled 500 financial service professionals and found that 24 percent of them believe that engaging in "unethical or illegal conduct" is necessary to succeed in finance, while 26 percent copped to having firsthand knowledge of shady dealings in their own workplaces.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) promotes it’s vision on its website as, “the SEC strives to promote a market environment that is worthy of the public’s trust and characterized by transparency and integrity.”
SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar recently wrote, “According to a recent survey, only 15% of Americans trust the stock market. Investors continued to withdraw cash from U.S. equity funds in 2011, continuing a trend that has seen a total outflow of a half a trillion dollars from domestic equity funds since 2006.”
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing in May, by her own admission, Mary Schapiro, Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), stated that the Commission is “outgunned” by Wall Street.
Congress must take immediate and decisive action to measure the effectiveness of federal banking and market regulators at enforcing fair and equitable capital markets that is essential for companies and investors to deploy their cash to create more jobs here in the U.S.
Here are some examples of Wall Street behaving badly...
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Politicians in both London and Washington are questioning whether regulators allowed banks to report false rates in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis and afterward. Recently, British bank Barclays agreed to pay $450 million for improperly influencing key interest rates to deflect concerns about its health and bolster profits.
The Barclays settlement is the first action stemming from a broad investigation into how banks set key benchmarks, including the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. The pricing of $350 trillion (that's a "T" for Trillion) of financial products, including credit cards, mortgages and student loans, is pegged to Libor and other such rates.
Authorities around the world are now considering action against more than 10 big banks, including UBS, JPMorgan and Citigroup.
JPMorgan Chase took risks that were inappropriate for a federally insured depository institution. The mega bank was involved in exactly the same kind of activity that bankrupted Lehman; nearly bankrupted AIG; cost taxpayers billions of dollars in bailouts; and, pushed the U.S. and the rest of the world into a recession.
Mega banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America operate with the implicit backing of the United States government – primarily in the form of actual and potential access to borrowing from the Federal Reserve, with the implication that the Treasury could also provide support. Being effectively backed by the full faith and credit of the government lowers a bank’s financing costs because it reduces the risk to creditors. Mega banks in the American economy are effectively government-sponsored (and subsidized) enterprises.
By his own admission, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon testified at a U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing in June that the Dodd-Frank law has not solved problems facing Wall Street, but instead has created a confusing new regulatory system for banks. “What we set up is a system with more and more regulators. We don’t actually know who has jurisdiction over many of the issues we are dealing with anymore. I would prefer a simple, clean, strong regulatory system, with real intelligent design, but that's not what we did.”
The excitement surrounding Facebook's initial public offering was enough for Alex Tsesis, a law professor, to give the stock market one more try. But after the company’s stock encountered technical problems then sputtered for three days, he sold his few hundred shares for a $2,200 loss and vowed to end his equity gambles for good. A Gallup poll shows the portion of Americans invested in the stock market dropped this year to its lowest level, 53 percent, compared with a high of 67 percent in 2002 and 65 percent in 2007.
Just before the collapse of MF Global, CEO John Corzine lobbied the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), suggesting that he knew better than regulators on how to place “bets” in the capital markets. Just a few months later, MF Global collapsed, and used more than $1 billion in customer funds to cover their losses.