Yves Smith spells out her strong opinion of our dilemma nationally for the elections of 2012. This particular arena of regulating banks and non banks and and accountability also takes on a wider symbolic meaning in this election cycle. How this plays out in determining national budget spending priorities through the lens of an explosion of money spent on national and state elections makes for a need for voters to pay close attention to actual issues and to gain some knowledge underlying economic understanding…a complicated task for a potentially interested public. We in Mass. have another election to follow closely through Elizabeth Warren, who has a different take on the issues.
Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has a long post worth a visit to read the whole piece…here is a portion:
…So let’s return to the rebranding of Obama. From the Financial Times:
Barack Obama outlined a plan to toughen penalties against banks that commit fraud in a speech on Tuesday that hardened his attacks on Republicans for “collective amnesia” in backing policies that caused the financial crisis and economic downturn.
Speaking in Osawatomie, Kansas, Mr Obama summoned the spirit of another president, Teddy Roosevelt, who spoke in the same city a century ago about his “new nationalism” and the need for a fairer system that supported the middle class..
Mr Obama was scathing about the banks’ opposition to new financial regulations, saying they were only feared by “financial institutions whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers or making risky bets that could damage the entire economy”.
“I’ll be calling for legislation that makes [anti-fraud] penalties count – so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.”
The misdirection is blindingly obvious. The claim is that the Administration needs new tools to get tough on banks. No, it has plenty of tools, starting with Sarbanes Oxley. As we’ve discussed at length in earlier posts, Sarbox was designed to eliminate the CEO and top brass “know nothing” excuse. And the language for civil and criminal charges is parallel, so a prosecutor could file civil charges, and if successful, could then open up a related criminal case. Sarbox required that top executives (which means at least the CEO and CFO) certify the adequacy of internal controls, and for a big financial firm, that has to include risk controls and position valuation. The fact that the Administration didn’t attempt to go after, for instance, AIG on Sarbox is inexcusable. The “investigation” done by Andrew Ross Sorkin in his Too Big To Fail (Willumstad not having a good handle on the cash bleed, the sudden discovery of a $20 billion hole in the securities lending portfolio, the mysterious “unofficial vault” with billions of dollars of securities in file cabinets) all are proof of an organization with seriously deficient controls.
But more broadly, it’s blindingly obvious this Administration has never had the slightest interest in doing anything more serious than posture. As we wrote in early 2010:
Recall how we got here. Early in 2009, the banking industry was on the ropes. Both the stock and the credit default swaps markets said that many of the big players were at serious risk of failure. Commentators debated whether to nationalize Citibank, Bank of America, and other large, floundering institutions..