My friend David at It’s Not a Lecture tipped me off last night that President Obama was going to announce new financial regulatory efforts to help prevent the Wall Street shenanigans that have put us in our current economy and to better protect American consumers.
As someone who spent a bunch of years at the Securities and Exchange Commission, I’m all for trying to find ways to keep the Bernie Madoff’s of the world at bay. But I also know that no matter how much regulation is out there, people like Bernie will still prevail. Why? Because no amount of regulation would have prevented what he did — the Ponzi scheme. Everyone thinks they’re going to get rich quick when people like Madoff come along. Many of his victims didn’t know they were involved because Bernie went through money managers who were supposed to be looking our for their clients.
As for the mortgage industry and the huge corporations like Enron and WorldComm, no amount of government oversight is going to prevent that kind of fraud because greed is one powerful motivator. If people refuse to comply with reporting requirements or keep two separate sets of books to hide what’s really going on, nothing but a whistleblower is going to bring that kind of fraud to light. And big corporations have a LOT of resources to be able to set up ways to get around the regulators and to keep throwing roadblocks in the way of investigations.
Trust me — I’ve experienced it first hand.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m hoping that the Obama administration can change that, though I’m not all that hopeful. Unless and until civil regulatory institutions have the kind of teeth that criminal prosecutors have, fraudulent financial schemes will continue to be born.
No amount of clear disclosure requirements or increased regulation will keep greed from prevailing. If Obama can change human nature, that might be more helpful in keeping fraud and Ponzi schemes from taking our money and wreaking havoc on our economy.