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Notes to myself, possibly of interest to others.
-- Bill Northlich

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barry Ritholtz, "And now on to financial reform", 3/22.  What to do:

1. The Ratings Agencies: The prime enablers of the crisis, their pay-for-play business model is a debacle. Their status as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization (NRSRO) should be stripped, and the space opened up for real competition.
2. Derivatives Must Be Regulated like all Financial Products: Put derivatives on exchanges; require counter-party disclosure and transparent open interest reporting. Capital requirements for trading is needed — and like other insurance products, there should be reserves for losses; Lastly, we should repeal the CFMA.
3. Regulate Non Banks lenders like Banks:  The unregulated non-bank lenders were at the heart of this crisis. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a depository institution, if you loan money, you must be regulated like any other bank PERIOD.
4. Reinstate Net Cap Leverage Rules:  Over turn the SEC Bear Stearns exemption via Congress. Reinstate the former 12-to-1 leverage rules.
5. Eliminate Too Big To Fail:  Nixon Treasury Secretary George Shultz famously said “If they are too big to fail, make them smaller.”  Put caps on percentage of total US assets allowed. I suggest 1%. Break up insolvent, incompetent megabanks — like Citi and Bank of America. And I would carve up JPM as well. Separate the Depository Banks from the investing houses. (restoring Glass-Steagall will do that).
6. Do not give the Federal Reserve MORE Authority:  The Fed should focus on monetary policy. They can work closely with whoever is ultimately the bank regulator — but I do not believe having them be be the prime over seer of banks can work.
7. Stop Regulatory Forum Shopping:  The alphabet soup of various bank regulators OTS, FDIC, OCC, etc. should be replaced with one regulator. The FDIC is the only office that did a good job this entire crisis, put all regulatory responsibility under Sheila Bair’s office.
8. Overhaul the SEC:  They need to have numerous improvements: Start by making them less of a law firm and more of a finance shop. Expand the hotline/whistleblower division, offer bounties for discovering and reporting fraud. Add a quantitative division to look for issues mathematically.
9. Reform Compensation:  The system of privatized gains, socialized losses must be thwarted. Exec compensation is totally disconnected from their performance. Major overhaul from shareholders is needed. Require custodians — Mutual funds, pension plans, etc. — to vote their holdings (shares) as a fiduciary.

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