The U.S.'s Financial Reform bill is over 2,000 pages. It includes exemptions and lots of opportunities to create loopholes. Behavior that caused our ongoing global financial crisis is guaranteed to continue, if we don't have swift and effective deterrents.
Saucier asserts that if you are making money on Wall Street--or at a hedge fund--there is no law, except the unwritten law: Don't get caught.
Financial institutions used extensive legal resources to "technically" comply with the law. (In many cases, laws were broken, but this interview is not addressing those cases of illegal conduct.)
Saucier explains that labeling a financial institution "obscene" is an effective social deterrent. U.S. citizens have the right to own property and to make money. We also enjoy freedom of speech, up to a point. The Supreme Court stated that when "art" becomes obscene--and the court worked hard to define what is meant by "obscene"--it is no longer considered art and does not enjoy the protection of freedom of speech.
The most highly compensated players in finance are hedge fund managers earning $1 billion to $4 billion per year. Saucier says that when you see someone making money--billions of dollars a year in bonuses by exploiting the subprime crisis--then one can take the view that part of the remuneration is obscene. The same can be said for many bank CEOs, who may earn somewhat less economic compensation, but enjoy countless valuable perks.
Banks enjoy taxpayer-funded benefits including tens of billions of bailouts and ongoing funding subsidies. For example, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley receive taxpayer subsidized funding by virtue of their new post-crisis ability to borrow from the Fed. Taxpayers may decide that just as we don't wish to fund obscenity posing as "art," we don't wish to subsidize "finance" that is simply obscenity.
Mr. Saucier puts it this way:
"They are committing acts of obscenity...They are morally bankrupting society...It's obscene like kiddie porn is obscene...On the financial front that's what [corrupt financiers are] guilty of."
Financial firms pay a lot to circumvent laws, and they are more aggressive and faster than our ability to legislate.
Max Keiser notes that if a firm is branded with an obscenity label, it would be a moral deterrent:
"In the arts, if you are labeled as obscene, your access to prime time major network is cut... It could be a huge deterrent, because then the obscenity risk...would have to be discounted in the share price. Goldman Sachs's was up to $200 and is down to $130 because of the [unstated] obscenity risk."
The discussion begins at 13:00 on this July 6, 2010 edition of The Keiser Report:
Janet Tavakoli's book on the causes of the global financial meltdown and how to fix it is Dear Mr. Buffett: What an Investor Learns 1,269 Miles from Wall Street.