Mary Schapiro's legacy as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission will be that the agency did not become entirely useless on her watch -- although that is maybe the best you can say about it.
The credit-rating agencies are like a miserable long-term relationship: You desperately want to end it, but can't imagine life without it.
Computers owned by the SEC Trading and Markets division were brought by SEC staffers to a hacker convention. They contained unencrypted, step-by-step instructions to shut down our financial trading system. Essentially: A Hacker's Guide to our Financial Universe.
What did the SEC do when it realized the danger to other investors from high-speed trading? Did it warn the American people? Order high speed trading to cease? Ban algorithms designed to cheat other investors? Absolutely not!
Having the Securities and Exchange Commission police high-speed trading is like pitting Barney Fife against Michael Corleone: The odds are not in its favor.
Today the SEC stands at a crossroads. The decisions it makes, and the decisions that are made for it by Congress, will determine whether the agency can reemerge as a credible investor watchdog or whether it will be permanently relegated to industry lap dog status.
For the SEC to do its job properly, it needs adequate resources, and for that it needs the support of Congress. To understand why the budgetary issue is so important, and why the SEC deserves more funding, let's look at the trajectory of the Commission since the Madoff scandal.
Remember the final phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of America - "...justice for all"? Let the SEC go after businessmen, bankers, CEOs, CIOs, and others in positions of responsibility when fraud is uncovered at their organizations -- regardless of what they claim their "intentions" were.
Dodd-Frank is a lazy man's spray-gun approach at financial reform. There is simply a total lack of critical changes needed to fix the regulatory spinal cord of the financial markets -- and it's either the blind ignorance of systemic risk or an agenda as dark as you could imagine.
As Republicans gather in Tampa this week, they've got a bit of a problem: figuring out how to wine, dine, and celebrate their sugar daddies in style without ripping back the veil of secrecy they've drawn over their super-wealthy backers.
Making recommendations would give the SEC a second chance, but will not solve the stability problem if there aren't three commissioners who are willing to accept them.
The markets don't belong only to people like Mr. Joyce; they should and must belong as well to individual investors. Congress and the regulators must recognize that action is long overdue.
Just a decade ago, this nation began to dig itself out from the Enron fall-out. At the core of Enron and the impetus behind the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was the importance of knowing who's in charge and who's making the decisions.
Casper's airy little fist packed no wallop when it came to impeding high-risk betting on Wall Street, the LIBOR lending rate manipulation or the disappearance of client money at MFGlobal. There's a much better way than Casper to catch a bankster: pay them to turn each other in.
The parallels between what happened during the Great Depression and what is happening now are striking. You would think that we would learn from history and apply some of the solutions that worked before. You would be wrong.
Incredibly, even while we're still clawing our way out of the hole that Wall Street's greed put us in, there are some in Congress who are trying to rig the system in the financial industry's favor.