Just recently, Washington announced the creation of a "dream team" of financial regulators, called the Systemic Risk Council, consisting of Sheila Bair, former Chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; Brooksley Born, former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who butted heads with Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin more than a decade ago; and Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the architect of the now-famous Volcker Rule. Also part of this group will be former Citibank CEO John Reed and President George W. Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, amongst others.
Great idea and about time, but here's a question: Why was the current chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Schapiro, not included in this high-octane lineup?
It's true that former SEC Chair William Donaldson and former SEC Commissioner Harvey Goldschmid are on the Council but given that the SEC is one of the primary agencies tasked with policing the banking sector, shouldn't the current regime play a bigger role in defining the rules by which Wall Street plays in the future? Sheila Bair is whip-smart and tough-as-nails and Brooksley Born has been committed to the cause of financial reform for a long time, but neither of them are on active duty today. I have faith in both these wonderful ladies but I believe that the Council would benefit greatly from the presence of Mary Schapiro, who is "in the trenches" fighting corporate crime right now.
I have written before about the challenges faced by the SEC. The Commission has made mistakes and failed the American people on numerous occasions -- from the Enron debacle to the Madoff catastrophe. But the agency is now trying hard to fix the problems that have plagued it in the past, including modernizing their crime detection techniques, utilizing technology to track activities that would previously have slipped under the radar, ramping up their investigative activities, and pursuing more aggressive enforcement.
Mary Schapiro has been at the forefront of these efforts and recently appeared in Congress to request more resources for the agency. In addition, she is widely regarded as one of the most influential women in Washington. Under her leadership, the SEC has transformed itself into a more dynamic and effective body. These are the credentials of someone who belongs on the Systemic Risk Council and who can give it actual teeth.
We have been down the road of setting up new bodies to reform Wall Street before and most efforts have failed. This time the stakes are much higher and the room for error is zero. Therefore, it is essential for the government to put its best food forward when it comes to this new Council. Adding Mary Schapiro to the mix would be a great way to do this.
Using the analogy of the Justice League, leaving the Chairwoman of the SEC out of the Council is akin to leaving Superman out of the League.