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Thursday, July 12, 2012

'The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged'

Simon Johnson:

The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged, by Simon Johnson, Commentary, NY Times: In the aftermath of the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, the most surprising reaction has been from people in the financial sector who fully understand the awfulness of what has happened. Rather than seeing this as an issue of law and order, some well-informed people have been drawn toward arguments that excuse or justify the behavior of the Barclays employees.
This is a big mistake.. The behavior at Barclays has all the hallmarks of fraud... Anyone who takes personal responsibility seriously should want all those involved to be held accountable – to the full extent of the law in all jurisdictions. Anything that lets individuals escape consequences will further undermine the legitimacy that underpins all markets. ...
Nevertheless, five arguments put forward in the last 10 days ... attempt to provide some sort of cover for what happened at Barclays. None of these arguments have any merit.
First, it is argued that this kind of cheating around Libor has been going on for a long time. This may be true, but it is a sad and lame excuse... Second, it is also asserted that “everyone does it.” This is not any kind of defense – try it next time you are accused of fraud. ...
Third, Libor-rigging is defended as a “victimless crime.” This is untrue. Traders at Barclays and other banks gained from this series of manipulations, so someone else lost. ...
Fourth, some contend that it is the regulators’ responsibility and fault that there was cheating on Libor. It is certainly the case that there was regulatory capture at work... But who does the capturing in regulatory capture? Big banks work long and hard and lobby at many levels to push regulators toward paying less attention.
Fifth, the weakest argument is, “It was only a few basis points, here and there”... Either the Libor reporting process and, consequently, the pricing of derivatives has been corrupted by a criminal conspiracy, or it has not. There is no “just a little” in this context for the enormous global securities market. ...
How will this play in American politics? There is still time for politicians on the right and on the left of the political spectrum to get ahead of the issue. Digging in around specious arguments in favor of price-fixing cartels is not the way to go.
Power corrupts, and financial market power has completely corrupted financial markets. ...

There's also the argument that regulating the industry will harm economic growth, but look at the growth rates we currently have -- thanks in large part to an out of control financial sector -- to see the folly of that claim. Deregulation of the financial industry did not bring us the robust economy that we were promised, it brought disaster, fraud, and who knows what else, and more oversight is clearly needed.

    Posted by on Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 06:39 AM in Economics, Financial System, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (38)

          


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