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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Model for Reform?

The financial reform enacted after the Great Depression didn't come without effort:

In Original Reformer, a Model, by Brady Dennis, Washington Post: The last time Washington enacted sweeping financial reform, more than 75 years ago, the catalyst was a cigar-smoking, Sicilian-born immigrant named Ferdinand Pecora.

A former New York prosecutor, Pecora was the last in a series of investigators hired to examine the causes that led to the stock market crash of 1929 for the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. In early 1933, the newly-elected Democratic president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, gave the bulldog lawyer his blessing to dig deep into the excesses that had plunged the nation into the Great Depression.

The result was a relentless investigation, 12,000 pages of transcripts that laid bare abuses on Wall Street and failures of Washington to adequately regulate the nation's financial system. Pecora's efforts provided a basis for reforms that would alter Wall Street and maintain relative stability in the banking industry until the recent crisis. These included legislation that for the first time regulated the sale of securities and helped establish the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Commission. ... [...continue reading...] ...

The last three paragraphs of the article and the last sentence in particular give the key to making financial reform work:

... Whatever regulatory changes ultimately emerge from Congress, they alone may not be enough. In his book, Pecora -- who went on to become an SEC commissioner under its inaugural chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., and later a New York Supreme Court judge -- warned that laws themselves "are no panacea; nor are they self-executing."

On the day that Franklin Roosevelt signed the Securities Exchange Act into law in 1934, Pecora was in attendance. At one point, the president turned to Pecora and asked, "Ferd, now that I have signed this bill and it has become law, what kind of law will it be?"

"It will be a good or bad bill, Mr. President," Pecora said, "depending upon the men who administer it."

Update: Another lesson.

    Posted by on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 09:17 PM in Economics, Financial System, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (22)


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