Monday 24 September 2012

How does Wall Street screw Main Street?

Let's count yet another way.
In Rolling Stone ( ), Matt Taibbi lays out a recent instance in painful detail.
The city of Birmingham Alabama went bankrupt after being bribed and goaded into buying billions of dollars of toxic swaps. So did a lot of other municipalities.
To deter such fraud, the Dodd-Frank Act defined a simple reform: make financial advisers to municipalities register with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and make them swear to respect the best interests of the taxpayers they're advising.
Sounds basic, but Wall Street would have none of it. If a financial adviser has to swear to represent my town's best interests, how in the world is he going to screw my town?
Wall Street lobbyists went to work. They added exemptions for purveyors of swaps and other such devices to municipalities. Exempt from the new rules would be any broker, dealer, banker or accountant “in any way related to or connected with” a municipal underwriting, and any bank or swap dealer “in any way related to or connected to” the sale of any of a long list of financial products.
So now, if you're underwriting a municipal bond, or providing any of a long list of other financial services, and you're also advising on a toxic swap deal, you're off the hook for advice on swaps that you gave but secretly bet against. 
Accountable for fraudulent advice? Fuggetaboudit.

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