Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke before asun-tanned crowd in Palm Beach outlining the administration's previouslyannounced plans to create the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
The inter-agency squad as it has been drawn up wouldcrack down on four specific types of fraud - mortgage, securities, Recovery Actand Rescue and financial discrimination.
Okay, I promise not to write another snarky critique ofyet another government agency being established - although I would dearly loveto be privy to the territorial debates between the Justice Department, theTreasury, HUD, and the FBI - nor the 33 "czars" currently on theadministration's payroll, but I do have one suggestion to help usher in a newera of regulation.
Find some way to both resurrect and modernizeGlass-Steagall.
One does not have to be a Nobel economist to ascertainthe part that the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall and its diluted replacement -Gramm-Leach Bliley - played in the current financial crisis.
GLB, which was passed under the Clinton administration(yet strangely his successor continues to have much of the blame heaped on himfor its aftermath) repealed critical parts of the 1933 act, and in the processshattered the wall that separated a bank's savings and investment channels andallowed commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms and insurancecompanies to consolidate into financial services conglomerates.
A little over a decade ago, Glass-Steagall was ostracizedas an archaic holdover from a previous era, and certainly not apropos for the"New Economy," nor palatable for investors, who at that time wereplunking down money on anything with the suffix .com.
In its place, we received something called the"Financial Services Modernization Act," which helped augur in a menuof financial instruments such as credit default swaps and collateralized debtobligations that only a precious few understood. As a result, financial firmswere basically allowed to run rampant with scant supervision and even lessoversight.
According to Holder, the 2010 federal budget includes thelargest allotment to bolster financial fraud programs, including I'm sure, thenew task force.
But if the AG really wanted to hit the ground running hejust may want to tell his boss two words: Glass-Steagall.
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