Early in my journalism career, I foolishly submitted -- on more than one occasion -- my stories to my editor without the benefit of having them copyedited.
My editor, who often joked that English was my second language, took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that all submission were to be routed through the copy desk -- no exceptions.
"You can't edit your own work," he told me. "You know what's supposed to be there on paper, and even if it's not, your mind will read it like it is. You're too familiar with the work. You need an independent eye."
A philosophy that dovetails nicely with the topic du jour.
During what many refer to as the bleak years of the profession, when it seemed auditors and accounting firms were stereotyped as root causes for corporate implosions at WorldCom, Enron and a supporting cast of a hundred others, the phrase "self-regulation" was uttered at an alarming, and eventually, annoying, rate.
For every accounting scandal that surfaced, various mouthpieces for the profession often crowed that the profession had a successful 100 years or so of self-regulation, and took umbrage at the suggestion of an overseer for the profession being appointed, even as a 90- year-old global auditing firm was collapsing and a telecommunications company in Mississippi was perpetrating the largest fraud in the history of American business annals.
Three years and one Sarbanes-Oxley later, we have the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board policing the audit profession.
Which is why I was at first curious that folks in other financial sectors were talking about adopting a self-regulating policy.
In fact, a House Financial Services subcommittee was scheduled to hold a hearing on self-regulation in the securities industry -- or to be exact, alternatives to the current model of regulation for Wall Street firms.
Critics of the current system of Wall Street oversight claim the current set-up of multiple self-regulators has resulted in overlap and duplication not to mention, higher costs, while the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD are mulling ways to merge some oversight responsibilities through a potential joint regulatory venture.
According to various reports, portions of the hearing were to focus on proposals from the Securities and Exchange Commission to bolster oversight of self-regulatory organizations such as independent boards and segregation of regulation duties from market operations.
In the interest of full disclosure, Wall Street is more of a peripheral area of coverage for both me and our publication, and SROs such as the NYSE are not as intimately familiar to us as the Big Four.
The securities industry's plan for self-regulation appears -- at least on first glance -- to be more grounded and viable than the sound bites and promises we heard from the accounting profession just a few short and unpleasant years ago.
And if Wall Street needs any counseling, I'm sure there are more than a few former Andersen partners who could give them an earful on what not to do.
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