Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Support Of Common Sense

Having taken a small company public on the US markets in the eye of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, all I can do now is to implore the US to adopt the agenda set out in the latest edition of Wired magazine.

Quite simply, it says that all companies that should adopt equivalent reporting standards defined by metadata, or markup language.

It sound simple, but would have avoided Enron and RBS, Fanny Mae and HBOS, because we, the people who own these companies, would have know what was really going on.

If we didn't like something we could have clicked and looked at the derivative Trash Junk Mortgage Package III and then made up our own minds about the viability of a $30bn business. It's the way things were meant to have been.

Business hates transparency; opaqueness leaves room for spin and inflation and, frankly, for lies. So, let me add a couple of further simple steps to sort out this mess.

The ability of traders to borrow more stock than exists in a company and then bet this against the company's failure is only likely to have one consequence - the destruction of nascent businesses and the lining of pockets of cynical traders who are not investing in business, but are actually involved in an act of wanton destruction.  The financial markets that were allowed to do this have resulted in huge destruction of wealth for many hundreds of millions of people, transferring the power to the hands of thousands of the ultra-wealthy - the kind who feed tidbits to political parties to keep them sweet. 

Finally, hedge funds were an interesting concept, but to have such power operating unregulated in a 'highly regulated' market basically skewed the market beyond any reason. As such they had a natural advantage against a competitors (i.e. the pension and 401 funds of the rest of us) that they stole (yes, stole) huge amounts of money from ordinary people and gave it largely to already obscenely wealthy individuals. All hedge funds should be forced to declare all trades and all positions at all times and should be fully regulated like any investment manager.

So, there you go, it's not really that difficult is it, Mr Brown, Mr Obama, Mr Sarkosy...

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