Depending on your political preferences, you may be depressed or delighted with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. While the actual impact of any president's policies or charisma is less than its accompanying hype, it is worthwhile to take the measure of the man who will stand at the ultimate bully pulpit beginning Jan. 20, 2009.
In a Dec.2 speech at the Washington, D.C. Advisor Summit sponsored by Wealth Manager's sister publication Investment Advisor, former SEC Commissioner Roel Campos told attendees that Barack Obama is one "who listens; a lot" and who is comfortable with intellectuals--even those who disagree with him. Campos, a member of the President-elect's transition team who has also been mentioned as possible SEC Chairman in an Obama administration, even encouraged advisors to voice their concerns to Obama in letters which, he said, "will get read." Obama and his team, Campos added, are a "pragmatic and practical bunch who will not tolerate a long, drawn-out battle withCongress" when it comes to re-regulating the financial services business. Moreover, the President-elect himself is someone who has already thought through many of the issues involved in the current crisis, and Campos recommended listeners read a speech on the topic Obama gave March 27 at Cooper Union in New York.
Now partner-in-charge of the Cooley, Godward, Kronish law firm's Washington, D.C. office, Campos argued that it would make sense to consolidate federal banking regulators, and said the SEC should "do a better job" and be a stronger agency going forward. One way to do so, he suggested, is to make the agency a self-funding organization that could assess user fees from the firms it regulates, which in turn would allow it to hire more sophisticated regulators--"experts who understand these complicated products" that were at the center of the recent subprime debacle and who would thus be better able to protect the investing public from those companies and those products.
Campos further said the "idea of a global regulator is on everyone's mind," since the world's financial services web is so intertwined, but that "no one is going to give up sovereignty." However, Campos, who headed the SEC's international regulatory efforts during his term there, said there was a growing consensus worldwide that "we need to have a world where there is no regulatory arbitrage" that companies looking to push questionable investing products can take advantage of. There is already cooperation taking place among finance ministers worldwide to prevent that arbitrage, he noted, through institutions like the Financial Stability Forum.
James J. Green, editorial director, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.