over the years I’ve observed that disclosure was the direction in which financial services firms diverted the attention of well-meaning, largely clueless regulators who were trying to protect consumers. Banks, wirehouses, and fund companies became expert at burying material disclosures under mountains of words and data so impenetrable that few consumers could ferret out their secrets.

The bigger problem is that even if clear disclosures were made, not one consumer in a thousand would understand what they are being told. Stockbrokers, for instance, have to disclose they are registered representatives of their brokerage firms, and their U-4s explain their conflicts of interest, yet even many sophisticated investors still believe brokers have a duty to act in their clients’ best interests.