November 19, 2010
If you were in the halls of the CFTC building this week, it may have seemed like a bee hive. Staff was rushing to meetings, lobbyists and interested groups of folks going from one room to another. Folks aren't having time for lunch, working early and late. There’s no doubt we’re in a "challenging" time. For folks who think government jobs are "dream jobs," I guarantee the staff isn’t sleeping much. Some might use stronger words about what is going on than the word "challenging," like perhaps: maddening, frantic, exhausting, and even scary. So, maybe some of us need a little chill pill, a dose of calm, along with some encouragement and perhaps courage.
I know that developing these rules is difficult, particularly when we are doing something that has never been done to help reform our financial system. But, there's a flip side. Difficult does not mean impossible. We are undertaking the promulgation of a tremendous number of complicated, interconnected, complex rulemakings. Okay, that's a given, but the first response from some has been...well, panic. Instead of evolution, some seem more prone to revolution. And, after they have panicked, they’ve come up with lots of different ideas about how we can’t, how we shouldn't, how we must not do this or that with regard to one or another regulations.
I’m very sensitive to doing no harm here, but guess what? A lot of harm has already been done to a lot of people. Our economy, as a result of lax financial oversight, is in the tank. The regulated futures industry has done very well, but that's a small fraction of the entire market. The unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) markets, some parts of which worked well, had many parts that saw humongous failures. Unregulated dark markets were part and parcel to the economic mess we are still digging out of today. And guess what? Hard working folks who lost half of their retirement savings feel a little scared, a little panicked, and a lot of them are pretty mad. Oh, and yes, they feel a little "challenged" too.
So, I have a lot of sympathy for how tough this is, how challenging this is to all of us, to folks in this building and in government, to businesses who are doing a good job and trying to make money and just don't want government to "help" them out of business, and for me, most importantly, to consumers – to average folks we meet on the street (and I'm not talking about Wall Street).
That said, given all these competing interests and given the challenges and all the noise, maybe we need to step back and take a deep breath. Congress gave us a road map after all. They told us what to do. For me, when the smoke clears, there is a singularity of purpose when it comes to implementation of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and that is: do what Congress told us to do. It’s just that simple. From my perspective, we shouldn't veer from that singular purpose. I am not interested in finding ways (nor do we have the authority) to delay, defer, modify, or in any way alter the path set by Congress. My objective as a public servant is crystal clear. It is written in a book, in the law, and I’ve made that evident in every meeting, conversation, and public address.
With that requisite obligation, let’s think about where we are. Frankly, perhaps it might help to acknowledge that this is probably just about the worst time in the process. Some of the most challenging (and important) rules are not yet proposed, and we are proceeding as we can with getting out as many of the required rulemakings as possible. This necessarily causes consternation. But again, let’s just pause and think. Within a very short period of time, there will be a lot more out there to review and analyze, and a lot more “meat on the bones.” As we get the puzzle pieces put out on the table, the picture is going to begin to become clearer. Folks are getting a visual on what the future may look like.
As I’ve said to many of you in this room, we need your input. That’s critically important. So respond to the proposals, and even before we put out proposals, give us your thoughtful and considered views, and know that we are taking each and every comment to heart. This process will continue in a fruitful manner. The trains will continue to run on time, and you will continue to be an integral part of making sure that the final rules are done right.
My singular purpose – this Commission’s purpose as instructed by Congress – is to move forward to that end, and I'm confident we will get there.
Last Updated: January 18, 2011