This bill will empower government bureaucrats to control compensation plans that will threaten the safety of financial institutions, or adversely impact economic conditions or financial stability. Have no fear, the newly hired experts will figure this part out, what it means and how to implement it, and they will diligently look after your interests.
There's hope, however, with some minor good news in this bill that resides in its provision for procedures for shareholder approval of golden parachutes. What this portion of the bill looks like in final form will dictate whether or not it makes any sense, but in the meantime, three cheers for the crumbs thrown at demands for common sense. We shall not hold our collective breath. Another clause that might have provided teeth in a corporate structure fix was the providing of a voice to shareholders on executive pay. It failed miserably in its final form, since the shareholder vote on executive pay will be non-binding, therefore will leave shareholders where they were before,--we'll tease you with a little influence on the company you own, but, "naah, just kidding, get lost and go back to your trading screens." Shareholders, large and small, should have greater influence on the proceedings of the public companies they own, and such influence should be addressed at the Board of Directors level. The government is not improving the lot of shareholders, but is escalating its own intrusion into the boardrooms of America.
We should remember that this is the same Administration and Congress that couldn't even track the bailout money, or put strings on the money to restrict it from getting dished out in the form of bonuses. This is also the government that threw those billions at financial institutions on the pretext that they had to be bailed, to avert a depression, yet no one in government could tell you where that money actually went. So how was it, exactly, that those bailout billions were allocated? The toxic assets could not be defined or audited, which means that the fear mongering and threats were outright lies. Wall Street skunked this Administration, as well as the last one, and as a result a colossal extortion of the taxpayer was allowed. Did anyone making these horrendous decisions ask the hundreds of thousands of businesses from coast to coast what their banking preferences might be?" Would you rather deal with a gigantic-too-big-to-fail-market-dominant bank headquartered in New York, or a medium or smaller sized regional bank? When did "failure" get expunged from the dictionary of American Capitalism?
Sweeping expansion of government incompetence into corporations is an invasion that will not be reversed. Other more intelligent policies should be considered instead of launching clusters of bureaucrats to invade company offices in all corners of the country. One could consider implementing laws against monopolies, but it would be more effective to start with segregating the large banking institutions into more pure line of business sectors. It really comes down to reinstating certain portions of the Glass-Steagall Act that was repealed in 1999. Hundreds of millions were expended by the large banking institutions to achieve the repeal of the Act, therefore a reversal would be very difficult. Given the present climate of Washington dependence on Wall Street cash, even "difficult" might be a stretch, however, such reinstatement would bring back some peace of mind to taxpayers in the long-term.
The critical functions provided by undistorted banks operating within narrow guidelines should be reconsidered. The contamination of many banks over the past decade, with the annexation of such things as brokerages, and the underwriting or trading of complex securities, should be reversed. Government should direct existing oversight bodies to perform their duties, including the enforcement of laws dealing with asset requirements, capital ratio leveraging, and lending guidelines. Then, government might provide shareholders with more teeth to bite when necessary, and leave them to rule over freshly formed and more independent Boards of Directors.
James Raider writes The Pacific Gate Post