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Welcome to Spotlight Series: Investors and Markets

By Lev Bagramian

Wall Street and Washington are both in flux.  Markets are evolving rapidly, with technology fueling much of the change.  Some financial services firms are adapting to better serve investors and making it more affordable to save, and they are also using fintech to comply with the rules meant to protect investors and maintain the stability and fundamental fairness of the markets.  But others seek to gain unfair advantage, skim off customers’ savings, and engage in other rent-seeking behaviors. Official Washington is attempting to keep pace with these changes, and, in the words of one of the key regulators, remain laser-focused on doing right by “Mr. and Mrs. 401(k),” yet it is caught up in a huge wave of de-regulation that threatens to rekindle another financial crisis.  And underlying all of these developments is the age-old menace of fraud and abuse in every financial market.

With all of these cross currents swirling around our financial system, Better Markets is today launching a new blog to offer insights and perspectives on how these trends will impact both investors and markets and the regulatory solutions that make the most sense.

This new blog will be called “Spotlight Series: Investors and Markets,” and it will offer our views on the need to remain vigilantly focused on two goals: protecting the investors who fuel the American economy with their hard-earned savings, and preserving the integrity and stability of our financial system so we avoid financial crises.  We will also highlight various structural aspects of our capital markets that badly need immediate and comprehensive fixes. 

As these are primarily federal regulatory matters, we will focus on the policies and actions of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), and other self-regulatory organizations such as the stock exchanges.  Official Washington’s decisions are opaque, little understood, and at times even contrary to the missions of their own organizations.  By launching this blog, Better Markets will explain how federal regulatory activities affect long-term and retail investors, and whether or not our capital markets, as they currently operate, indeed fully serve the needs of these investors.

Along the way, we will highlight the good work of federal regulators, explain the difficult and complex decisions they make, and call them out when their decisions are too tepid or dangerous.  We will also offer forceful and constructive criticism when we recognize that certain market practices and practitioners are engaging in illegal, risky, or socially irresponsible conduct, and we will put the spotlight on regulators who are not sufficiently bold in punishing and deterring such behavior. 

We will also keep our eyes on the other actors who influence regulatory policy, including the various advisory committees at the SEC, agency reports and studies, academics, industry organizations and trade groups, the Congress, and the courts.  We will assess how FINRA and MSRB, as Congressionally-charged public entities, are governed and fulfill their missions of protecting investors and municipal entities that issue municipal bonds.  We will review these activities for the good of long-term and retail investors and for the promotion of fair, innovative, and stable capital markets.

Long-term investors and ordinary savers provide the necessary capital for the American economy to prosper.  Their interests ought to be paramount in the chambers of the policymakers in Washington.  We intend to echo the voices of retail and long-term investors and we will make sure those responsible for setting public policy get the message.

Welcome to Spotlight Series: Investors and Markets.

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