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FINRA Still Denies Vote to RRs. Story

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May 4, 2010 1:11 pm

Didn't Gary Cooper Have A Gun in High Noon? It's one of Wall Street's dirty, little secrets.  You know, the whole self regulatory thing. For one, some four thousand plus FINRA member firms have the exclusive vote; whereas, some 700,000 registered representatives (the men and women who work at those member firms) are completely disenfranchised.  Politicians hold high-fallutin' hearings during which they ask rambling questions about things they know not, and, in return, they get evasive answers from those who know more than they pretend.  Beyond the political theater of such things, little is achieved or accomplished.  Meanwhile, as always, those of us who have labored much of our adult lives in the trenches know that real reform begins with the little things.  Better officers. Better equipment. Better training.  Alas, go spit in the ocean for all it matters.  Those with the answers never get to ask the questions. Those who ask the questions don't understand the answers. I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. All full of piss and vinegar.  Frustrated. Fed up. Fatigued.  For a taste of today's Blog rant, consider the abstract below:
[F]rankly, I have long viewed NASD/FINRA's position of enfranchsing only member firms as unprincipled and indefensible. For me, it's a very simple proposition: you either give management and labor each a six-shooter or you don't give a gun to either.  It's about integrity and legitimacy. The present voting policy is unfair, arbitrary, discriminatory, and stinks to high holy hell. It's the immoral equivalent of sending an unarmed Gary Cooper onto the streets at high noon. 

Democracy is rarely pretty.  However, either you trust the electorate to ultimately do what's in everyone's best interest or our entire system of government is morally bankrupt.  Will every registered person do the right thing and vote for sensible Wall Street reform? Of course not -- no more than every member firm does or has in the past. The choice is fairly stark: Either give employer and employee both the vote or dismantle self-regulation.  I can live with either option.  

As a former regulator and a three-decade industry veteran, I believe that when we fail to involve human beings in the political and regulatory process, we promote their alienation from the system and ensure that corrupt bureaucracies flourish unchecked. In response to my 2002 fairplay proposal, the NASD's official spokesperson stated:

Mr. Singer's agenda is clearly out of step with the times, pandering to those who would seek less, not more oversight and accountability. For example, Mr. Singer's proposal that registered representatives vote on all regulatory changes governing their behavior would almost certainly block or delay any effort to enact meaningful reforms. We will resist proposals that would water down industry oversight.


Nearly eight years later, we have seen the folly of allowing only member firms to influence and direct regulatory policy.  Talk about failing to enact meaningful reforms. Talk about watered down industry oversight by NASD and FINRA. Bear Stearns. Lehman. Goldman Sachs -- hey, FINRA, how's that members-only thing working out? . . .