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The scandalous saga of the Wall Street bailout continues, for bank regulators are now watering down Congress' pathetically weak reforms.
However, during the past four years, one fellow has shown some regulatory backbone, proposing rules to prevent a repeat of the whole sorry saga. He is Gary Gensler, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and he has dared to push the Treasury Secretary and other major bank overseers to join him in seriously limiting Wall Street's cavalier proliferation of complex "derivatives." Analysts describe these convoluted schemes as "poorly disclosed, poorly understood, and could lay waste to the economy."
Good for Gensler, right? Yes! But of all the agency heads who're involved in writing new banking rules, guess which one was not invited this year by President Obama to stay on the job. Yes, the tough one, the one actually trying to protect the people, the one not afraid to offend Wall Street greedheads: Gary Gensler.
He's being replaced by Timothy Massad, who appears to be more of an industry lapdog than a watchdog. Massad, a career insider, has been a corporate lawyer for banks, a lickspittle lieutenant for Treasury Secretary Timmy Geithner (an infamous Wall Street softie), and a blocker of tough provisions to stop big banks from unfairly squeezing hard-hit homeowners.
Apparently, Gensler wanted to keep doing his work at this once-obscure agency -- staying on guard against financial connivers trying to twist the rules to legalize banker robbery. But Wall Streeters certainly didn't want him there, and Obama bowed to them, displacing the one guy, the one regulatory chief, who had the guts and gumption to stand up to coddled bankers.
Not only is Gensler gone, but Wall Street gets a regulator who's being entrusted to return the agency to obscurity. What a disgrace.
Listen to this commentary:
Photo: Flickr user (vincent desjardins), creative commons licensed.