Fresh off a total inability to protect investors or the financial community from Bernie Madoff or the collapse of the housing bubble, the Securities and Exchange Commission has now taken on a new mission, one to which it seems better suited in the Age of Obama than its stated purpose of preventing fraud.
Today, the commission voted 3 to 2 in favor of a new requirement that companies disclosing their public filings include a statement on the environmental impact of their activities as they relate to climate change.
The specific requirement, as quoted by the Washington Post, demands that firms recount “the impact of climate change on their businesses — from new regulations or legislation they may face domestically or abroad to potential changes in economic trends or physical risks to a company.”
These new requirements are designed, according to Democrat Elisse B. Walters of the commission, to “improve the quality of disclosures filed by U.S. public companies for the benefit of investors.”
Republican commissioner Kathleen Casey had a more accurate understanding. “I can only conclude that the purpose of this release is to place the imprimatur of the commission on the agenda of the social and environmental policy lobby, an agenda that falls outside of our expertise and beyond our fundamental mission of investor protection,” she said.
Actions like these, which place undue, unwarranted and unwise burdens on companies which are already loaded down with an embarrassment of Byzantine governmental makework in return for the privilege of engaging in American commerce, call into question whether the SEC ought to exist at all. The commission only came into being in 1934 amid FDR’s New Deal, and its most recent disastrous failure to do anything about the Madoff fraud despite having information all the way back in 1992 that there was a problem led Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to call for its abolition a year ago.
Paul isn’t always right, by any means, but he may well be this time. He points out, and he’s not alone in doing so, that the smartest people in the financial sector actually go to work in the financial sector – because they can make a lot of money in it. The second-tier people who don’t quite cut the mustard but have an interest in the field end up being the regulators. And the results are predictable; the Madoff situation is a perfect example of how the “B” players working for the government will only be able to take down the villains after a great deal of damage is done.
Meanwhile, the public is led to believe that, even though everyone deep down believes Wall Street is made up of crooks and liars, the SEC and its thousands of pages of legislative say-so will protect us from the Ponzi schemers and con men. This is little more than sheep being led to the slaughter; the Madoffs and Allen Stanfords will always beat the Feds, at least for a little while, and by the time they’re finally stopped scads and oodles of unsophisticated investors will be separated from their gleanings.
A public armed with the wisdom that there are crooks out there is a far better regulator of thieves than a government commission of busybody do-gooders looking to advance the agenda of the Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund so as to get invitations to swanky galas. State agencies working in concert with each other and/or the FBI are more than capable of prosecuting financial villains, and the industry itself, through the various exchanges dominating the markets, has its own motivations to stop fraud and theft.
No investor is better served by boilerplate pronouncements on carbon emissions from companies berated by the abovementioned do-gooders. No corporate bottom line is served by such a requirement. And no good argument is made for an SEC which has time enough on its hands to produce such harebrained, foolish ordinances as it spewed from its minutes this week.