When one looks at the stress tests recently completed by the US government one has to properly filter the noise. The government has released the results and metrics used in the ‘stress tests’ which have been picked apart by many people. You can crunch the numbers and manipulate the statistics all you want but in the end it comes down to loss recognition on bad assets.

Right now there is a tug of war going on between the private sector and the government. On one hand, we have the government looking for greater oversight of the financial sector. On the other hand, we have a banking industry looking to get out from underneath the government’s umbrella believing that they can fix the problems on their own. In this case, both sides are wrong.

The financial sector can be self-policing with a greater emphasis on risk management as is the case in Canada. But the participants in the sector must accept a greater responsibility for their actions and that includes the potential for failure. Capitalism is not about bailouts it is about letting market forces dictate winners and losers.

The government cannot expect to go the route of pay regulation as it will contribute to a brain drain in the financial sector. Just ask anyone working for a Big 4 auditing firm if they are having problems recruiting talent after the Arthur Andersen debacle. This should be a warning to those who seek to regulate items like executive pay.

Sarbanes-Oxley did more harm to the US financial markets by forcing small to medium sized businesses to go private and chased away IPO dollars to markets such as Toronto, London, and Hong Kong.

For those who wish to pursue further regulation in the financial markets, it should be done in a way similar to the regulations which came into effect after the 1987 market crash. In other words, capital formation should not be inhibited in any manner.

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