New At Reason: Treating Wall Street Like the Mafia

I have a new commentary posted at Reason Online looking at how Sen. Dodd’s new Agency for Financial Stability would be the financial equivalent for the FBI seeking to take down La Cosa Nostra:

Perhaps Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) thinks of himself as a modern day John Sherman. In 1890, Ohio Sen. Sherman set out on a mission to establish “just competition” laws and level the economic playing field. His quest culminated in the dismantling of monopolies—such as American Tobacco and Standard Oil—and the passage of new laws prohibiting malicious competitive practices. In a similar way, Dodd now seeks the power to tear apart any company he considers a risk to the national economy. But unlike Sherman, Dodd isn’t out to create the best possible conditions for competition to thrive. He’s out for blood.

Dodd’s plan for overhauling Wall Street regulations, released last week, includes a proposed new organization: the Agency for Financial Stability (AFS). This new regulator would be tasked with identifying and addressing “systemic risks posed by large, complex companies as well as products and activities that can spread risk across firms.” This represents one piece of the most extensive proposal to reform financial services regulation—topping even the ridiculousness of the Obama plan and Barney Frank plan. Which is saying a lot.

The financial crisis has made off with nearly $30 trillion in global wealth. Dodd believes Wall Street banks and other financial institutions are the chief culprits in this dubious economic caper. And to exact revenge, he will push for some of the toughest, most expansive regulatory powers to date.

To do this, Dodd plans to go Elliot Ness on Wall Street, using economists and accountants as if they were FBI agents. Only instead of targeting Al Capone and Big Angelo Lonardo, these number-crunchers would be given nearly limitless power to hunt down systemic risks inside America’s financial institutions.

Read the whole piece here.