At the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Conference, New York. The atmosphere at the annual meeting of the securities industry is, to be polite, somewhat somber, one is tempted to say "funereal."
1) The meeting is normally held in tony Boca Raton, Florida, where golf outings are traditionally as big a part of the conference as the speeches. This year it is being held at the Marriott in midtown New York on a cold, drizzly morning.
2) The cocktail party last night, normally a bright, cheerful affair, was closed to the press;
3) Last year's entertainment at the dinner party was Hootie and the Blowfish; this year it's the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni.
There's ample reason for this somberness:
1) The country is largely blaming Wall Street for the recent economic woes;
2) Layoffs on Wall Street are increasing and will pick up notably in the coming months; SIFMA President Tim Ryan, in an internal memo to staff last week, announced that SIFMA itself will be "implementing a reduction in force" beginning at the end of this week.
In other words, not only is the industry shrinking, but the lobbying arm of the industry itself is shrinking.
3) The industry is trying to figure out how to go along with the current tidal wave of demand for more regulation without having it cripple the entire industry.
SIFMA Chairwoman Blythe Masters, Head of Global Commodities at JP Morgan Chase, delivered a well-received speech in which she said that the two main goals of the organization were:
1) Rebuilding the reputation of the securities industry, and
2) Acknowledging accountability.
Addressing the regulatory issue, she argued for:
1) A Financial Market Stability Regulator that would have access to all information and the power to have prompt corrective action.
2) Consideration of the establishment of a Federal Insurance Charter and a Federal Insurance Regulator.
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