SEC: Less Personnel Than the Smithsonian

These are some truly amazing details:

"The number of enforcement personnel, the people who go after the financial engineers, is expected to decline. That’s right. Despite the trillion-dollar meltdown now underway, the number of SEC enforcement personnel will decline from 1,209 this year to 1,177 in 2009. In all, the SEC expects to have 3,771 employees next year. For comparison, the Smithsonian Institution budget for 2009 includes funding for 4,324 employees.

That’s not meant as a slap at the Smithsonian. It houses a myriad of the nation’s most treasured objects. But the SEC actually guards the nation’s treasure. And yet, Congress treats it like a bastard stepchild. Indeed, Congress doles out more than five times as much money for corn subsidies ($4.9 billion in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available) as it does for the SEC.

Those pitiful numbers lead us to the innumerable problems posed by derivatives, the same financial instruments that led to the chaos at Enron, which before it failed operated a huge—and almost completely unregulated—derivatives exchange business. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the global derivatives market is now worth some $676.5 trillion. That’s $676,500,000,000,000. That’s a fivefold increase over the value of derivatives that were traded in 2003. Further, that $676.5 trillion is 51 times America’s current gross domestic product. (emphasis added)

Gee, how on earth did the 3 million people working in the finance industry ever mange to get away with anything with that type of police enforcement?


From Enron to the Financial Crisis (with Greenspan in Between)
Robert Bryce
US News, September 24, 2008

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