How dumb will financial reform end up being?
Lawmakers continue to iron out their differences on the controversial financial reform package that's moving through Congress, thus raising the question:
Where will it rank on the list of history's stupidest financial laws?
It's possible it won't make the list at all, of course. Heck, anything is possible.
As a frame of reference, though, let's review the eight dumbest financial laws, courtesy of the folks at Forbes.com.
It's quite a list. It includes the National Banking Act of 1935 and an amendment to the National Banking Act of 1935. It includes two laws that inadvertently helped bring about the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s. And, of course, it includes the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and its "billions of dollars in extra reporting costs and a ton of extra paperwork" -- though some still argue that the benefits of Sarbanes-Oxley outweigh its costs.
Dumb laws like these have two main characteristics, according to Forbes.com's Maureen Farrell and Brett Nelson:
"First, regulation -- no matter how well intended -- comes with a whole heap of unintended consequences. Some laws have invited, or at least exacerbated, full-blown financial crises. ... The second certainty: No matter what the rules are, the financial industry will figure out how to innovate around them. 'New regulations often let people find ways within the letter of the law to do whatever they wanted to do in the first place,' says Edward Kane, a professor of finance at Boston College."
Time will tell if the next round of financial reforms will share those traits. Like I said, maybe they'll solve all of our problems.