Thursday, May 28, 2009


America has an Office of Risk Assessment, set up in 2004 to co-ordinate risk management for the main regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Jonathan Sokobin, its director, says it is charged with “understanding how financial markets are changing, to identify potential and existing risks at regulated and unregulated entities”. According to its website, it also helps to “anticipate, identify and manage risks, focusing on early identification of new or resurgent forms of fraud and illegal or questionable activities… across the corporate and financial sector”. By early 2008, this office was reduced to a staff of one. “When that gentleman would go home at night,” says Lynn Turner, the SEC’s former chief accountant, “he could turn the lights out. We had gotten down to just one person at the SEC responsible for identifying the risk at all the institutions.” The $596-trillion market in unregulated derivatives, including $58 trillion in credit-default swaps, was being watched by one person. That’s when he wasn’t looking at the rest of the corporate world, of course.

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