The Financial Report — Volume 2, No. 15

Motorcycle enthusiasts will tell you that a substantial majority of all motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens who follow the rules of the road and use their vehicles for transportation and recreation. This leaves a very small minority of the riding community often referred to as the ‘one-percenters’. These ‘outlaws’ (as they also like to be known) engage in many forms of illegal activity, some of which involves the use of their motorcycles, some of which does not. Regardless, the illicit activity tends to be lumped together by those who have a general impression or bias against ‘bikers’. The 99 per cent of riders who are law abiding rightfully take offence to the implication that they are criminals or anti-social gang members simply because they happen to engage in the same activity — motorcycle riding — that is also engaged in by the one-percenters.

Those of us who work with the financial services industry know that the overwhelming majority of financial services professionals are smart, hardworking, law-abiding people. But, as with any industry or group, a small number of ‘outlaws’ engage in illicit activities, trying to gain an edge, game the system or, in some cases, engage in outright fraud. Each time allegations of such activities are reported, the media pages and the blogosphere explode with absurd declarations that everyone working in the financial markets are ‘crooks’, ‘criminals’ or worse. This is often followed by a flurry of demands for regulations that will severely restrict anyone whose activities are even tangentially similar to those of the latest reprobate. Even when the allegations are shown to be unfounded, the cries for more regulation continue.

For example, in the wake of the stock market ‘flash crash’ a few years ago, there were calls for the restriction or elimination of computerised trading, based on the faulty assumption that program traders were manipulating the market. To this day, there are many commenters who call for a return to the human intervention in trading that just a few years earlier was criticised as an unnecessary bottleneck to anyone seeking liquidity. Similarly, many have blamed ‘derivatives’ (a broad category if ever there was one) for the financial market problems in 2008, leading to a plethora of restrictions on the use of such instruments. Some have even advocated the elimination of computerised trading and derivatives altogether…

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