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Three magic words for a Wall Street lobbyist: “innovation,” “complexity” and “liquidity”

"Bart Naylor" "Financial policy reform"“Innovation.”



You, too, can be a successful Wall Street lobbyist simply by using these three words randomly in conversations. In Washington, deploy these words in any debate about financial reform and win. Like kryptonite, these words bring the strongest arguments for sensible, prudential bank rules to their knees.

Each word contains magic qualities:

Innovation. Innovations are GOOD. Think—automobile, airplane, the Internet, smartphone. Wall Street generates innovations, too. They are good.

But we cannot tell you what these innovations are, precisely, or why they are good, because of ….

Complexity. Wall Street innovations are COMPLEX. Complexity means you can’t understand. Don’t ask questions. Just trust us. This is above your pay grade. Let the folks who got A’s in math class take care of it.

For example, you probably don’t even understand …

Liquidity. Liquidity is good. Don’t mess with liquidity. If you try, spreads will widen, credit will tighten, and generally, Western Civilization will end.

Now, let’s practice.

Reformers say: “Wall Street behaved relatively well until 1999, when Congress repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall law separating commercial and investment banking and commerce.”

You say: “Financial innovation overran the anachronism of Glass-Steagall. Today’s economy isn’t your father’s Buick.”

Reformers say: “Derivatives that were intended to manage risk actually magnified it through such products as credit default swaps.”

You say: “Derivatives are highly complex. Congressional efforts to address this arena will have unintended consequences and disadvantage American firms who must compete in the global arena.”

Reformers say: “Banks shouldn’t be gambling, but return to sound lending that serves Main Street. We need the Volcker Rule, which prohibits gambling.”

You say: “The Volcker Rule will threaten needed liquidity.”

Mix and match. Improvise. Use all three. Large banks are necessary to address the complex financial needs of sophisticated global enterprise. Derivatives are critical complex innovations necessary for liquidity. Complex innovations promote liquidity.

Innovation, complexity and liquidity are tried, simple, and concrete words you can use to become a $1000/hour Wall Street lobbyist.

You’re welcome.

Bartlett Naylor is the financial policy reform advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. Follow him on Twitter at @BartNaylor.

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