The MF Global sham must have triggered MAS into action. Or is it Paul Volcker’s recommendation for more regulation than deregulation? Well, MAS is introducing more regulations to prevent more lemons appearing in our financial market, to protect the average investors. Sophisticated instruments, derivatives etc will now be subject to more regulations to prevent innocent, ignorant and unsophisticated investors from being sucked into the quagmire and lose their life savings.
It is a good start, albeit a little too late and a bit too little. The measures taken are still too inadequate to prevent the loss of billions to the big funds which is happening daily. It is not just the derivatives and sophisticated products that are at fault. There are system faults that cannot go on like this.
The derivatives are now seen as dangerous, if not toxic. If they are dangerous, shouldn’t they be taken out of the system completely? Or it is okay to sell poison as long as the buyer knows that it is poison? This is a philosophical question. It can be a matter of right and wrong, a moral issue.
Derivatives are not only dangerous by themselves. The fact that they are derived from the major stocks in the market will also put these stocks at risk to grave manipulations. The intrinsic values of these component stocks will be of no bearing to the speculators whose only interest is profit by pushing the stocks up and down, at high speed.
The more dangerous development is to allow funds to hook up their computers to the stock market system. This is unfair in many counts. They could trade at high speed with the advantage of high speed computers and with the information provided by the system that the average investors are not accessible to. And they could use big muscles, with practically unlimited trading limits to corner stocks, to move stocks at will.
Cornering of stocks, buying and selling without change of ownership are all against the rules and regulations of the stock market. Are the funds doing it, or allow to do it?
For several years, the investors have been brought to the cleaners by the big funds. A report on who are the main winners and who are the losers would tell the story much clearer on how the system is disadvantaging the average investors.
MAS could have done more to ensure that the stock market is a level playing field to all investors, big or small. Funds can play with their sophisticated computers, algos, big war chests, but must not be allowed to hook their computers to the exchange. This is the least that MAS has to do.