A single, controlling majority shareholder in finance

Tim Bray publishes his opinions on what the coming changes in financial sector regulation should be like. Some make sense, but I don't agree with all of them.

I think a big part of the problem is the agency conflict of interest, and the ineffectiveness of shareholder democracy.

This is not such a big deal when a company in the "real" economy goes astray. In that case, shareholders suffer, and there are some externalities, but they are limited.

The problem is greater, though, when any of the cornerstone companies of finance go astray.

Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to require that finance businesses must have a single, controlling majority shareholder.

This would limit their size, which helps in the sense that too big to fail is too big to exist, and it would provide for better corporate oversight, as a single, controlling majority shareholder is more likely to steer the company on the right path than an ineffective democracy of smaller shareholders which management strings along by their noses.

Also, when politicians do eventually get to the business of revamping finance regulation, perhaps a good idea would be for them to choose a small number of countermeasures - one, two, but certainly no more than three - from all of the ideas proposed. Ideally, one decisive countermeasure should be chosen which is going to be effective - will likely fix the problem - and will be simple enough to understand.

Instead, what is actually likely to happen is that a huge variety of proposed countermeasures will be bundled together to create a straitjacket, for "good measure", to "make sure" that the crisis will not happen again.

It's a good thing to prevent a repetition of the crisis, but it's better yet not to suffocate future finance.


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