While FINRA says exceptions were made to let Jon Corzine, head of failed firm MF Global, keep his securities licenses, the regulator justifies the loophole as business as usual for politically connected registrants.
Everyone should read Rick Ketchum's comments on the Corzine affair.
He's not apologizing for the decision to let the former head of Goldman Sachs turned governor of New Jersey keep his securities licenses for decades without taking a follow-up examination.
He doesn't need to apologize. As he says, underlings within FINRA handled that process, and it apparently happens all the time.
And as Ketchum says, Corzine might well have "continued to stay current" with the regulations in the industry even though he hadn't actually taken the test to renew his Series 24 since 1982.
But if the qualifications for running a securities firm are so loose that anyone can come back after a decade in Washington and pick up with no formal review, that tells the public a lot about how FINRA works.
Do principals in the trenches "stay current" with the regulations? They do. Do they have to take their exams anyway? They do.
If nothing else, bending the regulatory rules to make life more convenient for powerful people sets a bad example for everyone in an organization. Workers learn what's allowed from watching their bosses.
When the boss skirts the rules, the workers learn that's OK. And when MF Global failed, we learned that people there were skirting a lot of rules.
One thing Ketchum is quoted as saying makes me a little sick:
"If we were to apply burdens to people with wide-ranging experiences from the supervisory standpoint, who had had an exemplary career in the securities industry before going into public service, we would be acting like mindless regulators slapping on burdens for no reason."
"Acting like regulators" is exactly what FINRA is supposed to do. The "mindless" part isn't part of the job -- every regulator needs to be open to special circumstances -- but the "burdens" are there for a huge reason.
They're what regulators are paid to enforce equally and fairly.