Will HedgeStreet USA, the hypothetical InTrade USA, and the hypothetical TradeFair USA, be regulated in the future by a merged SEC+CFTC regulatory structure?

No GravatarThat sounds like a good prediction market proposal. :-D

As you all know:

  • The SEC regulates the securities markets (which support capital formation).
  • The CFTC regulates the futures markets (which exist to discover prices).
  • The SEC is rules based, meaning it sets regulations that institutions must follow, while the CFTC is principles based, in that it sets broad parameters under which the regulated entities try to operate.

US Treasury&#8217-s Blueprint for a Modernized Financial Regulatory Structure (PDF file).

The United States has the strongest and most liquid capital markets in the world. This strength is due in no small part to the U.S. financial services industry regulatory structure, which promotes consumer protection and market stability. However, recent market developments have pressured this regulatory structure, revealing regulatory gaps and redundancies. These regulatory inefficiencies may serve to detract from U.S. capital markets competitiveness.

In order to ensure the United States maintains its preeminence in the global capital markets, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) sets forth the aforementioned recommendations to improve the regulatory structure governing financial institutions. Treasury has designed a path to move from the current functional regulatory approach to an objectives-based regulatory regime through a series of specific recommendations. The short-term recommendations focus on immediate reforms responding to the current events in the mortgage and credit markets. The intermediate recommendations focus on modernizing the current regulatory structure within the current functional system.

The short-term and intermediate recommendations will drive the evolution of the U.S. regulatory structure towards the optimal regulatory framework, an objectives-based regime directly linking the regulatory objectives of market stability regulation, prudential financial regulation, and business conduct regulation to the regulatory structure. Such a framework best promotes consumer protection and stable and innovative markets.

The CFTC is not that seduced by the idea (PDF file):

Statement of CFTC Acting Chairman Walt Lukken Regarding Department of Treasury’s Blueprint for Modernizing the Financial Regulatory Structure March 31, 2008 Washington, DC

Today, the U.S. Department of Treasury released a regulatory blueprint that includes recommendations to improve the U.S. financial regulatory structure with the goal of enhancing U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. Some of the proposals include recommendations related to combining the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). CFTC Acting Chairman Walt Lukken made the following statement in response to the blueprint:

It is essential to examine ways to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. financial markets and seek improvements to the regulatory structure. Policymakers all strive for good government solutions that protect the public, reduce duplication and enhance competition and innovation. While I am still studying the Blueprint’s many recommendations, I applaud Secretary Paulson and the Treasury Department for their work on this critical undertaking and for recognizing the CFTC model of regulation as an advantageous one.

The CFTC utilizes a flexible and risk-tailored approach to regulation aimed at ensuring consumer protection and market stability while encouraging innovation and competition. [*]
Congress gave the CFTC these powers with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (CFMA) in 2000, which shifted the CFTC’s oversight from a rules-based approach to one founded on principles. This prudential style is complemented by strong enforcement against market abuse and manipulation as evidenced by the $1 billion worth of penalties assessed by the CFTC since the CFMA. [**] The regulatory balance fostered by the CFMA has enabled the futures industry to thrive and gain market share on its global competitors with volumes on the U.S. futures exchanges increasing over 500 percent since 2000. During recent economic stress, these risk-management markets have performed well in discovering prices and providing necessary liquidity.

Although the creation of a new unified regulator for securities and futures could bring efficiencies, the tradeoffs of such a significant undertaking should be weighed carefully given these turbulent economic times and the competitive global advantage currently enjoyed by the U.S. futures industry. The CFTC is a world-class regulator because of its focused mission, market expertise, manageable size, problem solving culture and global outlook—all of which may be jeopardized with the creation of a larger regulatory bureaucracy. Any regulatory reform effort must preserve the benefits of the CFTC’s principles-based model and recognize the distinct functions of the futures markets and mission of the CFTC.

Many of the benefits of a unified regulator can be immediately gained through enhanced coordination and information sharing between agencies. In fact, the CFTC and SEC recently signed a cooperation agreement aimed at addressing cross-agency issues, including the approval of hybrid products that may have otherwise fallen between our jurisdictional divide. These sorts of agreements should be given time to bear fruit. As Treasury recognizes in its Blueprint, the laws that govern the securities markets should be modernized similar to the futures laws before unification is contemplated to improve its chances of success. Unless the securities laws are first rationalized with those governing the futures markets, a merger may ironically make the U.S. futures industry less competitive globally and run counter to the explicit goal of this important endeavor. I look forward to working with policymakers to ensure that these issues are properly debated and addressed.

[*] Quite true.

[**] Which includes the fining of InTrade.

CME Group

Chicago Tribune

The Wall Street Journal

Via mister Jason Ruspini

Previous blog posts by Chris F. Masse:

  • If I had to guess, I would say about 50 percent of the “name pros” you see on television on a regular basis have a negative net worth. Frightening, I know.
  • You can’t measure the usefulness of a system by how many resources it consumes.
  • STRAIGHT FROM THE DOUBLESPEAK DEPARTMENT: NewsFutures CEO Emile Servan-Schreiber, well known to chase tirelessly the Infidels who dare calling “prediction markets” their damn polling system, is eager to sell the confusion to his clients and whomever would listen.
  • John Delaney is such a poor marketer that he is willing to outsource the making of InTrade’s next logo (a company’s most important visual message) to the first moron met over the Internet who is stupid enough to work for a bunch of figs.
  • ProKons strongly believe that (play-money) prediction markets are bozo immune.
  • REBUTTAL: SalesForce, StarBucks and Dell demonstrate that enterprise prediction markets as intra-corporation communication tools (as opposed to forecasting tools) are overhyped by the prediction market software vendors and a little clique of uncritical courtisans.
  • Comments are often more interesting than the post that ignited them.

Merger Markets on Microsoft-Yahoo

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HP began to explore prediction markets in 1996, but did not even consider applying them to the 2002 HP-Compaq merger. Similarly, Yahoo and Microsoft are two of the companies mentioned most often as being involved in prediction markets (along with their main competitor Google), but I&#8217-ll bet none are considering the by-far-most-valuable markets they could create, on their just-announced proposed merger.

Decision markets could say whether this merger is good for shareholders, by estimating the combined stock price given a merger, and given no merger. Similarly, decision markets could say whether this merger is good for these firms&#8217- customers, by estimating the price and/or quantity of web ads given a merger, and given no merger. This might help convince regulators to approve the merger.

My main doubt here is whether ad price and quantity are good enough measures of the merger&#8217-s social benefits – what other outcomes could such markets estimate, to speak more clearly? And this is a very clear demonstration that these companies are just not serious about finding the highest value applications of prediction markets.

Cross-posted from Overcoming Bias.