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7/15/13

The financial Industry: How the SEC is enabling Wall Street's fungal creep into Main Street - by Heidi Moore

Former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White (in 2009) was appointed to the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) earlier this year. 
For most people in the US, Wall Street is not an everyday concept. It's more like a haunted Victorian mansion on the edge of town where your 401(k) retirement plan lives: it takes a long time to understand how to get there and you're pretty sure something's not right about it, but you're too scared to get close enough to check.

As you might expect, that's an illusion. Wall Street is in your backyard, where electrical lines give you light for your house: those energy companies raise money by selling bonds through the public markets. Wall Street is in your pipes, where water managed by municipal governments travels from reservoirs to your faucets; your city likely funds its sewers and water lines by selling bonds in auctions to big, billion-dollar investors. Wall Street is in your schools and roads (paid for by more bonds) and in your colleges (which invest your tuition money in everything from stocks to farmland, in the hopes of boosting their profits and their budgets).

Wall Street is in your bank account, charging you fees on your checking account; it's in your driveway, where your car sleeps as you pay off your auto loan – a debt that has already been sliced and diced and sold to a trader at a bank somewhere. Wall Street is in your house – which it probably owns a part of – and because the interest rate on your mortgage bill was likely set by 18 traders in London one day a few years back.

As a result, Wall Street is not so much like a haunted Victorian mansion as a quiet, creeping fungus right where you live: it grows fast and takes root everywhere, silently.

Read more: How the SEC is enabling Wall Street's fungal creep into Main Street | Heidi Moore | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

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