In a recent op-ed piece, The Wall Street Journal correctly decried the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s CARDS program. This program, cynically named “Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System,” is a program that wants to require all of our brokerage houses to report to FINRA massive amounts of data concerning our investment accounts, including what we’re doing in (with?) those accounts.
The op-ed correctly objected to CARDS’ massive collection of data, saying
FINRA says the ocean of data will help it spot a problem almost in real time, far earlier than if it showed up during a regular examination. …
But the financial crisis showed that more data doesn’t guarantee that regulators will know what to do with the information, and it’s as likely the data flood will overwhelm FINRA.
But the WSJ missed a far larger problem with CARDS (and with FINRA generally). The piece cited FINRA’s Chairman and CEO Richard Ketchum’s statement about CARDS’ purpose:
CARDS will allow us to collect and manage data from firms in such a way that we can quickly identify trends and product concentrations that are harmful to investors and take swift, responsive action.
Whose definition of “product concentrations that are harmful?” Why, Big Government’s, of course. This is the real danger of this sort of program: government usurping the free market’s role—and so, deprecating the market—in determining what is harmful. This simply makes the definition of “harmful” a political one, rather than a legitimate one.