不应宽容反社会金融行为
作者:英国《金融时报》专栏作家 约翰•普伦德

First, Lord Turner, head of the UK’s Financial Services Authority, put the cat among the pigeons by questioning the social utility of much financial innovation. Then Paul Volcker declared that the only financial innovation that had impressed him over the past 20 years was the automated teller machine. Yet, despite these reservations the world remains remarkably tolerant of anti-social behaviour in the markets and in the wider business environment.

先是英国金融服务管理局(FSA)主席特纳勋爵(Lord Turner)质疑许多金融创新的社会效用,引起一片哗然。接着保罗•沃尔克(Paul Volcker)宣称,过去20年唯一给他留下深刻印象的金融创新是自动柜员机(ATM)。不过,尽管有这些保留意见,世界对市场和整个商业环境中的反社会行为仍异常宽容。

Exhibit A is high-frequency trading. This type of computerised dealing exploits the millisecond gaps between news events and their impact on the markets. With the regulators sitting on their hands, such trading has expanded rapidly to the point where, on some estimates, it accounts for 60-70 per cent of the trading volume in US equities. Much of this volume is conducted by a very small number of companies.

反社会金融行为的头号样板是高频交易。这种计算机化交易利用了从新闻事件发生到它们对市场产生影响之间的毫秒之差。在监管者的袖手旁观下,高频交易得到了迅猛发展。据有些人估计,在美国股票交易量中,高频交易占了60%至70%。很大一部分高频交易是由很少一部分机构做出的。

A big reason for concern is that exchanges appear to have joined in an unholy alliance with this small group, which is allowed to see orders before the public. In effect, these people are privileged insiders who are profiting at the expense of those who are innocently saving for retirement and what have you.

高频交易让人担心的一大理由是,交易所似乎与这个小群体组成了邪恶联盟,让后者能够先于公众看到交易指令。事实上,他们是享有特权的内部人士,他们获利,受损的却是那些为养老等目的而存钱的无辜人士。

Worse, the exchanges, which have a business interest in high volume, encourage co-location whereby traders can route their orders to servers in the same location as the exchanges’ computer matching systems. Reducing geographical distance in this way cuts milliseconds off the time it takes for buy or sell messages to be sent into or back from an exchange.

更糟的是,能从交易量高企中获益的交易所还鼓励“联位”(co-location)的做法,使交易员能够把指令发送到与交易所电脑摄合系统处于同一位置的服务器上。以这种方式拉近地理距离,让传送买卖指令的时间缩短了数毫秒。

This is all a form of front-running, even if the trading is not taking place in front of a client order. Proponents argue that anyone can co-locate, but genuine private investors cannot engage in this with an entry price measured in thousands of dollars. The supposed benefit is greater market liquidity. But the resulting market liquidity is far more than is needed for genuine investment. Why should a difference in the milliseconds be relevant to meeting pension liabilities with a 20-, 30- or 40-year duration? And, as the “flash crash” of May 6 showed, the activity can be highly disruptive.

这纯粹就是抢跑,虽说交易不是在客户下单前发生的。支持者认为,任何人都可以“联位”。但是,真正的私人投资者是不可能这么干的,因为入场价以数千美元计算。这种方式据称能够增强市场流动性。但是,由此带来的市场流动性,远远超过了真正投资所需。数毫秒之差,与期限长达二十、三十或四十年的养老金债务何干?5月6日那场“闪电崩盘”已经说明,这种操作可能极具破坏性。

Now that the regulators are taking an interest, they will probably focus on making the playing field more level. Far better would be to recognise that this competitive technological battle reduces social welfare in a similar way to an arms race. The fact that a handful of traders are creaming off big profits at the expense of genuine investors undermines the integrity of the market. A more draconian regulatory response would be appropriate.

既然监管者已经开始关心此事,他们大概会致力于创造更公平的竞争环境。要是他们能认识到,这场竞争性的技术战会像军备竞赛一样损害社会福利,就更好了。一小撮交易员以损害真正投资者利益的方式,获取巨额利润,这种行为妨害了市场公正。对此采取较为严厉的监管措施是得当的。

Next, consider BP and the plans of the New York state pension fund and others to sue the company over the share price plunge. This will be damaging for the company. Yet the litigants’ calculus is that the proceeds from successful litigation will exceed their share of the cost of the damage. The victims will be smaller shareholders who cannot play the legal game, along with other stakeholders including the employees.

接下来看看英国石油(BP),以及纽约州养老基金等准备以股价暴跌为由起诉英国石油的计划。英国石油会受到重创。可诉讼当事人打的算盘却是,胜诉得到的赔偿,将超过英国石油所受损失分摊到自己头上的那部分。受害的将是玩不起法律游戏的小股东,以及公司员工等其它利益方。

Litigation is admittedly understandable in a US governance context. In the absence of majority voting, shareholders have much less ability to throw out underperforming directors than in Europe. Fierce lobbying by big business succeeded last month in removing a proposal to introduce majority voting from the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

就美国公司治理环境而言,打官司情有可原。美国没有多数表决原则,因此股东罢免不称职董事的能力远弱于欧洲。上月,在大企业的大力游说下,多德-弗兰克金融改革议案(Dodd-Frank)中有关引入多数表决原则的建议被取消。

But with a UK company such as BP shareholders are properly empowered. Not only is it easier for institutions to eject a dud chief executive. The UK’s stewardship code is actively encouraging institutional shareholders to co-operate with companies. It would be better if the New York state pension fund engaged with the BP board on corporate strategy and risk management and sought to influence the composition of the board in a more constructive and responsible way.

不过,就英国石油这样的英国企业来说,股东是享有较大权力的。不但机构比较容易罢免无能的首席执行官。英国的管理法规也积极提倡机构股东与公司合作。假如纽约州养老基金在公司治理和风险管理方面与英国石油董事会进行接洽,并且力求以更具建设性和更负责任的方式影响董事会人员构成,情况会更好。

On the topic of shareholder democracy, corporate governance and anti-social behaviour, I cannot do better than quote Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital Management on Dodd-Frank: “The financial reform bill that is emerging from Congress leaves so much essential work undone, and is so obviously a sell-out to special interests and expensive Wall Street lobbying efforts, that it can only be considered the latest example of all that is wrong with the American political system. In addition to leaving untouched the single biggest threat to financial stability – naked credit default swaps – it also fails to address the bleeding ulcers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ignores the deficiencies of the rating agencies and leaves most of the details of financial reform to be filled in by regulators, whose record in effectively doing their jobs is, to put it more politely than it deserves, pathetic.”

关于股东民主、公司治理和反社会行为的话题,我认为最好是援引Harch Capital Management的迈克尔•路易特(Michael Lewitt)对多德-弗兰克提案的评语:“美国国会正在运作的金融改革法案,撇下了很多必要的工作没做,而且明显倒向了特殊利益群体和华尔街的重金游说,因此只能被视为美国政治体制存在问题的最新例证。除了没有触及金融稳定面临的唯一最大威胁——无本金信用违约互换,该法案也未解决房利美(Fannie Mae)和房地美(Freddie Mac)的积弊,忽视了评级机构的缺陷,并在金融改革细节方面留下了大段空白,等待监管者去填补,而监管者在有效履行职责方面的记录却很可怜——这么说已经太客气了。”

Mr Lewitt was prescient about the financial crisis. For my money, he is also on the mark here.

路易特预见到了本轮金融危机。在我看来,他上面的话也说到了点上。

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