Inauspicious Anniversary

Saturday 12 September 2009

I’ve had a difficult 24 hours. Booked a flight to the US (where I am now). Figured I needed to leave on Friday (yesterday) in order to meet the schedule that brings me to the US. It wasn’t until I had to give someone my travel dates that I realised I’d picked September 11th to fly on American Airlines! On the upside, the plane was practically empty, even if everyone looked a little jumpy.

Which goes only part of the way to explaining why I am sitting on a back porch in North Carolina, with my new ultra-lite laptop (very light, because most of the standard features seem to be missing) typing this before heading to Chicago on Monday to speak on the regulation of professions.

I grew up in a world that believed it was unethical for professionals to advertise. No, it wasn’t! That was a rule designed to make it harder for new firms to break into the market. A classic example of anti-competitive practice masquerading as a code of “ethics”. All that was swept away in the mid-1980s.

Enron, Equitable Life and other famous collapses exposed additional weaknesses in the way professions policed their members. The result was regulatory oversight bodies, such as the Professional Oversight Board for accountants and actuaries and the Legal Services Board for lawyers. But then the credit crunch exposed weaknesses in the regulatory bodies as well. It worries me that we don’t yet have a grip on what we are trying to achieve through regulation.

More on that in due course … Next stop, Chicago. I am due there on Monday, the first anniversary of Lehman’s collapse.