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Wednesday, July 29, 2009 

How Many More Ponzi Schemes Are Out There? It's Time For Legislators To Clamp Down!

The biggest flaw in the free-enterprise system still contines to be .... Caveat Emptor
(Definition:
Tacit warning to the buyers that the sellers are not bound to volunteer negative information about the items they are selling. It is assumed that (unless the seller gives express warranty) the buyer takes all risk of any loss due to defects in the goods or property being bought. Latin for, let the buyer beware).

This is the principle that allows cigarette companies to continue to kill millions of people. This is the principle that allowed Bernie Madoff and Earl Jones to steal the hard earned life savings of 94 year old widows.

Let's face it, the only difference between Madoff/Jones and those other Ponzi schemers who continue to operate is that THEY WERE CAUGHT!

At some point, legislators and parliamentarians better wake up and ensure that they people who elected them, are protected from the criminals who hide behind 'Caveat Emptor'.

I think you've misstated the applicability of caveat emptor vis a vis Madoff and Jones. In the case of the former, a fraud conviction with a life sentence occured. Buyer beware doesn't mean one can defraud another. Fraud has been a common law tort since the days of the magna carta.

Moreover, our consumer protection laws, coupled with the ability to sue on latent defects have severely restricted the applicability of caveat emptor.

If we were to do away with caveat emptor all together, we'd have a society wherein anyone could void a contract for defects that occur after a contract is executed. At some point, it's up to a buyer to make sure that they get what they pay for. We have home inspections on real estate transactions for that very purpose.

Doing away with caveat emptor all together is no more legitimate than the right wing tactic of watering down the presumption of innocence. These are the fundamental principles of common law.

A few weeks back someone I was talking to was ranting on Madoff and American greed, and I pointed out that our regulatory system was actually much worse than the Americans' and in the USA some white collar criminals actually wind up in jail (hello Conrad Black). The US has tighter regulation and accounting standards than Canada... people don't seem to believe this. Canada is much easier on white collar crime.

In general I am opposed to the principle of federal control of danmn near anything, but since the Toronto Stock Exchange is such a vital part of Canadian economic life it should be regulated federally rather than by the Ontario Securities Commission - we need better accounting principles and more accountability (ie: jail) to the people who make serious violations.

Jones wiped out the savings of a number of people, and exploited a weakness in the market which impacts almost everyone. This is a very serious matter, that deserves a lot of attention.

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