The current state of financial market reform in the US

Held on Wednesday, April 20, 2016


  • Dennis Kelleher (President and CEO, Better Markets)

  • Patrick Jenkins (FT)

  • Rick Watson (head of capital markets, AFME)

  • David Shirreff (author)



Dennis Kelleher is the President and CEO of Better Markets, a Washington-based non-profit set up in 2010 to “promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall St. and make our financial system work for all Americans again”.

All very populist, and well-meaning – in an Elizabeth Warren kind of way. Better Markets focuses on the finance sector’s “riskiest activities” – notably derivatives. It attacks those big banks, which, in its view, turned “their economic power into political power”, and which retained an “army of lobbyists” to remove the protections that had been put in place after the Depression – presumably, Glass-Steagall and the McFadden Act. And it offers a “counterweight to Wall St.’s special interests in Washington”.

Better Markets was founded by an Atlanta-based hedgie, Michael W. Masters, whose speciality has been commodities and who has taken a fairly high profile on energy issues. But it is Dennis who runs the shop. His background is split between the law (he is an honours graduate from Harvard Law and was a litigation partner with Skadden Arps) and Capitol Hill (where he was most recently chief counsel to the chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee). He has been extremely successful in building Better Markets as a public interest advocate, not just in the US but also in Europe – where Bob Jenkins (latterly of our own FPC) is a Senior Fellow.

We are delighted that (thanks to Bob’s intervention) Dennis has agreed to brief us on the current state of financial reform in the US, prospects for the next Administration, and the implications of what some see as a new-found fervour for global financial reform.

But he won’t get things all his own way. I am also delighted that Patrick Jenkins has agreed to kick off the response to Dennis’s remarks. Patrick is (as I am sure you are all aware) financial editor of the FT (having previously served as companies editor and then banking editor). David Shirreff, meanwhile, may egg Dennis on. David was a correspondent with The Economist, where he covered Germany, European capital markets, the UK economy and just about everything in between. He is the author of “Don’t Start from Here: We Need a Banking Revolution” and “Break up the Banks!”. And, finally, Rick Watson, head of capital markets at AFME, will offer a few comments on how Dennis’s agenda does (or does not) dovetail with European priorities for reform.