The Editors' Ball Put leading financial services executives and industry watchdogs in a room together. Ask if the investing public is being treated fairly. Then watch the fur fly
(MONEY Magazine) – Imagine: A legend in the mutual fund world is labeled a communist! A steely-eyed regulator says fund firms are fleecing investors! An industry executive fights back, refusing to bow down!
The third annual MONEY Summit was--to use a phrase popular among diplomats--a frank exchange of ideas. The invitation-only event attracted an elite group of 173 government officials, Fortune 500 CEOs and money managers. The verbal pyrotechnics of New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer, who made news by declaring that "no way, no how" would he settle a case against former New York Stock Exchange CEO Richard Grasso, were one highlight. But with the stolid facade of the fund industry ripped off to reveal a raft of improprieties, oil prices up some 25% from a year ago, inflation rising and worries that all of our calls to help desks--heck, all of our jobs--will wind up in Bangalore, attendees had no shortage of issues to debate.
And debate they did. Are small investors being ripped off by high fund fees while institutional clients get all the breaks? Should fund managers reveal their compensation? Will more disclosure help the investing public--or just raise costs and stifle innovation?
Vice President Dick Cheney kicked off the festivities on June 7 with a speech that ticked off a long list of economic successes that he attributed to President Bush's tax cuts--a manufacturing turnaround, job growth, improved consumer confidence and the Detroit Pistons' upset of the Lakers (okay, maybe not that).
Treasury Secretary John Snow gamely expanded on the Administration's economic policies the next day, citing a need to lower deficits and deal with rising health-care costs. Goldman Sachs' managing director Robert Hormats and Sanford C. Bernstein chief Lisa Shalett talked about the impact of high oil prices on the economy. Charles Schwab CEO David Pottruck and Nasdaq CEO Robert Greifeld bemoaned a drop in the number of companies covered by analysts in the wake of Wall Street's research scandals. And one panel concluded that since offshoring is good for big business, it's therefore good for consumers.
The most heated debates took place in panels on regulation and fund scandals. Highlights from those exchanges follow.