One year later, no safety net


Exactly a year ago, investment bank Lehman Brothers imploded, kicking off Wall Street's most severe downturn since the Great Depression. With the real estate market still in tatters and an unemployment rate hovering perilously close to 10%, President Obama has called for oversight that would prevent this kind of blow-up from ever happening again.

Unfortunately, creating plans and legislation to regulate the wealthy, powerful finance industry is easier said than done, and even those who agree that such steps are needed disagree on exactly what the finished product will look like.

A big part of the problem is that companies like banks, insurance companies and other finance-related businesses aren't overseen by a single agency, which means mistakes and misdeeds can slip through the cracks.

In some cases, banks can even choose which agency they want to oversee them, which means they can pick the one that has the most lenient rules. Would you let your kid pick a babysitter that lets them eat chips in bed and bounce on the sofa until midnight? Of course not, but that's essentially what banks can do.

Another part of the problem is that some companies -- like AIG -- are so big and complicated that multiple agencies regulate them, but nobody gets the whole picture. Think of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. All of them can describe the body part they're touching very well, but none has any idea what the entire animal looks like.

These articles (from CNN/Money and the New York Times) try to explain why, a year after the blowup and the bailouts, we still don't have financial safety nets in place.

Originally published