Who is guarding the guards?

Reporter: Vested staff

This week’s Vested Suggested features stories that the team at Vested is reading and thinking about to begin the week.

Watchdogs? The New York Times offered a deeply reported look at waning regulatory enforcement.

“Across the corporate landscape, the Trump administration has presided over a sharp decline in financial penalties against banks and big companies accused of malfeasance, according to analyses of government data and interviews with more than 60 former and current federal officials,” it wrote.

The SEC has attributed some of the decline in settlement sizes to recent Supreme Court rulings, and also noted that it filed a flurry of cases toward the end of the government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30. And outside legal experts said some of the decline in penalties are due to factors beyond the federal government’s control. A soaring stock market, for instance, can leave agencies with a smaller pipeline of cases because evidence of malfeasance is often easier to identify in tougher economic times.

But between the data analysis and its many anecdotes — SEC chairman Jay Clayton hyped the SEC as a job-creator after taking his oath of office last year, for example, but made no mention of its enforcement mandate — the article begs the question: Who is guarding the guards themselves?

Poll watchers: The midterm elections are tomorrow, and there will be plenty of takes on what the outcome means for the markets, for business, and for the financial services industry. More are welcome. Companies that have anything meaningful to say about the nexus of electoral politics, policymaking, and finance should be able to find an audience for it this week.

Infographic: Here is who corporate America either wants to win or thinks will win, as evidenced by which candidates they gave money to.

Thrifty: The movement dubbed FIRE — “Financial Independence, Retire Early” — is causing younger workers who earn large salaries to go to extremes to avoid spending it. This might sound like a positive. But, “[t]he downside of FIRE is its inherent paradox: For those seeking financial security, early retirement can be risky. Since many early retirees rely solely on income from stocks, bonds or real estate for living expenses, sudden market downturns can pose a threat to their plans. At the same time, these people have to forecast their cost of living for decades. This means prolonged periods of high inflation can wreck their forecasts and budgets.”

It’s business: Prominent companies in many industries immediately and publicly denounced Saudi Arabia after the kingdom was credibly accused of murdering Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and prominent critic of Riyadh, at its consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. But The New York Times reported that big companies thus far have been unwilling to cut off the kingdom as a lucrative client.

“As horrible as this event was, we cannot turn our backs on the Saudi people, as we work to help them in their continued efforts to reform and modernize their society,” said SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, whose company counts Saudi Arabia as a major investor.

A study has found: Investors think too highly of America; Millennials have too much cash.

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