Political Scientist Assesses Impact of NYSE Sale

UCR scholar John Cioffi says the merger with ICE raises questions about NYSE's ability to self-regulate

Photo of street sign that says Wall St

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The announcement this week of the sale of the New York Stock Exhange to IntercontinentalExchange Inc. (ICE) for $8.2 billion reveals the continued ascendance of derivatives in contemporary finance, and may impact the NYSE’s regulatory role as a self-regulatory organization., says John W. Cioffi, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside.

“The strategic logic of this acquisition tells us, first, that traditional equities markets continue to be eclipsed by almost wholly unregulated derivatives trading that nearly destroyed the global financial system in the fall of 2008 and, second, that concentration in financial services remains the dominant trend despite the dangers of institutions that are ‘too big to fail,” he says.

IntercontinentalExchange, a rival exchange based in Atlanta, is predominantly interested in global derivatives and futures trading, Cioffi explained.

John Cioffi

John W. Cioffi

“Buying the NYSE’s parent corporation (NYSE Euronext Inc.) allows them to acquire the London-based LIFFE exchange, Europe’s second-largest derivatives market, which handles a huge volume of credit default swaps.  In fact, this deal may run into trouble with competition and antitrust regulators here and in the EU because it increases concentration of ownership across the world’s major derivatives and stock exchanges,” he says.

“However, the moves toward exchange consolidation reflect the weakness of the traditional stock exchanges as they lose volume and transaction share amid market fragmentation and an array of new, competitive trading technologies and platforms. The paradox of the traditional financial exchanges is that they may be too big to fail, yet too small and costly to thrive — and perhaps survive.

“An important question raised by this merger is the effect it may have on the NYSE’s regulatory role as a self-regulatory organization. This already eroded public responsibility may be undermined further by the relentless pressures for increasing profits that accompany the ‘corporatization’ of the NYSE and an ownership more internationally oriented.”

Cioffi joined the UCR faculty in 2001. Among his research interests are corporate law, securities law and regulation, and regulatory reform. He has taught American constitutional law (federal structure and powers, civil liberties, and criminal procedure), regulation and regulatory politics (American and comparative), comparative political economy, and law and policy in the digital economy. He holds a J.D. from Rutgers School of Law-Newark. Prior to his academic career, Professor Cioffi was a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson Debevoise and practiced law with the New York law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton.

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John W. Cioffi
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