SECTIONS 404 and 406 of the Dodd-Frank law of July 2010 add up to just a couple of pages. On October 31st last year two of the agencies overseeing America’s financial system turned those few pages into a form to be filled out by hedge funds and some other firms; that form ran to 192 pages. The cost of filling it out, according to an informal survey of hedge-fund managers, will be $100,000-150,000 for each firm the first time it does it. After having done it once, those costs might drop to $40,000 in every later year.
Hedge funds command little pity these days. But their bureaucratic task is but one example of the demands for fees and paperwork with which Dodd-Frank will blanket a vast segment of America’s economy. After the crisis of 2008, finance plainly needed better regulation. Lots of institutions had turned out to enjoy the backing of the taxpayer because they were too big to fail. Huge derivatives exposures had gone unnoticed. Supervisory responsibilities were too fragmented. Dodd-Frank, named after its co-sponsors, Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, attempted to address these issues (section 404 is one of those aimed at excessive risk exposure). But there is an ever-more-apparent risk that the harm done by the massive cost and complexity of its regulations, and the effects of its internal inconsistencies, will outweigh what good may yet come from it.