What You Missed While You Were Watching the U.S. vs. Germany

Have you ever moderated a panel on the implementation of financial market reform in a hall streaming a blockbuster World Cup game?

I have.

Shortly before noon today I took the dais here at Bloomberg HQ in Manhattan with two experts in corporate governance, Jeff Mahoney, general counsel of the Council of Institutional Investors, and Stephen Davis of Harvard University and the Brookings Institution.

I thanked everyone for choosing to attend a conference on "insights into the opportunities and challenges of responsible investing strategies" over the most hotly anticipated match so far in the 2014 World Cup, Germany v. the U.S. The event was put on by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (My event, not the soccer game).

When you do enough public events, you develop a sense of whether the audience is having a nice time. Many of them seemed to be having a nice time. Then I started doubting myself.

A ripple of muted laughter moved through the left half of the audience, or so I thought, as Jeff finished up his overview of the most pressing questions remaining in the implementation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. I’d never thought it was that funny. Stephen then brought in an insightful historical perspective about the limits of decades-old laws for modern financial markets. Three or four people shot out of the room as if they had forgotten to pick up their children somewhere.

These governance issues can be complicated for people unfamiliar with the enormous legal literature on the Dodd-Frank law and related international efforts. It was gratifying to see so many of the investors in the audience focusing their attention on the stage, even if they did seem to be focusing on the wall behind me. I kept looking over there to see if there was a trapped pigeon in a corner of the room, or if someone was doing an unscheduled impression of former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd or former U.S. Representative Barney Frank.

In the elevator, after the event, a colleague explained that the wall behind me wasn’t a wall at all, but an embedded flat-screen television that was streaming the World Cup for a bit.

No matter. We had a lot to talk about, Jeff, Stephen and I. There are many important issues that need resolving to prevent a sequel to the 2008 financial crisis. The three of us had huddled before we took the stage and joked that 45 minutes seemed ample time to solve the remaining issues in global financial market regulation.

So we got that done today.

More by Eric Roston (@eroston on Twitter)

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