Votermedia Finance Blog

August 7, 2009

Vote to allocate investor education budget

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Mark Latham @ 7:12 pm

I write two blogs, and their topics overlap somewhat. (The other is VoterMedia Democracy Blog.) This post is an example of that overlap.

Both blogs relate to the website VoterMedia.org, which is a political reform project that focuses on the economics of information that flows to voters, in corporations and in democracies.

I propose that voters in each community (corporation, city, country, labor union etc) vote to allocate a budget among competing information providers. These would be something like proxy advisors for corporate shareowners, and political media & think tanks for democracies. For smaller voter communities like student unions, the advisor/info role would often be filled by bloggers.

I first proposed this for corporations in 1988, and published it in 1997 (and later) — see votermedia.org/publications. I submitted it as a shareowner proposal many times, some of which are listed at votermedia.org/proposals. Management of course opposed it, but I was disappointed in the lack of support from institutional investors.

So I expanded my scope to democracies, wrote some papers about how to apply the idea there, and sponsored several test implementations in the last few years, especially at the University of British Columbia’s student union and in Vancouver city politics. I explain the idea and test results in the paper Global Voter Media Platform, along with a plan for the website which we are now building. See also our FAQ page.

Thinking about the issues we are facing in the SEC Investor Advisory Committee, I found myself reacting to the problems of disclosure requirements, especially disclosure to retail investors, e.g. when buying mutual funds. It’s so hard to control the behavior of people who make money from investors. But a well-designed investor information/education system should be able to effectively empower individuals to make better investment decisions.

The economics of such an information system are similar to the economics of voter information systems. There’s a large shared public interest component of such a system, which private markets do not fulfill very well. But allocation and oversight of public funding is often inefficient and ineffective, so we end up with poor information systems. The voter funding allocation system I’ve proposed could be applied to investor education too.

So I recently added a page for that to our new website — see votermedia.org/communities/223-usa-investor-ed. For now, the whole website is in public test mode. There’s no funding yet. Anyone can vote, with or without a login. So far I’ve just told a few colleagues about this new page, so the votes are too heavily weighted toward Proxy Democracy (where I’m on the board). Feel free to vote and tell others, to balance this out! (Also see example pages for Vancouver and UBC.)

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