America’s Universities Need Serious Regulation

Arthur Levitt:

Americans who are rightfully appalled by the pusillanimous response to anti-Semitism on college campuses have been pulling their donations and calling for restrictions on anti-Israel student groups. Maybe those tactics will work. But in my experience, if you want real change in large and unwieldy organizations, you need to focus on fixing governance and assigning personal accountability. You need to regulate.

After the accounting scandals of the dot-com and Enron era, Congress passed laws requiring auditors to tighten their operations, establish clear boundaries between their consulting and audit businesses, and assume far more accountability than they had before.

Directors, too, were informed that they bore a personal interest in preventing fraud. One rule made it clear that if a company passed fraudulent numbers off to investors, the person who signed the filing—usually the chairman—would be personally liable.

Lawmakers have also tightened anti-money-laundering statutes, requiring banks to review their customers closely and to ensure they aren’t unwittingly providing services to organized crime, terror entities, tax evaders or other bad actors. The rules are difficult to enforce and require a lot of work. But they come with real penalties for failure: Bank officers can go to prison if they fail to prevent money laundering, and several have.