We admit it – over the years we have leveled our share of criticism toward the CFTC, its commissioners, some of the things they say and certain rules they have published.

Lately, though, we have had mostly good things to say. The new chairman, Tim Massad, has struck a more conciliatory note with market participants in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly, abroad. In recent days, new commissioners Chris Giancarlo and Sharon Bowen have each stressed the need to balance the mandates of Dodd-Frank with the realities of the marketplace and the fear of unintended consequences. Without going so far as to call it a “kinder, gentler commission,” especially if one is an institution on the receiving end of a recent fine, we can at least agree that the CFTC has become more pragmatic and responsive in 2014.

Since we are giving credit where credit is due, let us bring your attention to the CFTC’s SmartCheck, a new site that gives investors and would-be market participants a one-stop portal for background checks, the latest news and enforcement actions, and other helpful information.

The core of the SmartCheck system is merely an aggregation of other sources for background information on brokers, firms and money managers – the NFA’s BASIC, FINRA’s BrokerCheck and the SEC’s EDGAR databases, plus the CFTC’s own disciplinary history repository. The checklist also provides an internet search box (tied to Bing rather than Google, but whatever), and directs users to conduct a search of individuals and firms with which they are considering a business relationship. While SmartCheck is not, nor is it meant to be, a comprehensive due diligence review, it is a handy first step toward transparency.

The other thing we like about SmartCheck is its simplicity. It is a widely known fact that the CFTC is under-funded and cash-starved, and its technology needs greatly exceed its budget. So it is good to see the commission doing more with less.

Convenient aggregation from various sources, databases at one’s fingertips, all designed to educate market participants, and done on a finite budget – sounds a lot like the John Lothian Newsletter and MarketsWiki. No wonder we like it.

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