Income inequality effects firms and individuals. Rising inequality moves hand and hand with increasing skew in the distribution of firm size. For firms this goes by various cliched names, consolidation for example. When it becomes extreme then we talk of anti-trust. In this framing talk of what’s good for small business is analogous to talk about what’s good for the poor and in those terms the ideas of consumer protection are mimic’d by regulations, like anti-trust, that temper the power of the large firms over the small ones.
The payment’s industry is a good exemplar for all these dynamics. Follow the money, and all that. There is a lot of high stakes antitrust litigation (2.1 Billion example) in the payments industry. Personally I think these cases should get more press coverage. Visa has filed to go public (10 Billion). These exchange networks are big money; e.g. UPS, or AT&T wireless (10.6 Billion) As an aside I find this is interesting from an industrial standards point of view. It makes me wonder if the folks that run the Universal Product Code hub could go public too?
The risk section in Visa’s S1 makes for interesting reading. It’s a guided tour of the business model. I love S1 since they are a rare attempt to speak clearly about the business. A good example: “Our management team is new and does not have a history of working together.” Where else would you get to see that? Or that they have a complex partnership with Visa Europe full of technical stress; and options for significant financial events they don’t control.
Regarding the introduction above it says that both banking and retailing are becoming more consolidated. It’s nice to have diffuse and weak neighbors in the supply chain; it’s a pain to have powerful neighbors since they tend to be difficult to negotiate with.
Consumer protection, i.e. government regulation targeted to protect consumers, hardly shows up in their list of concerns. Government regulation does. Privacy regulation is the closest the come to a consumer protection worry; and that appears to be less of a worry than dealing with the thicket of regulations thrown up after 9/11.
Its telling that they frame their concerns about credit card fraud entirely in terms of it’s effect upon the brand.
I love to anthropomorphize and these dozen pages are a great window into what keeps a payment network up at night.