What Do Singing Fish, Financial Regulations, and Maps Have In Common?

By Sustainable Economies Law Center Executive Director, Janelle Orsi

So often, it comes back to money. Questions of finance are tethered to nearly every issue we work on at the Sustainable Economies Law Center. Efforts to build sustainable systems for food, housing, energy, water, and jobs rely on a community’s ability to access and transact with dollars.

Recently, the Law Center has been wading into the details of more than a dozen areas of financial law (see below for a shorthand guide to those laws), and we’ve come to a conclusion: If communities are to take their financial futures and livelihoods into their own hands, many laws will, unquestionably, have to change.

Now come the challenges of 1) documenting the details of those laws, 2) communicating about them, and 3) identifying the most strategic places to make change.

That is where cartoons and maps will make a world of difference. While we could sift through thousands of pages of regulations and translate them into hundreds of pages of explanation, our goal is for everyone to see how these laws affect our lives. We’ll need a lot of people to change a lot of laws (and in every state, no less).

Cartoon Featuring a Singing Fish:

To start, here is a 13-minute cartoon, which, for a video about financial law and policy, contains an unusual amount of audience laughter:

The fish is there to remind us: “If people don't actually start things outside of the law, we're not gonna start things that challenge the status quo!” If you watch the video, it will all make sense...


Regulation Mapping Project

As the video notes, the Law Center has begun to literally create a financial regulations map (using Kumu.io) so that we can visualize the details of the financial regulations, document how and where they apply, and identify the biggest choke points in the movement of money in our local economies. We will be joined from January to April by UK-based scholar and activist, Leander Bindewald, who will be helping to build out this map.

Shorthand Guide to Financial Laws:

  • When you take people’s money as a loan or investment, and they hope to get it back, usually with a return, you’ll want to learn about securities laws.
  • When you take people’s money as a deposit, and they definitely expect it back, you’ll want to learn about banking, trust company, and credit union laws.
  • When you take people's money and agree to hold it until conditions are met, after which you transfer it to the specified recipients, you’ll want to learn about escrow laws.
  • When you lend people money and set the terms on how they pay it back, you’ll want to learn about finance lender laws.
  • When you take people’s money, invest it elsewhere, and plan to pass returns to those people, you’ll want to learn about investment company laws.
  • When you receive money from one person for the purpose of transferring it to another, you’ll want to learn about money transmission laws.
  • When you take people’s money and they expect you to provide for them in the event of a loss, death, or mishap, you’ll want to learn about insurance laws.
  • When you take people’s money to transact on their behalf and you take a cut or fee from the transaction, you’ll want to learn about broker laws.
  • When you advise people on what to do with their money, you’ll want to learn about financial advisor laws.
  • When you take people’s retirement savings and will help them invest those savings, you’ll want to learn about IRA custodian laws.

Want More?

If you’re fascinated and want to keep watching cartoons on financial regulations, check out:


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