According to top Consortium economists at least, while a free market and deregulation are ideal goals, the market does not police itself, and so a guiding hand ensures smooth operation and stability. As a business enterprise with thousands of hypercorp members, these financial experts argue that a nominal framework of competition regulation is necessary to derail monopolies and corruption, approve mergers, monitor risky investment and lending practices, and otherwise foil destructive efforts to game the system. The tool for this task is Oversight.
First formed under the initial charter that established the Planetary Congress and Ministry, the Oversight Directorate for Fair and Free Markets, more commonly known as just Oversight, is meant to maintain as fair and free a market economy as possible in the Consortium. Not wanting to corrupt its image by mimicking some sort of nation-state regulatory body, the Consortium initially took great pains to set up Oversight as a cooperative effort, a burden and responsibility shared by the members of the Hypercorp Council. Nevertheless, submitting to Oversight’s authority and allowing this agency to check their books is the price any corporate entity pays if it wants to be a full-fledged member of the Consortium with representation in the Ministry. In the decade since, however, in a classic example of mission creep, Oversight’s authority and agenda has expanded well beyond its original outline.
Oversight’s purview falls under the Hypercorp Council’s executive powers, meaning that the agency acts with the Council’s authority. Early on, this led to accusations that Oversight was acting preferentially towards the Council members’ specific interests. To counter this and develop more of an air of impartiality, the Council has adopted a hands-off policy towards most Oversight activities, aside from hand-picking the directorate’s General Secretary. As a result, Oversight has grown and expanded with little oversight of its own affairs. It is worth noting, too, that Council members are also subject to Oversight scrutiny, though there is undoubtedly some institutional bias at play.
Oversight’s activities can be broken down into several realms. The first is analysis and forecasting, handled by squadrons of internal bureaucrats who specialize in conducting market analyses on emerging economic trends and conditions. Given their privileged access to some internal hypercorp records and the trading records from PEX and other exchanges, this enables some impressive forecasting capabilities. If any anomalies are detected or irregularities noticed in the data flow from the hypercorps, an investigative team is dispatched. What is interesting to note about these oracle operations is that Oversight does not only analyze economic factors—they measure a range of real-world developments as well, taking note of how they can impact financial matters. By Consortium law, Oversight forecasts are released to all hypercorp members after 90 days.
The second realm of Oversight is ongoing investigation of personal and hypercorp financial irregularities. Oversight auditors may be tasked to uncover tax evasion, insider trading, pyramid schemes, cartels, corruption, and much more. Agents have significant powers to subpoena records and investigate internal files. It should not be assumed that auditors are just accountants with attitude: a specially tasked branch of Oversight auditors practices more direct methods of investigation, including surveillance, physical infiltration, digital intrusion, social engineering, psychosurgery, and occasionally other, less savory tactics. In an arena of cutthroat capitalism, where greed and power go hand-in-hand, extreme tactics are sometimes necessary.
It is this familiarity with black ops that has developed into Oversight’s third area of operations, thanks to the directorate’s over-extending mission. In alignment with their mission to preserve stability, Oversight has expanded their operations to address almost anything that could be considered a threat to the Consortium. Anarchist agitators, bioconservative terrorists, reclaimers, criminal operations, espionage from rival power blocs—all of these and more are now handled by Oversight’s efficient auditors, the new Men in Black. Oversight has even maneuvered itself into a sort of immigration control, authorizing suspension of incoming egocasts until they’ve had time to interrogate a fork in simulspace. Oversight’s operating budget has doubled every year for the past half a decade, indicating a bureaucracy that is simply out of control. Though few of the influential personages within the Consortium care to challenge this development, as it serves their own interests, it is a matter of time before Oversight oversteps its bounds and the Council is forced to leash their guard dogs.
Oversight is one of the few places in the Consortium where infomorphs can find advancement. Aside from utilizing a number of indentures for low-level tasks, it possesses a large percentage of infomorph auditors on staff. Oversight agents are assigned for their individual skill sets; those who like numbers make good analysts, those with “people skills” become field agents. Rarely, if ever, is one promoted to the other. Salary is based on experience and seniority, so loyalty and service are rewarded.
GENERAL SECRETARY GIA NORNE
Appointed head of Oversight in AF 5, Norne has single-handedly reworked the scope of Oversight’s operations, transforming the regulatory agency into an enforcement arm of the Consortium. There are some who think that Norne has exceeded her bounds so efficiently by virtue of the intelligence she has access to as head of Oversight. Certainly even the most powerful figures in the Consortium think twice before crossing swords with Norne’s agenda. Others point to a few select scandals and exposed corruption schemes as proof that Norne has exercised her threats against those she is blackmailing.
Norne’s personal agenda seems to focus on countering the autonomist threat. Under her leadership, Oversight has ruthlessly hunted down anarchist, technosocialist, and other radical elements within the Consortium’s sphere. Oversight has played a large role in persecuting Barsoomian troublemakers, and the directorate has also harassed numerous Extropian corps that operate within the inner system. Norne’s agenda has also extended towards opening investigations into hypercorps that deal with outer system interests. Despite Norne’s increasing abuses of power, few within the Consortium would argue with the fact that she steers Oversight capably, fulfilling its mission and keeping, if not a level playing field, at least a stable one.
Start Æther Jabber
Active Members: 2
Member 1 From your description, it sounds like Oversight has the Consortium dancing to its tune.
Member 2 That’s a polite way of putting it. A more accurate way might be to say that not only do they know where the cortical stacks are buried, but they’ve wrapped some tentacles around some key gonads, squeezing just hard enough to convey a message.
Member 1 Well, the real question then is this: Is Norne operating on her own, or is she a puppet? And if so, who’s pulling the strings?
Member 2 That’s a very good question. And I don’t have any answers. The puppet show may be a more extravagant affair than is immediately obvious.
Member 1 Let me ask you this, then. What’s the practical difference between Oversight and Ozma. How do they overlap? Which supersedes the other?
Member 2 My take is this: Oversight are the secret police, the MiBs, the enforcers. They’re the ones called in to do the Consortium’s dirty work. There may be puppeteers at work, but ultimately they work within the bounds of the Consortium, if not always legally. Ozma, on the other hand, is the shadow government, the power behind the throne. As far as I can tell, Ozma acts with authority that exceeds all others.
Member 1 Even the Hypercorp Council?
Member 2 I haven’t seen them pitted against each other directly, but I would suspect so. Whomever Ozma works for, it’s not the Council, it’s someone behind the curtain, using the Consortium as a front.
Member 1 Do they compete? Does Oversight step on Ozma’s toes?
Member 2 In my years as a proxy, I’ve actually seen Oversight clean up after Ozma’s messes more than once. Whether they knew they were doing that is questionable—they may have simply thought they were correcting some hypercorp’s mistake. I’ve also seen Oversight and other Consortium interests impede Ozma more than once, a situation that usually leaves the backups wondering which TITAN ate their brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ozma occasionally recruits auditors, but who knows. Ultimately, I think Ozma’s interests are on a much larger scale than Oversight even usually considers.
Member 1 Well, those gerontocrats know how to look at the big picture.
Member 2 Gerontocrats? Who’s to say Ozma’s masters are even human?