Root Cause Analysis

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a background in securities regulation. Meaning that for a while there I investigated broker dealers for rule compliance and also consulted with various financial institutions about how to fix issues with their regulatory compliance.

One of the core concepts of regulatory compliance is determining the root cause of an issue.

So, fine, whatever, that new account didn’t submit a tax form.

But why was that? Is this a one-off situation? Or is it a pattern of activity? If it’s a pattern, what is the pattern? Are the forms being sent? Why aren’t they coming back if they are? Is better follow-up needed? Or is there something else going on?

In one exam I conducted it turned out that the lack of a tax form for new accounts was a sign of unauthorized trading. The pattern was that it only occurred in one branch office and only among a handful of reps who had all come from the same questionable brokerage firm. The reason those forms weren’t coming back was because those customers never agreed to open that account.

That was a very important thing to understand and address.

But if you stop at, “Well another customer is late submitting their form” *shrug* you miss the opportunity to fix the actual issue.

Right now, in my opinion, the United States has a very large problem with failing to address the root cause of many of our issues.

Which is why, when a school shooting happens, like the one today, someone says, “Oh, better give teachers guns” or “Better give the cops better armor” or “Better do more shooter drills for nine-year-olds”.

Which, I don’t know, maybe feels good to a certain type of person. Look at us, doing things. We’re not just sending thoughts and prayers, we’re fighting back.

But it’s all a giant, ridiculous waste of money and effort that is not going to stop the shootings or save lives. Because not one of those asinine suggestions gets to any of the root causes of this issue.

What makes all this harder is that we’re a country that doesn’t want to discuss the root causes. Things like the ready availability of guns and gun culture. The ease with which someone can obtain a gun. The types of guns available. The mental health issues of some of these shooters. The inequalities that exist in our society that make some people feel desperate. Social media and how it pollutes people’s minds. Social isolation. The lack of communities.

I’m sure there are a hundred other factors if you keep digging. And that if you go to some of the people who deal with this on a regular basis, they could give you the list. They’ll tell you, “Don’t fucking arm teachers, restrict who can own that type of weapon or how about being more proactive intervening with individuals who are unstable.”

But on one side of the aisle we have the “ma freedoms” coalition who object to any hint that anyone would want them to limit themselves in any way to protect those around them.

You can’t take their guns, that’s one step from taking everything away. I once had a friend’s husband inform me that he couldn’t give up his semi-automatic because he needed it for when three men (not one, not two, three) broke down his door to assault him.

(Something that has yet to happen to him and is unlikely to happen. One of his three young children are far more likely to get ahold of that gun and use it.)

On the other side of the aisle we have the “just because” and “not all” coalition who will scream from the rooftops that just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they’re going to be a shooter. Not all people with mental illnesses are murderers. So we can’t discuss that aspect of it, because you’re insulting the people with mental illnesses who aren’t.

And so we just sit here letting children die and grow up in fear because we won’t fucking do anything about the factors in our society that drive this shit.

Instead we throw lots of money at people who then have even less of an incentive to stop the problem before it ever occurs because they’re making bank off of the deaths of children. Panic rooms. Special bullet-proof backpacks. Security assessments. Shooter drills. Behind everyone of those, someone is getting paid.

And we get to pat ourselves on the back for “doing something” while we all know that more children are going to die because we can’t fucking get our shit together and do the hard work of addressing the root causes and fixing them.

(And, yes, there probably has to be a transitional period in there where you are addressing both sides of things. What to do when a shooting happens and also how to keep more shootings from happening. It’s not a switch you can flip. The type of change needed here requires long-term funding and effort and probably won’t show full effects for years. But if we don’t start to address the push side of these issues it’s just going to get worse.)

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is an author who has been published under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres. You can contact M.L. at mlhumphreywriter [at]

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