King Augeas of Elis was blessed by the gods. Greek legend tells how the sun god Helios rewarded the king for his piety by endowing his cattle with perfect health and abundant fertility. Freed from sickness and death, the royal herds rapidly multiplied, making Augeas the richest man in ancient Greece. But as usual with divine favours, there turned out to be a catch. The king's herds grew too big to be manageable. Too numerous to be driven daily to pasture, the royal cattle had to be kept permanently penned in giant stables. But vast herds naturally meant vast quantities of manure. And with the cattle unable to roam, their deposits soon built up inside the stables with noxious results. The stink was overpowering, and certainly strong enough to knock out anyone foolish enough to approach with a shovel. For 30 years, the Augean stables remained uncleaned. And as the herds kept growing, their manure kept accumulating, until a mighty stink infected the entire kingdom. Mucking out the stables seemed an impossible task. So when, as the fifth of 12 labours King Eurystheus of Tiryns ordered Hercules to clean out all the accumulated crud of 30 years in a single day, it was in full confidence that the hero would finally be defeated. Realising that for once his great strength and indomitable courage would be useless, Hercules sat down to think - and came up with a bright idea. Instead of setting to work with nose plugs and a shovel, he simply diverted the nearby rivers Alpheus and Peneus to flow through the stables, successfully cleaning them out within the allotted time without even getting his hands dirty. The tale of the Augean stables is fundamentally different from the stories of Hercules' other labours. Most of those - the capture of the Golden Hind, the trapping of the Erymanthian Boar - can be interpreted as religious myths representing the suppression of Bronze Age Greece's local matriarchal animal cults by patriarchal sky-god-worshipping invaders from the north. But the Augean stables is a transplanted trickster story. A character common to mythologies all over the world, the trickster is usually shown standing up for the interests of common people in opposition to the established powers. Invariably he triumphs, not through brute strength, but by the application of his lively wit and superior intelligence. That's what Hong Kong needs. Like King Augeas, our city has been blessed. In recent years it has made the most of its open financial system and privileged links to the mainland to get rich. For example, between October 1987 and October 2007, the value of shares listed on the stock exchange's main board rose from HK$413 billion to an astonishing HK$23 trillion, an increase of 5,700 per cent that generated vast income for the city. But, as King Augeas found, if you are not careful, the accumulation of great wealth can also cause a nasty stink. Last October, with the bad smell in Hong Kong getting more noticeable every day following a string of financial scandals, Monitor called on the city's government and regulators to clean out our financial stable. Almost six months later, it is worth taking a look at how they are getting on. There has certainly been some encouraging spade-work. The police raid on the offices of Citic Pacific which triggered Wednesday's resignation of company chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin and managing director Henry Fan Hung-ling proved that the authorities are prepared to investigate even the most highly connected business barons if there is evidence of wrongdoing. Similarly, the Securities and Futures Commission's investigation into allegations of illegal vote rigging in Richard Li Tzar-kai's attempt to take PCCW private is to be heartily commended. Recent weeks have even seen the city's first jail sentence handed down for insider trading. Meanwhile, some investors who were missold Lehman Brothers minibonds have been compensated for their losses. But progress has been slow. The police raid on Citic came almost six months after the first allegations of deceit, and the insider trading conviction took three years to secure, and came six years after the offence was criminalised. Meanwhile, an unpleasant smell still lingers in the air, not least because of the stock exchange's decision earlier this year to back down on the introduction of a rule which would have imposed a stricter ban on directors trading in the shares of their companies before results announcements. Clearly, more drastic action is needed. The regulatory shovelling that is going on is excellent news, but shovelling alone is not going to clean out the stable. To do that, we need to reform our whole regulatory structure - the equivalent of diverting the rivers - and create a single strong financial regulator with the necessary powers to exercise its mandate. Then maybe we can wash out the muck and enjoy our blessings, untroubled by nasty smells.