By Thomas Palley
The Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury continue to fail in their attempts to stabilize the U.S. financial system. That is due to failure to grasp the nature of the problem, which concerns the parallel banking system. Rescue policy remains stuck in the past, focused on the traditional banking system while ignoring the parallel unregulated system that was permitted to develop over the past twenty-five years.
This parallel banking system financed vast amounts of real estate lending and consumer borrowing. The system (which included the likes of Thornburg Mortgage, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers) made loans but had no deposit base. Instead, it relied on roll-over funding obtained through money markets. Additionally, it operated with little capital and extremely high leverage ratios, which was critical to its tremendous profitability. Finally, loans were usually securitized and traded among financial firms.