Regulation

By Kevin Gallagher

In Germany this week Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff rebuked industrialised countries for creating a “liquidity tsunami” of speculative capital that is bubbling currencies, stock and bond markets across emerging markets and the developing world.  To stem the tide, her government extended a tax on speculative inflows of capital into Brazil.

A new task force report entitled Regulating Global Capital Flows for Long-Run Development, released this week, argues that regulating flows to tame the liquidity wave are justified more than ever in the wake of the global financial crisis.  Countries have more flexibility to deploy such measures given the new consensus in the peer-reviewed academic literature and at the IMF that capital account regulations have been effective tools to prevent and mitigate financial crises.  In this new environment Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan, Peru, Thailand, South Korea, and many others have regulated flows.

Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff

However, the report also expresses serious concern that many countries lack the ability to regulate flows because many of the world’s economic integration clubs and trade and investment treaties have started to mandate capital account liberalisation. Read more

By Laurence Kotlikoff

The Independent Banking Commission’s final report is a grave disappointment. The ICB (chaired by Sir John Vickers) seeks to reinstate Glass-Steagall by ring-fencing good banks and letting bad banks do their thing and, if they get into trouble, suffer the consequences. This proposition was tested by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, whose failure nearly destroyed the global financial system.

The commission retains the current system apart from some extra requirements primarily imposed on the good banks (the retail banks). The main impact of this is likely to be to foster more financial intermediation to run through the bad banks, i.e. if you impose more regulation on financial companies that call themselves X and less on companies that call themselves Y, companies that call themselves X will start to call themselves Y. In short, the commission has in effect taxed good banking while sanctifying shadow banking. The commission has also chosen to regulate based on what a bank calls itself, rather than on what it does. Read more

By Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig

Bankers on both sides of the Atlantic are lobbying furiously against stronger regulation. Authorities in different countries are reluctant to strengthen banking regulation as if the crisis never happened. The European Commission even hesitates to fully implement Basel III.

In this debate, many argue that global competition requires a “level playing field.” Following this argument, and concerned about the City’s competitiveness, the Interim Report of the UK’s Independent Commission on Banking avoids proposing tougher regulation for investment banks.

These “level playing field” arguments are invalid. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

The message of this article is straightforward. In response to the crisis, the reforms in financial regulation address threats to the banking system by increasing capital and providing for liquidity in the banking system. This article argues that the measures miss the point of the recent crisis. The liquidity crisis in the shadow banking system was a major source of financial and economic instability.

Liquidity grew within in the shadow banking system, and once liquidity evaporated, fire sales lead to downward revaluations of collateral assets. In a financial system increasingly dominated by market instruments, a collapse due to rapid revaluations or counterparty risk is a very high prospective risk. The liquidity and leverage ratios proposed by the Basel committee do not address the problem. Read more

By Laurence Kotlikoff

Dear John,

I read with great interest your terrific speech about banking reform. I agree with essentially everything you said, but want to take issue with some aspects of your brief remarks about Limited Purpose Banking. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

In response to the financial crisis, the most immediate fundamental reform adopted by several developed countries is to have a “systemic regulator” overseeing the stability of the financial system as a whole. Through data gathering, analysis and ultimately regulation, the systemic regulator is expected is expected to mitigate the risks associated with highly inter-dependent relationships between financial institutions. Many central banks are receiving significant new responsibilities for macroprudential supervision. Changes to the UK regulatory framework in 2010 gave the Bank of England responsibility for microprudential and macroprudential regulation. In the US, the Dodd-Frank Act established the Financial Stability Oversight Council, to be led by Treasury Secretary including the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Several arguments have been put forward for justifying why central banks are receiving a prominent role in macroprudential supervision: financial supervision offer insights into the condition of financial institutions that is essential in the conduct of monetary policy; and central banks are inextricably involved in the financial stability function through their lender-of-last-resort function. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

In response to the global financial crisis that began in mid-2007, governments around the world are introducing reforms designed to address the way financial markets operate. Although it will take many years to implement the multitude of rules and regulations, we know the contours and can focus on the question of whether the changes will instill a safer system. The answer is likely to be a disappointing no.

To date, reform in financial regulation and supervision has focused mainly on large, regulated institutions. Three examples are the just announced Basel III capital rules, much of the US Dodd-Frank Act, and the US Federal Reserve’s revamping of its large holding company supervision.

Some attention has also been paid to the systemic source of risk, notably in Dodd-Frank’s provisions for prudential supervision of payments, clearing, and settlement systems. Yet, shoring up the capital of the banking system is equivalent to fortifying the Maginot Line while the financial system has changed. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

Developing and developed countries alike are inextricably connected in the international financial system. Yet this system is heading into strong headwinds and a dangerous period in which vulnerabilities will increase in the international financial system. Read more

By Kevin P. Gallagher

Clear and consistent proposals toward crisis recovery and prevention are needed at the International Monetary Fund upcoming annual meetings. Unfortunately, the IMF has been sending mixed messages over the past two months on the subject of capital controls. Read more

Leading academic critic warns of leaving too much discretion to regulators and calls for new economic thinking.

Joseph Stiglitz was interviewed at the Institute for New Economic Thinking conference, sponsored by George Soros, at King’s College, Cambridge. Read more

Ferguson illustration

Today, the people see in the financial sector not the skilful hands of erstwhile masters of the universe, but the grabbing hands of greedy ingrates. It is little wonder, then, that a desperate President Obama, battered by the voters in Massachusetts, has turned upon a group even less popular than his party. He has duly added the axe of Paul Volcker, 82-year-old former chairman of the Federal Reserve, to the regulatory scalpel offered by his Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano and Andrew Sheng

As the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission begins looking at the causes of the recent financial crisis, we need to consider that crisis is a failure of governance. Lucian Bebchuk from Harvard Law School has written extensively on the failure of private sector governance: boards that failed to make informed judgments or control the risks incurred by their institutions, self-serving management that lost control over reckless risk taking and compensation systems that invited speculation by traders. Although Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), has openly expressed her discontent with the governance of the banks and the FDIC is considering tying premiums to compensation, we are likely to witness the largest bonus season the industry has ever seen. Read more

This post for the Financial Times looks at proposed reforms to financial regulation in the EU and in the US. Read more

This post by Richard Werner for Martin Wolf’s Economists’ Forum looks at the Bank of Japan and its use of quantitative easing. Read more

By Thomas Palley

There is widespread recognition that the financial crisis which triggered the Great Recession was significantly due to financial excess, particularly in real estate lending. Now, policymakers are looking to reform the financial system in hope of avoiding future crises. But like the drunk who looks for his lost keys under the lamppost because that is where the light is, policymakers remain fixated on capital standards because that is what is already in place. Read more

Alan Johnson, home secretary, has recently admitted that the government has been “maladroit” in its handling of immigration. This is British understatement. It has been dishonest: it has pursued a radical policy, with profound consequences, on weak grounds, without serious debate. That is why the British National party is on BBC television. Read more

From the FT:
King calls for the breakup of banks
Chris Giles
Darling responds to King’s bank speech Chris Giles FT video

Elsewhere:
Mervyn King’s speech in full
Bank of England
Volcker fails to sell a bank strategy NY Times
The consensus on big banks begins to move The Baseline Scenario
Mervyn King calls for banks to split as public finances take record hit The Times

By Per Kurowski

There is no reason to believe the world would be better if financial regulators provided extra incentives to those who, perceived as having a lower default risk, are already favoured by lower interest rates, or punish further those who, perceived as more risky, are already punished by higher interest rates. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Read more

By Michael Pomerleano

I was in Chicago last week to participate in the 12th Annual International Banking Conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the World Bank. The answer to the question posed — have the rules of the global financial game really changed? — is a resounding no.

This was my first week back in the US after being away for three years, and the conference gave me an opportunity to gauge the state of the debate there. Compared to my two years at the Bank of International Settlements in Basel and my year at the Bank of Israel, the openness of the debate and the quality of the discussions in Chicago were refreshing. However, in the US — the epicentre of the crisis and the country that is supposed to lead the world toward reform and out of the crisis — I expected a far more forceful articulation of remedial measures. Read more

From the FT:

Martin Wolf: This time will never be different Read more