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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Regulatory Competition, Regulatory Arbitrage, and Regulatory Capture

This is from Rajiv Sethi's review of Sheila Bair's recent book, which he describes as "a crisis narrative and a thoughtful reflection on economic institutions and policy":

... A fragmented regulatory structure with a variety of norms and standards encourages financial institutions to shop for the weakest regulator. In the lead up to the crisis, such regulatory shopping occurred between banks and nonbanks, with mortgage brokers and securities firms operating outside the stronger regulations imposed on insured banks. But Bair also notes that the "three biggest problem institutions among insured banks - Citigroup, Wachovia, and MaMu - had not shopped for charters; they had been with the same regulator for decades. The problem was that their regulators did not have independence from them."

This is the problem of regulatory capture. Bair argues that while a single monolithic regulator would put an end to regulatory arbitrage, it could worsen the problem of regulatory capture: "a diversity of views and the ability of one agency to look over the shoulder of another is a good check against regulators becoming too close to the entities they regulate." It's a point that she has made before, and clearly believes (with considerable justification) that the FDIC has provided such checks and balances in the past. It was able to do so in part through its power under the law and in part through the power to persuade; yet another reminder of the continued relevance of Albert Hirschman's notion of voice. ...

    Posted by on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM in Economics, Financial System, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (10)


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