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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Greenspan Blocked Increased Scrutiny of Subprime Lenders

Alan Greenspan says he doesn't remember blocking a proposal to increase scrutiny of subprime lenders, but if he did it was the right thing to do:

Did Greenspan Add to Subprime Woes?, by Greg Ip, WSJ: ...[Alan] Greenspan's regulatory record has received far less scrutiny than his management of the economy. That may be changing. A former colleague says Mr. Greenspan blocked a proposal to increase scrutiny of subprime lenders under the Fed's broad authority. ...

Edward Gramlich, who was Fed governor from 1997 to 2005, said he proposed to Mr. Greenspan in or around 2000, when predatory lending was a growing concern, that the Fed use its discretionary authority to send examiners into the offices of consumer-finance lenders that were units of Fed-regulated bank holding companies...

Knowing it would be controversial with Mr. Greenspan, whose deregulatory philosophy is well known, Mr. Gramlich broached it to him personally rather than take it to the full board. "He was opposed to it, so I didn't really pursue it," says Mr. Gramlich...

Mr. Greenspan, in an interview, says he doesn't recall a specific discussion of the idea but confirmed his opposition to it.

There is "a very large number of small institutions, some on the margin of scrupulousness and very hard to detect when they are doing something wrong," says Mr. Greenspan... "For us to go in and audit how they act on their mortgage applications would have been a huge effort, and it's not clear to me we would have found anything that would have been worthwhile without undermining the desired availability of subprime credits."

Mr. Greenspan adds that borrowers might get a false sense of security from a lender that advertised itself as Fed-inspected. ...

Mr. Greenspan says he didn't get heavily involved in regulatory matters in part because his laissez-faire philosophy was often at odds with the goals of the laws Congress had tasked the Fed with enforcing.

"I basically listened to the staff and tried as best I could to support the staff's recommendation," he says. He notes that with one exception, on a highly technical issue, he always voted with the board majority.

Still, Mr. Greenspan's views did color the regulatory environment, facilitating growing concentration in banking and a hands-off approach to derivatives and hedge funds. That approach ... is coming under increased scrutiny. ...

    Posted by on Saturday, June 9, 2007 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Housing | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (6)


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