« The Bush Tax Cuts and Infrastructure Spending | Main | links for 2010-09-06 »

Monday, September 06, 2010

"Now The Real Work Begins"

David Warsh:

Now The Real Work Begins, by David Warsh: ...The experts’ deciphering of the crisis is nearly complete. Now the real work begins.
The best account of what happened,..., still seems to me, as it did in April, is that of Gary Gorton, of Yale University, Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007, which described the problem as the high-tech equivalent of an old-fashion nineteenth-century banking panic. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shares my opinion, I was gratified to learn...
We can look forward to the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, at whose hearings Bernanke was testifying last week. The FCIC’s investigation, undertaken in the spirit of various Congressional inquiries, including the Report of the 9/11 Commission and stretching all the way back to the 1932 Pecora Hearings (which led to the passage in 1933 of ... the Glass-Steagall Act), is due to be submitted to Congress on December 15. ...
[Most analysts agree that] the culmination of a thirty-year pulse of financial innovation simply swamped regulators’ abilities to cope with – or even at certain key points to understand – the nature of the unfolding crisis. This vast new infrastructure, known collectively as  the “shadow banking system,” consists principally of the proliferation of investment instruments known as “securitization,” on the one hand; and, on the other, the advent of  myriad other institutional investors including money market mutual funds. There is probably no reason to want to dismantle this system, or even to think any longer that it could be done. But new methods of regulation are definitely needed to prevent the industry from seizing up in panic again a few years hence.
Almost none of the structural problems involved are addressed in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which President Obama signed into law in July. Among a small circle of economists and market participants, the deciphering is nearly complete. But popular news media haven’t yet tackled the task of translating their findings of malfunctions into political discourse. That probably won’t begin in earnest before the FCIC report appears in December.
So perhaps the most interesting occasion on the calendar will be the meeting of the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity scheduled for September 16-17. Gorton and Andrew Metrick, also of Yale, are scheduled to present a paper there – “Regulating the Shadow Banking System” — that includes a concrete proposal to bring the securitization industry under the regulatory umbrella.
How? By chartering – and closely supervising – a new kind of bank (narrow-funding banks) whose sole business would be to buy asset-backed securities from their originators and use them to conduct the banking activities known as “repo” that were at the heart of the 2007-09 crisis.

Sound complicated? It is. Fanciful?  Probably not. It was strict standards for collateral that stabilized national banking in the nineteenth century. The new market will be designed by experts, as opposed to a popular reform. Even so, get ready for more stories  than you will want to read about the mechanics of big-league financial intermediation. ...

Finding ways to prevent runs in the repo market is an important component of financial market stabilization. [Note: There are citations to several accounts of the crisis in the article, including "HTML clipboardthe work of Markus Brunnermeier, of Princeton University, whose early article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, “Deciphering the Liquidity and Credit Crunch of 2007-08” is, like the rest of that rejuvenated journal, now available free online.]

    Posted by on Monday, September 6, 2010 at 08:56 PM in Economics, Financial System, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (16)


    Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.