In the paper, Bank Capital and Financial Stability: An Economic Tradeoff or a Faustian Bargain?, forthcoming in the Annual Review of Financial Economics, I review the literature on the relationship between bank capital and stability. Higher capital contributes positively to financial stability. On this issue, there seems to be little disagreement. There is, however, disagreement in the literature on whether the high leverage in banking serves a socially-useful economic purpose, and whether regulators should permit banks to operate with such high leverage despite its pernicious effect on bank stability, and this disagreement seems at least as strong as that over the causes of the subprime crisis (Lo (2012)). Some of the disagreement over higher capital requirements is between those who emphasize the potential benefits of this in terms of reducing systemic risk and those who believe that sufficiently high capital requirements will generate various costs (e.g., lower lending and liquidity creation and the migration of key financial intermediation services to the unregulated sector).
Posts Tagged ‘Systemic risk’
In prior articles (see, e.g., Regulating Shadows: Financial Regulation and Responsibility Failure, 70 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1781 (2013)), I have argued that shadow banking is so radically transforming finance that regulatory scholars need to rethink certain of their basic assumptions. In a forthcoming new article, The Governance Structure of Shadow Banking: Rethinking Assumptions About Limited Liability, I argue that the governance structure of shadow banking should be redesigned to make certain investors financially responsible, by reason of their ownership interests, for their firm’s liabilities beyond the capital they have invested. This argument challenges the longstanding assumption of the optimality of limited liability.
On December 10, 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”) proposed for public comment a notice (the “Notice”) describing its “Single Point of Entry” (“SPOE”) strategy for resolving systemically important financial institutions (“SIFIs”) in default or in danger of default under the orderly liquidation authority granted by Title II of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”).  The Notice follows the FDIC’s endorsement of the SPOE model in its joint paper issued with the Bank of England last year.
Five years after the failure of Lehman Brothers, asset price bubbles remain in forefront of the public imagination. Commentators see potential bubbles from Bitcoin to Chinese real estate. Three articles in this week’s edition of the Economist examine whether bubble are afflicting various economies and markets. This year’s Nobel prizes in economics brought to the forefront questions of market efficiency and whether bubbles exist.
My new book, Law, Bubbles, and Financial Regulation, looks at the often overlooked legal dimensions of bubbles. The book examines how market frenzies and regulatory interact in powerful and often destructive ways. (You can read the first chapter of the book, published by Routledge in November, here). Feedback between market and legal dynamics leads to a pernicious outcome: financial regulation can fail when it is needed the most. The dynamics of asset price bubbles weaken financial regulation just as financial markets begin to overheat and the risk of crisis spikes. At the same time, the failure of financial regulations adds further fuel to a bubble.
The book examines the interaction of bubbles and financial regulation through the history of over three centuries of financial frenzies and crises. This perspective reveals that law is crucial to the story of bubbles and that the legal history of the current global crisis has many forerunners. Bubbles involve more than irrational exuberance or low interest rates. Financial law and legal change play critical roles in the severity and consequences of bubbles. The book explores the ways in which bubbles lead to the failure of financial regulation by outlining five dynamics, which it collectively labels the “Regulatory Instability Hypothesis” (with apologies to Hyman Minsky). These five dynamics include:
Today an enormous global civilization rests upon a jury-rigged financial frame rife with moral hazards, perverse incentives, and unintended consequences. This article, SIFIs and States, forthcoming in the Texas International Law Journal, addresses one aspect of that fragile structure. It argues for basic reform in the international management of financial institutions in distress, with a special emphasis on SIFIs (Systemically Important Financial Institutions). The goal is to examine public institutional arrangements for resolution of financial institutions in the midst of a crisis, rather than the substantive rules governing the resolution process. The proposition central to this article is that the resolution of major financial institutions in serious distress will generally require substantial infusions of public money, at least temporarily. The home jurisdiction for a given financial institution must furnish the bulk of the public funds necessary for the successful resolution of its financial distress. The positive effect is that other jurisdictions may be likely to acquiesce in the leadership of the funding jurisdiction in exchange for acceptance of that financial responsibility. On the other hand, acceptance of the funding obligation would have profound consequences for the state as well as the institution, because the default of a SIFI may threaten the financial stability of that state. Until the crisis of 2007-2008, all that was implicit and unexamined in the political process; to a large extent it remains so.
On November 22, 2013, Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel Tarullo delivered a speech at the Americans for Financial Reform and Economic Policy Institute outlining a potential regulatory initiative to limit short-term wholesale funding risks.  This proposal could increase capital requirements for and apply additional prudential standards to firms dependent on short-term funding, with a focus on securities financing transactions (“SFTs”)—repos, reverse repos, securities borrowing/lending and securities margin lending.
The recent financial crisis and subsequent events  show the dangers that can result when banks trade for their own accounts while disregarding their customers’ interests. During the financial crisis, U.S. taxpayers were forced to cover losses sustained by major financial institutions that resulted from speculative proprietary trading activities.  While several factors combined to cause the financial crisis, proprietary trading by major financial institutions was a key contributor to that crisis.  In particular, proprietary trading by deposit-taking institutions exposed a bank’s capital—and FDIC-insured deposits—to unacceptable risks and saddled taxpayers with massive losses. 
Bankruptcy law in the United States, which serves as an important precedent for the treatment of derivatives under insolvency law worldwide, gives creditors in derivatives transactions special rights and immunities in the bankruptcy process, including virtually unlimited enforcement rights against the debtor (hereinafter, the “safe harbor”). The concern is that these special rights and immunities grew incrementally, primarily due to industry lobbying and without a systematic and rigorous vetting of their consequences.
This type of legislative accretion process is a form of path dependence—a process in which the outcome is shaped by its historical path. To understand path dependence, consider Professor Mark Roe’s example of an 18th century fur trader who cuts a winding path through the woods to avoid dangers. Later travelers follow this path, and in time it becomes a paved road and houses and industry are erected alongside. Although the dangers that affected the fur trader are long gone, few question the road’s inefficiently winding route.
The global financial troubles of 2008-09, with whose debt-deflationary macroeconomic consequences  the world continues to struggle,  exposed weaknesses in many financial sector oversight regimes. Most of these had in common their focus on the safety and soundness of individual financial institutions to the exclusion of the stability of financial systems as wholes—wholes whose structural features render them more than mere sums of their institutional parts.
A number of academic, governmental, and other finance-regulatory authorities, myself included,  have accordingly concluded that an appropriately inclusive finance-regulatory oversight regime must concern itself as much with the identification and mitigation of systemic risk as with that of institutional risk. Once primarily ‘microprudential’ finance-regulatory oversight and policy instruments, in other words, are now understood to be in need of supplementation with ‘macroprudential’ finance-regulatory oversight and policy instruments.
Now because finance-regulatory policy in most jurisdictions is implemented through law, all of the weaknesses inherent in exclusively microprudential finance-regulatory regimes are, among other things, legal problems. They are weaknesses in what some non-American lawyers call existing ‘legal frameworks.’ Many countries in consequence are now looking to update their legal frameworks for finance-regulatory oversight, supplementing their traditional microprudential foci and methods with macroprudential counterparts.
Overview of U.S. Liquidity Coverage Ratio Proposal
- The Federal Reserve, OCC and FDIC have issued a proposal to implement the Basel III liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) in the United States.
- Part of the Basel III liquidity framework, the LCR requires a banking organization to maintain a minimum amount of liquid assets to withstand a 30-day standardized supervisory liquidity stress scenario.
- The U.S. LCR proposal is more stringent than the Basel Committee’s LCR framework in several significant respects.
- The U.S. LCR proposal contains two versions of the LCR:
- A full version for large, internationally active banking organizations.
- A modified, “light” version for other large bank holding companies and savings and loan holding companies (depository institution holding companies).
- The proposed effective date is January 1, 2015, subject to a two-year phase-in period.
- The comment period for the proposal ends on January 31, 2014.
Which Organizations Are Affected?