Ed Morrison, Judge Christopher Sontchi and I recently posted to SSRN our article recommending a major narrowing of the repo safe harbors, after presenting it at the Federal Reserve’s recent conference on Wholesale Funding Markets in which the Boston Fed president warned of the dangers in the repo market. Overall, we conclude that the Bankruptcy Code has aggressively and unwisely sought to regulate market liquidity and systemic risk, with the Code’s “safe harbors” from the normal bankruptcy machinery largely backfiring during the financial crisis. The sounder policy would be to limit the repo safe harbors to U.S. Treasury repos and repos of similarly liquid government securities.
Posts Tagged ‘Systemic risk’
Today [August 27, 2014] the Commission takes an important step to protect investors and promote capital formation, by enhancing the transparency of asset-backed securities (“ABS”) and by increasing the accountability of issuers of these securities. The securitization market is critical to our economy and can provide liquidity to nearly all the major economic sectors, including the automobile industry, the consumer credit industry, the leasing industry, and the commercial lending and credit markets.
Given the importance of this market, let’s also remember why we are here and the magnitude of the crisis in the ABS market. At the end of 2007, the ABS market consisted of more than $7 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and nearly $2.5 trillion of other outstanding ABS. However, by the fall of 2008, the securitization market had completely seized up. For example, in 2006 and 2007, new issuances of private-label residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) totaled $686 billion and $507 billion, respectively. In 2008, private-label RMBS issuance dropped to $9 billion, and flat-lined in 2009.
The Commission will today [August 27, 2014] consider recommendations of the staff for adopting two very important final rules in different, but closely related, areas—asset-backed securities and credit rating agencies.
The reforms before us today will add critical protections for investors and strengthen our securities markets by targeting products, activities and practices that were at the center of the financial crisis. With these measures, investors will have powerful new tools for independently evaluating the quality of asset-backed securities and credit ratings. And ABS issuers and rating agencies will be held accountable under significant new rules governing their activities. These reforms will make a real difference to investors and to our financial markets.
We will first consider the recommendation related to asset-backed securities, and then we will consider the rules relating to credit rating agencies.
In our recent ECGI working paper, A Strict Liability Regime for Rating Agencies, we study how to induce Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs) to produce ratings as accurate as the available forecasting technology allows.
Referring to CRAs, Paul Krugman wrote that: “It was a system that looked dignified and respectable on the surface. Yet it produced huge conflicts of interest. Issuers of debt […] could choose among several rating agencies. So they could direct their business to whichever agency was most likely to give a favorable verdict, and threaten to pull business from an agency that tried too hard to do its job.”
However, the conflicts of interest stemming from the issuer-pays model and rating shopping by issuers are not sufficient to explain rating inflation. Because ratings are valuable only as far as they are considered informative by investors, in a well-functioning market, reputational sanctions should prevent rating inflation.
Today [June 25, 2014], the Commission will consider a recommendation of the staff to adopt core rules and critical guidance on cross-border security-based swap activities under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act created an important and entirely new regulatory framework for the over-the-counter derivatives market. Transforming this framework into a series of strong rules is one of the most important tasks remaining before the Commission in discharging our responsibility to address the lessons of the last financial crisis. The events of 2008 and 2009—and the significant role derivatives played in those events—still reverberate throughout our economy.
Properly constructed, the Commission’s rules under Title VII should mitigate significant risks to the U.S. financial system, bring transparency to previously opaque bilateral markets, and provide critical new protections for swap customers and counterparties. And the vital regulatory protections of Title VII are not confined to large multi-national banks and other market participants—they are also essential to preserving the stability of a financial system that is vital to all Americans.
On July 23, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted significant amendments (the “amendments”) to rules under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Investment Company Act”) and related requirements that govern money market funds (“MMFs”). The SEC’s adoption of the amendments is the latest action taken by U.S. regulators as part of the ongoing debate about systemic risks posed by MMFs and the extent to which previous reform efforts have addressed these concerns. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department (“Treasury”) and the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) released guidance on the same day setting forth simplified rules to address tax compliance issues that the SEC’s MMF reforms would otherwise impose on MMFs and their investors.
A clearinghouse reduces counterparty risks by acting as the hub for trades amongst the largest financial institutions. For this reason, Dodd-Frank’s seventh title, the heart of the law’s regulation of OTC derivatives, requires that most derivatives trade through clearinghouses.
The concentration of trades into a very small number of clearinghouses or CCPs has obvious risks. To maintain the vitality of clearinghouses, Congress thus enacted the eighth title of Dodd-Frank, which allows for the regulation of key “financial system utilities.” In plain English, a financial system utility is either a payment system—like FedWire or CHIPS—or a clearinghouse.
But given the vital place of clearinghouses in Dodd-Frank, it is perhaps surprising that Dodd-Frank makes no provision for the failure of a clearinghouse. Indeed, it is arguable that the United States is not in compliance with its commitment to the G-20 on this point.
Regulatory delay is now the established norm, which continues to leave banks unsure about how to prepare for pending rulemakings and execute on strategic initiatives. With the “Too Big To Fail” (TBTF) debate about to hit the headlines again when the Government Accountability Office releases its long-awaited TBTF report, the rhetoric calling for the completion of these outstanding rules will once more sharpen.
This rhetoric should not be confused with reality, however. At about this time last summer, Treasury Secretary Lew stated that TBTF would be addressed by the end of 2013—a goal that resulted in heightened stress testing expectations and a vague final Volcker Rule in December, but little more. Since then, the slow progress has continued, with only two key rulemakings completed so far this year: the finalization of Enhanced Prudential Standards for large bank holding companies (BHCs) and a heightened supplementary leverage ratio for the eight largest BHCs (i.e., US G-SIBs).
Today’s [July 23, 2014] reforms will fundamentally change the way that most money market funds operate. They will reduce the risk of runs in money market funds and provide important new tools that will help further protect investors and the financial system in a crisis. Together, this strong reform package will make our financial system more resilient and enhance the transparency and fairness of these products for America’s investors.
Today [July 23, 2014], the Commission considers adopting long-considered reforms to the rules governing money market funds. I commend the hard work of the staff, particularly the Division of Investment Management and the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis (“DERA”), who worked tirelessly to present these thoughtful and deliberate amendments. It is well known that the journey to arrive at the amendments considered today was a difficult one, and I can confidently say that this has been, at times, perhaps one of the most flawed and controversial rulemaking processes the Commission has undertaken.