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An autopsy of the US financial system: accident, suicide, or negligent homicide

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  • Ross Levine

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this postmortem is to assess whether the design, implementation, and maintenance of financial policies during the period from 1996 through 2006 were primary causes of the financial system's demise. Design/methodology/approach – To draw conclusions about the policy determinants of the crisis, the paper studies five important policies: Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) policies toward credit rating agencies, Federal Reserve policies concerning bank capital and credit default swaps, SEC and Federal Reserve policies about over-the-counter derivatives, SEC policies toward the consolidated supervision of major investment banks, and government policies toward two housing-finance entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Findings – The evidence is inconsistent with the view that the collapse of the financial system was caused only by the popping of the housing bubble (“accident”) and the herding behavior of financiers rushing to create and market increasingly complex and questionable financial products (“suicide”). Rather, the evidence indicates that senior policymakers repeatedly designed, implemented, and maintained policies that destabilized the global financial system in the decade before the crisis. Moreover, although the major regulatory agencies were aware of the growing fragility of the financial system due to their policies, they chose not to modify those policies, suggesting that “negligent homicide” contributed to the financial system's collapse. Originality/value – Although influential policymakers presume that international capital flows, euphoric traders, and insufficient regulatory power caused the crisis, this paper shows that these factors played only a partial role. Thus, current reforms represent only a partial and thus incomplete step in establishing a stable and well-functioning financial system. Since systemic institutional failures helped cause the crisis, systemic institutional reforms must be a part of a comprehensively effective response.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Journal of Financial Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 2 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 196-213

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Handle: RePEc:eme:jfeppp:v:2:y:2010:i:3:p:196-213

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Related research

Keywords: Economic conditions; Economic policy; Financial institutions; Regulation; United States of America;

References

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  1. Ross Levine, 1997. "Financial Development and Economic Growth: Views and Agenda," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(2), pages 688-726, June.
  2. Pinches, George E & Singleton, J Clay, 1978. "The Adjustment of Stock Prices to Bond Rating Changes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(1), pages 29-44, March.
  3. Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2009. "Finance and inequality : theory and evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4967, The World Bank.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alexander, Gordon J. & Baptista, Alexandre M. & Yan, Shu, 2012. "When more is less: Using multiple constraints to reduce tail risk," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 2693-2716.
  2. Cihak, Martin & Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli & Martinez Peria, Maria Soledad & Mohseni-Cheraghlou, Amin, 2013. "Bank regulation and supervision in the context of the global crisis," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 733-746.
  3. Cihak, Martin & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Peria, Maria Soledad Martinez & Mohseni-Cheraghlou, Amin, 2012. "Bank regulation and supervision around the world : a crisis update," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6286, The World Bank.
  4. Alexander, Gordon J. & Baptista, Alexandre M. & Yan, Shu, 2014. "Bank regulation and international financial stability: A case against the 2006 Basel framework for controlling tail risk in trading books," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 107-130.
  5. Alexander, Gordon J. & Baptista, Alexandre M. & Yan, Shu, 2012. "Bank regulation and stability: An examination of the Basel market risk framework," Discussion Papers 09/2012, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  6. Beck, T.H.L., 2011. "The Role of Finance in Economic Development: Benefits, Risks, and Politics," Discussion Paper 2011-141, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.

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