Today reading is Anat Admati – “Five Years of Financial Non-Reform”
Anat Admati, Professor of Finance and Economics at the Stanford Graduate School of Business
Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the largest global financial crisis since the Great Depression, outsize banking sectors have left economies shattered in Ireland, Iceland, and Cyprus. Banks in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere are not lending enough. China’s credit binge is turning into a bust. In short, the world’s financial system remains dangerous and dysfunctional.
Worse, despite years of debate, no consensus about the nature of the financial system’s problems – much less how to fix them – has emerged. And that appears to reflect the banks’ political power.
Regulations everywhere appear to be based on the false notion that banks should have “just enough” equity. Equity is not scarce for viable banks, and the “science” of complex risk weights and stress tests is a harmful illusion. Instead, regulation should seek to force banks’ investors to bear much more of their own risk, and thus to care much more about managing it, in order to limit the collateral damage of their excessive borrowing.
Some say that banks are inherently special, because they allocate society’s savings and create liquidity. In fact, banks have become special mainly in their ability to get away with so much gambling at others’ expense. Nothing about financial intermediation justifies allowing banks to distort the economy and endanger the public as much as they do.
Unfortunately, despite the enormous harm from the financial crisis, little has changed in the politics of banking. Too many politicians and regulators put their own interests and those of “their” banks ahead of their duty to protect taxpayers and citizens. We must demand better.