Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Regulators Increase Systemic Risk: Comment to "Great Moments in Financial Regulation"

A comment I wrote to the Wall Street Journal article, "Great Moments in Financial Regulation: Apple IPO deemed too risky" by Paul Atkins:
"Markets froze in the fall of 2008 because no one could be sure of the financial condition of financial institutions and their counterparties. For all the government's extraordinary intervention, the markets showed their greatest improvement after the Fed's imperfect stress tests were made public in early 2009."

It was not uncertainty about the condition of the financial institutions that caused the markets to crash. It was the uncertainty about government intervention that created the mess. The Government arbitrarily backstopped Bear but not Lehman. Unlike with the investment banks, the government can step in and takeover commercial banks at anytime by declaring them unsound.

Investors did not know or understand the government's game plan (if there was any at all) for dealing with the housing crisis effects on bank asset values and whether the banks were going concerns or going out of business concerns. Was the government going to close large banks or keep them open? What was the status of uninsured creditors and collateralized lenders? The private sector did not know or understand what contractual rights it had with troubled banks and companies, or whether the government would shut them down or allow them to continue.

Passing the stress test, even though it was a charade for the most part, meant the government was going to leave those banks alone. The markets began to breathe again because investors understood the government was backing away.

The markets froze in response to the government's action, not because the government was inactive, did too little or was ineffectual. Once the stress tests clarified that the government was done meddling in the banks, the markets began to clam calm down. The stress tests revealed more about the likelihood of future government action than it did about the condition of the banks. The stress tests added clarity to future government action; not clarity to the banks' balance sheets.

The Dodd bill will increase systemic risks and market failures because it will give more power and discretion to the regulators to act against financial institutions. Powers that allow government intervention in markets and financial institutions increase systemic risks exactly because regulators do not act as investors or perceive risk the same way investors and other market participants perceive risk. Government and regulators are an additional, unpredictable, non-diversifiable risk that restricts investors' options during a financial crisis.

When regulators intervene, investors lose the value of their investments in the financial institution. Since the financial crisis, all corporate bondholders, not just GM's and Chrysler's, mortgage lenders, and collateralized lenders face more systemic risk than before the crisis.

Giving more financial regulatory power to government will spread and increase the systemic risk in the financial sector. It will not lower systemic risk.
[See my previous post, "Obama's New Bank Restrictions Increase Systemic Risk: The VIX Rose 19 Percent"]

1 comment :

  1. The financial sector, which includes banks like JPMorgan and insurance companies like AIG, had the fastest earnings growth in the Standard & Poor’s 500 in 2012.[1] As of mid-2013, the sector comprised 16.8% of the S&P 500, almost double the percentage back in 2009. With the technology sector weighing in at 17.6 percent in 2013, the financial sector was poised to become the largest sector in the S&P 500. The traditional critique of the financial sector having a larger share of the economy is that the sector doesn’t “make” anything. As this argument is well-known, I want to ask, what about systemic risk? How is it being impacted as Wall Street takes up more and more of the U.S. economy? Furthermore, what is the impact on income inequality? Recommended: