Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to Fix the Economic Recession: Financial Crisis Explained, Background - Paul Krugman (2009)

Governments have attempted to eliminate or mitigate financial crises by regulating the financial sector. One major goal of regulation is transparency: making institutions' financial situations publicly known by requiring regular reporting under standardized accounting procedures. Another goal of regulation is making sure institutions have sufficient assets to meet their contractual obligations, through reserve requirements, capital requirements, and other limits on leverage.
Some financial crises have been blamed on insufficient regulation, and have led to changes in regulation in order to avoid a repeat. For example, the former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has blamed the financial crisis of 2008 on 'regulatory failure to guard against excessive risk-taking in the financial system, especially in the US'.[26] Likewise, the New York Times singled out the deregulation of credit default swaps as a cause of the crisis.[27]

However, excessive regulation has also been cited as a possible cause of financial crises. In particular, the Basel II Accord has been criticized for requiring banks to increase their capital when risks rise, which might cause them to decrease lending precisely when capital is scarce, potentially aggravating a financial crisis.[28]
International regulatory convergence has been interpreted in terms of regulatory herding, deepening market herding (discussed above) and so increasing systemic risk.[29] From this perspective, maintaining diverse regulatory regimes would be a safeguard.
Fraud has played a role in the collapse of some financial institutions, when companies have attracted depositors with misleading claims about their investment strategies, or have embezzled the resulting income. Examples include Charles Ponzi's scam in early 20th century Boston, the collapse of the MMM investment fund in Russia in 1994, the scams that led to the Albanian Lottery Uprising of 1997, and the collapse of Madoff Investment Securities in 2008.
Many rogue traders that have caused large losses at financial institutions have been accused of acting fraudulently in order to hide their trades. Fraud in mortgage financing has also been cited as one possible cause of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis; government officials stated on September 23, 2008 that the FBI was looking into possible fraud by mortgage financing companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and insurer American International Group.[30] Likewise it has been argued that many financial companies failed in the recent crisis because their managers failed to carry out their fiduciary duties.

Another factor believed to contribute to financial crises is asset-liability mismatch, a situation in which the risks associated with an institution's debts and assets are not appropriately aligned. For example, commercial banks offer deposit accounts which can be withdrawn at any time and they use the proceeds to make long-term loans to businesses and homeowners. The mismatch between the banks' short-term liabilities (its deposits) and its long-term assets (its loans) is seen as one of the reasons bank runs occur (when depositors panic and decide to withdraw their funds more quickly than the bank can get back the proceeds of its loans).[17] Likewise, Bear Stearns failed in 2007--08 because it was unable to renew the short-term debt it used to finance long-term investments in mortgage securities.
In an international context, many emerging market governments are unable to sell bonds denominated in their own currencies, and therefore sell bonds denominated in US dollars instead. This generates a mismatch between the currency denomination of their liabilities (their bonds) and their assets (their local tax revenues), so that they run a risk of sovereign default due to fluctuations in exchange rates.