What were they thinking? The Federal Reserve in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis
Stephen Golub, Ayse Kaya, Michael Reay 08 September 2014
Since the Global Crisis, critics have questioned why regulatory agencies failed to prevent it. This column argues that the US Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems brewing in the financial system, but was largely unconcerned by them. Both Greenspan and Bernanke subscribed to the view that identifying bubbles is very difficult, pre-emptive bursting may be harmful, and that central banks could limit the damage ex post. The scripted nature of FOMC meetings, the focus on the Greenbook, and a ‘silo’ mentality reduced the impact of dissenting views.
Financial crises are caused by imprudent borrowing and lending, but as former Federal Reserve chairman William McChesney Martin noted, it is ultimately up to regulators to ‘take away the punch bowl’ when the larger economy is at risk. Indeed, many have criticised regulators for failing to anticipate and prevent the 2008 crash (Buiter 2012, Gorton 2012, Johnson and Kwak 2010, Roubini and Mihm 2010). Little work has been done, however, on why regulatory agencies failed to act despite warnings from prominent commentators (Borio and White 2004, Buffett 2003, Rajan 2005).
Financial markets Global crisis Monetary policy
financial crisis, Federal Reserve, FOMC, global crisis, collateralised debt obligations, Credit Default Swaps, LTCM, CDOs, CDSs, central banking
Bruno Biais, Jean-Charles Rochet, Paul Woolley 21 August 2014
The Global Crisis has intensified debates over the merits of financial innovation and the optimal size of the financial sector. This column presents a model in which the growth of finance is driven by the development of a financial innovation. The model can help explain the securitised mortgage debacle that triggered the latest crisis, the tech bubble in the late 1990s, and junk bonds in the 1980s. A striking implication of the model is that regulation should be toughest when finance seems most robust and when innovations are waxing strongly.
One of the curiosities of the modern economy is why the finance sector is so large. Economists have only recently sought to document and ponder this phenomenon. Empirically, Greenwood and Scharfstein (2013) find that, in the US, financial services, which accounted for 2.8% of GDP in 1950, made up 8.3% of GDP in 2006.
securitisation, financial crises, moral hazard, asymmetric information, financial innovation, global crisis, bubbles, monitoring, shirking, junk bonds, CDOs, CDSs, ETFs