Since the Global Crisis, interest rates in many advanced economies have been low and, in many cases, are expected to remain low for some time. Low interest rates help economies recover and can enhance banks’ balance sheets and performance, but persistently low rates may also erode the profitability of banks if they are associated with lower net interest margins. This column uses new cross-country evidence to confirm that decreases in interest rates do indeed contribute to weaker net interest margins, with a greater adverse effect when rates are already low.
Stijn Claessens, Nicholas Coleman, Michael Donnelly, 18 May 2016
Avinash Persaud, 14 April 2016
Since the breakup of Bretton Woods in the early 1970s, the housing market has been at the centre of the biggest banking crises across the world. This column considers the nexus between housing, banking, and the economy, and how these ties can be broken. It argues for two modest regulatory changes in banking and insurance. These would result in life insurers and pension funds providing mortgage finance, better insulating the economy and homeowners from the housing cycle.
Ravi Kanbur, Lucas Ronconi, 30 March 2016
Current de jure measures of labour regulation stringency point to negative consequences of labour laws. This column presents new evidence on cross-country measurements of enforcement of labour laws from almost every country in the world. The authors argue that the consequences of labour enforcement cannot be credibly assessed using de jure measures which ignore the chance that enforcement is lower in places with stricter laws. On average, there is a negative correlation between the stringency of labour regulation and the intensity of its enforcement.
John Armour, Colin Mayer, Andrea Polo, 24 March 2016
Following the Global Crisis, regulators around the world have shown a greater commitment to investigating and sanctioning corporate wrongdoers. This column argues that fines are only one (surprisingly small) component of the overall sanctions available to regulators. Reputational sanctions are, for some categories of misconduct, far more potent than direct penalties.
Stefano Micossi, 26 February 2016
A combination of shocks has led to the spectre of a renewed systemic bank crisis within the EU. This column argues that what is needed is a regulatory policy response in the form of joint action by European governments to convince financial investors that bank liabilities are secure.
Di Gong, Harry Huizinga, Luc Laeven, 18 February 2016
Prior to the Global Crisis, banks could easily use off-balance sheet structures to lower their effective capitalisation rates. This column examines another way that US banks circumvented capital regulations – by maintaining minority-owned, non-consolidated subsidiaries. Had these subsidiaries been consolidated, average reported equity-to-assets ratios would have been 3.5% lower. These findings suggest that some US banks were actively misrepresenting the riskiness of their assets prior to the crisis.
Wijnand Nuijts, Mirea Raaijmakers, 06 November 2015
The Global Crisis revealed serious deficiencies in the supervision of financial institutions. In particular, regulators neglected organisational culture at the institutional level. This column reviews efforts since 2011 by De Nederlandsche Bank to oversee executive behaviour and cultures at financial institutions. These measures aimed at identifying risky behaviour and decision-making processes at a sufficiently early stage for appropriate countermeasures to be implemented. The findings show that regulators can play a larger part in securing the stability of the financial system by taking an active role in shaping institutional cultural processes.
Jon Danielsson, Morgane Fouché, Robert Macrae, 20 October 2015
There has always been conflict between macro- and microprudential regulation. Microprudential policy reigns supreme during good times, and macro during bad. This column explains that while the macro and micro objectives have always been present in regulatory design, their relative importance has varied according to the changing requirements of economic, financial and political cycles. The conflict between the two seems set to deepen and so, regardless of which ‘wins’, policymakers must not undermine the central bank's execution of monetary policy.
Jon Danielsson, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 07 August 2015
The long-running Greek crisis and China’s recent stock market crash are the latest threats to the stability of the global financial system. But as this column explains, systemic risk is an inevitable part of any market-based economy. While we won’t eliminate systemic risk entirely, the agenda for researchers and policymakers should be to create a more resilient financial system that is less prone to disastrous crises and that still delivers benefits for the economy and for society.
Liangliang Jiang, Ross Levine, Chen Lin, 25 July 2015
The Global Crisis has brought the ins and outs of bank stability to the attention of increasing numbers of academics and policymakers. But what is the impact of bank regulation and competition on bank opacity? This column presents one of the first evaluations of the impact of bank regulatory reforms on the quality of information disclosed by banks, which in turn helps us assess bank stability.
Dirk Schoenmaker, 31 May 2015
Debt financing amplifies the effects of asset prices fluctuations across the financial system and this can produce bubbles. Regulation therefore increasingly focusses on restricting debt financing. Although there is no silver bullet for making the financial system failure-proof, this column argues that policymakers should adopt an integrated and consistent macroprudential approach across the financial system in order to help prevent businesses moving to less-regulated pastures.
Xavier Vives, 17 March 2015
The 2007–08 crisis revealed regulatory failures that had allowed the shadow banking system and systemic risk to grow unchecked. This column evaluates recent proposals to reform the banking industry. Although appropriate pricing of risk should make activity restrictions redundant, there may nevertheless be complementarities between these two approaches. Ring-fencing may make banking groups more easily resolvable and therefore lower the cost of imposing market discipline.
Jon Danielsson, Eva Micheler, Katja Neugebauer, Andreas Uthemann, Jean-Pierre Zigrand, 23 February 2015
The proposed EU capital markets union aims to revitalise Europe’s economy by creating efficient funding channels between providers of loanable funds and firms best placed to use them. This column argues that a successful union would deliver investment, innovation, and growth, but it depends on overcoming difficult regulatory challenges. A successful union would also change the nature of systemic risk in Europe.
Darrell Duffie , Piotr Dworczak, Haoxiang Zhu, 16 February 2015
Trillions of dollars’ worth of transactions depend on financial benchmarks such as LIBOR, but recent scandals have called their reliability into question. This column argues that reliable benchmarks reduce informational asymmetries between customers and dealers, thereby increasing the volume of socially beneficial trades. Indeed, the increase in trading volume may offset the reduction in profit margins, giving dealers who can coordinate an incentive to introduce benchmarks. The authors argue that benchmarks deserve strong and well-coordinated support by regulators around the world.
Jean-Marie Grether, Nicole A. Mathys, Caspar Sauter, 31 January 2015
Spatial inequalities in territorial-based greenhouse emissions matter in terms of regulation, both at the international and subnational levels. This column decomposes these inequalities worldwide for the two major greenhouse gases over the period 1970–2008. Within-country inequalities are larger, and rising, while between-country inequalities are smaller and falling. Moreover, social tensions arising from the discrepancy between the distribution of emissions and the distribution of damages appear to be larger within than between countries, and larger for carbon dioxide than for methane.
Xavier Vives, 22 December 2014
Banking has recently proven much more fragile than expected. This column argues that the Basel III regulatory response overlooks the interactions between different kinds of prudential policies, and the link between prudential policy and competition policy. Capital and liquidity requirements are partially substitutable, so an increase in one requirement should generally be accompanied by a decrease in the other. Increased competitive pressure calls for tighter solvency requirements, whereas increased disclosure requirements or the introduction of public signals may require tighter liquidity requirements.
Iain M. Cockburn, Jean O. Lanjouw, Mark Schankerman, 22 November 2014
Patented pharmaceuticals diffuse across international borders slowly, and sometimes not at all. This column analyses the effect of patent protection and price regulation on the speed of and extent to which drugs enter new markets. There is a fundamental tradeoff between affordability – taking the form of low patent protection and strong price regulation – and rate of entry into a national market.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, 07 November 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Christian Thimann, 17 October 2014
Having completed the regulatory framework for systemically important banks, the Financial Stability Board is turning to insurance companies. The emerging framework for insurers closely resembles that for banks, culminating in the design and calibration of capital surcharges. This column argues that the contrasting business models and balance sheet structures of insurers and banks – and the different roles of capital, leverage, and risk absorption in the two sectors – mean that the banking model of capital cannot be applied to insurance. Tools other than capital surcharges may be more appropriate to address possible concerns of systemic risk.
Christian Thimann, 10 October 2014
Regulation of the global insurance industry, an emerging challenge in international finance, has two central objectives: strengthening the oversight of insurance companies designated ‘systemically important’; and designing a global capital standard for internationally active insurers. This column argues that it is a Herculean task because the business model of insurance is less globalised than other areas in finance; because global regulators have less experience of insurance than banking where global standards have been pursued for a quarter of a century; and because, as yet, there is limited research-based understanding of the insurance business and its interactions with the financial system and the real economy. But in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the AIG disaster, regulators are under strong pressure to make progress.