Friday, November 27, 2009

Did regulation cause the financial crisis?

This was the question posed by the Atlantic Business Channel on the Recourse Rule:

Under the Recourse Rule, an AA- or AAA-rated asset-backed security, such as a mortgage-backed bond, received a 20-percent risk weight, compared to a zero risk weight for cash and a 50-percent risk weight for an individual (unsecuritized) mortgage. This meant that commercial banks could issue mortgages–regardless of how sound the borrowers were–sell them to investment banks to be securitized, and buy them back as part of a mortgage-backed security, in the process freeing up 60 percent of the capital they would have had to hold against individual mortgages. Capital held by a bank is capital not lent out at interest; by reducing their capital holdings, banks could increase their profitability.

Yet on closer look by the blog post in the Federal Register ruling:

The [regulatory] agencies expect that banking organizations will identify, measure, monitor and control the risks of their securitization activities (including synthetic securitizations using credit derivatives)...Banking organizations should be able to measure and manage their risk exposure from risk positions in the securitizations, either retained or acquired, and should be able to assess the credit quality of any retained residual portfolio…Banking organizations with significant securitization activities, no matter what the size of their on-balance sheet assets, are expected to have more advanced and formal approaches to manage the risks.

Again from the blog post:
It is telling banks to handle this themselves, because the “science” of risk management is well provided within private financial services, and it is better for it to be handled this way rather than with the crude tools public regulators used. And I think that this narrative, that new changes to banking regulations were more friendly to the financial community in the general move to deregulation, is a real challenge for those who think that markets would have been able to do better without any regulation – what stopped them this time around?

The question is this: Is this new regulation really deregulation? If so, new regulations (or deregulations) should be scrutinized a little more closely to observe its (unintended?) consequences instead of the seemingly hands off approach taken?


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