Capital Standards, Regulatory Ignorance and the Financial Crisis of 2008

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In their new book, “Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus argue that the primary cause of the financial crisis of 2008 was minimum capital standards intended to steer banks toward safer investments. Regulators adopted these standards with little understanding of how they related to other rules—especially those requiring mark-to-market accounting and those sanctioning ratings bureaus as the arbiters of investment risk. The result was a dangerous concentration of risky mortgage-backed securities at leading financial institutions. But Friedman and Kraus argue that the ultimate culprit is not a single policy decision, but rather the idea that systemic risk can be managed by the decisions of regulators—whose knowledge of the future is necessarily as limited and partial as the knowledge of those being regulated. In the face of uncertainty, the best protection against catastrophic failures like the collapse of 2008 is to permit multiple competing approaches toward financial risk, rather than imposing any single, uniform approach. At this AEI book forum, Friedman will present his book’s arguments, followed by comments from AEI’s Peter Wallison and Alex Pollock and a general discussion.

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About the Author

 

Christopher
DeMuth

 

Peter J.
Wallison

 

Alex J.
Pollock

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