In late March, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposed a two-part plan for addressing systemic risk in light of the failure of Lehman Brothers and the rescue of AIG. As proposed, the plan contemplates a "systemic regulator" that would oversee the entire financial system and have the authority to designate certain bank and nonbank financial firms as "systemically important financial institutions" (SIFIs). The designation would apparently mean that the government believes an SIFI's failure could result in a systemic breakdown--a widespread economic or financial collapse--and, for that reason, SIFIs would be specially regulated and supervised. In addition, the plan would give the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation the authority to bail out or liquidate failing SIFIs. The plan raises significant questions: whether it is possible to identify, in advance, firms that might cause a systemic breakdown if they fail; whether a designation as an SIFI will be seen by markets as a government certification that an institution is too big to fail; whether a resolution system for nonbank financial institutions will result in more AIG-like bailouts; and whether what happened in the financial markets this past fall was an example of systemic risk. These and other questions will be addressed at this conference.
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