Tag: Systemic risk


Board Governance: Higher Expectations, but Better Practices?

Dan Ryan is Leader of the Financial Services Advisory Practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. This post is based on a PwC publication by Mr. Ryan, Jeff Lavine, Adam Gilbert, and Armen Meyer. The complete publication, including appendix, is available here.

The board’s role in risk governance continues to attract the attention of regulators who demand that the appropriate risk tone be set at the top of financial institutions. While the largest US banks have made significant progress toward meeting these expectations, many institutions still have a lot of work to do.

Our observations of the policies and practices of the largest US banks indicate that boards have undergone structural and functional transformation in recent years. We are finding that this transformation has been fueled not only by banks’ need to satisfy regulators, but also by their own realization of the benefits of stronger risk governance. We believe the post-crisis regulatory requirements and heightened expectations for risk governance, when fully implemented, will lead to improvements in the board’s understanding of risk taking activities and position the board to more effectively challenge management’s actions when necessary.

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Oversight of the Financial Stability Oversight Council

Mary Jo White is Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The following post is based on Chair White’s recent testimony before the United States House Committee on Financial Services, available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Chair White and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Thank you for inviting me to testify regarding the Financial Stability Oversight Council (Council). Below I highlight my perspective on the Council and my role on it.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) established the Council to provide comprehensive monitoring of the stability of our nation’s financial system. Specifically, the Council is responsible for:

  • Identifying risks to the financial stability of the United States that could arise from the material financial distress or failure—or ongoing activities—of large, interconnected bank holding companies or nonbank financial companies, or that could arise outside the financial services marketplace;
  • Promoting market discipline by eliminating expectations on the part of shareholders, creditors, and counterparties of such companies that the government will shield them from losses in the event of failure; and
  • Responding to emerging threats to the stability of the United States financial system. [1]

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Bankruptcy Versus Bailout of Socially Important Non-Financial Institutions

Shlomit Azgad-Tromer is a visiting scholar at Berkeley Law School. This post is based on the article Too Important to Fail: Bankruptcy Versus Bailout of Socially Important Non-Financial Institutions.

Systemically important financial institutions are broadly considered to pose a risk to the entire economy upon failure. Thus governments act upon their failure, providing them with an implied insurance policy for ongoing liquidity. Yet governments frequently provide de facto liquidity insurance for non-financial institutions as well. For example, recently in the U.K., 35 hospital trusts were sharing £536 million in non-repayable bailouts in order to keep services running smoothly during 2013-2014. A decade earlier, a federal bankruptcy judge approved California’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation. In an effort to stabilize and sustain air transportation after 9/11, the U.S. Congress passed the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, which provided the airline industry with financial aid valued at as much as $10 billion. In all of these cases, taxpayer money was used to rescue non-financial institutions.

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Shadow Resolutions as a “No-No” in a Sound Banking Union

Luca Enriques is Allen & Overy Professor of Corporate Law at Oxford University. The following post is based on a paper co-authored by Professor Enriques and Gerard Hertig.

Credit crisis related bank bailouts and resolutions have been actively debated over the past few years. By contrast, little attention has been paid to resolution procedures being generally circumvented when banks are getting insolvent in normal times.

In fact, supervisory leniency and political considerations often result in public officials incentivizing viable banks to acquire failing banks. In our book chapter Shadow resolutions as a no-no in a sound Banking Union, published in Financial Regulation: A Transatlantic Perspective 150-166 (Ester Faia et al. eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2015, we consider this a very unfortunate approach. It weakens supervision, distorts competition and, most importantly, gives resolution a bad name.

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Regulatory Competition in Global Financial Markets

Wolf-Georg Ringe is Professor of International Commercial Law at Copenhagen Business School and at the University of Oxford. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Ringe.

The decades-long discussion on the merits of regulatory competition appears in a new light on the global financial market. There are a number of strategies that market participants use to avoid the reach of regulation, in particular by virtue of shifting trading abroad or else relocating activities or operations of financial institutions to other jurisdictions. Where this happens, such arbitrage can trigger regulatory competition between jurisdictions that may respond to the relocation of financial services (or threats to relocate) by moderating regulatory standards. Both arbitrage and regulatory competition are a reality in today’s global financial market, and the financial sector is different from their traditional fields of application: the ease of arbitrage, the fragility of banking and the risks involved are exceptional. Most importantly, regulatory arbitrage does not or only rarely occurs by actually relocating the financial institution itself abroad: rather, banking groups tend to shift trading to foreign affiliates.

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The Failure of Liability in Modern Markets

Yesha Yadav is an Associate Professor of Law of Vanderbilt Law School. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Yadav.

In April 2015, the Justice Department indicted Navinder Sarao—a 36 year-old trader operating out of his parents’ basement—for actions resulting in the Flash Crash in May 2010. [1] According to the complaint, Sarao’s use of fake or “spoof” orders was damaging enough to precipitate a near 1000-point plunge in in the Dow Jones Index. It is telling that, today, a single trader can stand accused of contributing to this extraordinary drop in the value of the stock market. The complaint draws into relief the central challenge facing securities trading. With markets approaching ever-fuller levels of automation and driven by complex algorithms, even small-time traders like Sarao can create costs far in excess of either the seriousness of their conduct—or their capacity to pay for what they do. As I argue in The Failure of Liability in Modern Markets, to be published in the Virginia Law Review, the liability framework anchoring modern, algorithmic markets struggles to both control harmful risks and to punish them satisfactorily. Where instances of mistake, carelessness and fraud can neither be reliably controlled nor adequately punished, the law’s capacity to create a fair, richly informed marketplace must come under serious doubt.

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The Volcker Rule as Structural Law

John C. Coates is the John F. Cogan, Jr. Professor of Law and Economics at Harvard Law School.

In response to the 2008 financial crisis the US Congress introduced the “Volker Rule”—a novel law generally barring banking organizations from proprietary trading and investing in hedge and private equity funds. Before implementing the Volcker Rule, US governmental agencies are required by administrative law to follow specified notice-and-comment procedures, and courts have a role in enforcing an obligation that agencies not be “arbitrary” in finalizing regulations. Many continue to advocate that the financial agencies also use quantified cost-benefit analysis in doing so. In principle, ad law requirements should help the public evaluate the impact of the Rule and hold agencies accountable in exercising their discretion and delegated authority in choosing among ways to implement a legislative requirement. However, in The Volcker Rule as Structural Law: Implications for Cost-Benefit Analysis and Administrative Law, a forthcoming article in a symposium issue of the Capital Markets Law Journal that focuses on the Volcker Rule, I build on prior work published in the Yale Law Journal and Law and Contemporary Problems to argue that the effects of a structural law such as the Volcker rule and its implementation by agencies cannot be reliably or precisely quantified, and courts err when they attempt to force agencies to do so under the guise of review for procedural regularity or substantive rationality.

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Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty

Steven L. Schwarcz is the Stanley A. Star Professor of Law & Business at Duke University School of Law. This post is based on a draft article by Professor Schwarcz, available here.

Although corporate risk-taking is economically necessary and even desirable, it can also be harmful. There is widespread agreement that excessive corporate risk-taking was one of the primary causes of the systemic collapse that caused the 2008-09 financial crisis. To avoid another devastating collapse, most financial regulation since the crisis is directed at reducing excessive corporate risk-taking by systemically important firms. Often that regulation focuses on aligning managerial and investor interests, on the assumption that investors generally would oppose excessively risky business ventures.

My article, Misalignment: Corporate Risk-Taking and Public Duty, argues that assumption is flawed. What constitutes “excessive” risk-taking depends on the observer; risk-taking is excessive from a given observer’s standpoint if, on balance, it is expected to harm that observer. As a result, the law inadvertently allows systemically important firms to engage in risk-taking ventures that are expected to benefit the firm and its investors but, because much of the systemic harm from the firm’s failure would be externalized onto other market participants as well as onto ordinary citizens impacted by an economic collapse, harm the public.

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Dodd-Frank Turns Five, What’s Next?

Daniel F.C. Crowley is a partner at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Crowley, Bruce J. HeimanSean P. Donovan-Smith, and Giovanni Campi.

The 2008 credit crisis was the beginning of an era of unprecedented government management of the capital markets. July 21, 2015 marked the fifth anniversary of the hallmark congressional response, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). Dodd-Frank resulted in an extraordinary revamp of the regulatory regime that governs the U.S. financial system and, consequently, has significant implications for the U.S. economy and the international financial system.

Members of Congress recognized the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank in markedly different ways. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has held two of a series of three hearings to examine whether the United States is more prosperous, free, and stable five years after enactment of the law. In contrast, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—one of the leading proponents of the law—and other members of Congress have criticized the slow pace of implementation by the regulatory agencies. Meanwhile, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) is advancing the “Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015,” which seeks to amend a number of provisions of Dodd-Frank.

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Unfinished Reform in the Global Financial System

Lewis B. Kaden is John Harvey Gregory Lecturer on World Organizations, Harvard Law School, and Senior Fellow of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center on Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School of Government. This post is based on Mr. Kaden’s paper, which was adapted from remarks delivered at Cambridge University on February 27, 2015 and at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University on April 9, 2015. The full paper is available for download here.

This paper offers a perspective on the challenges that the global financial system will face in the course of the next decade. While there has been significant progress since the financial crisis of 2007-2009 and the slow and uneven pressure of recovery and reform, a great deal of important work lies ahead. Part I briefly reviews, for the purpose of general background, the context and causes of the financial crisis. Part II identifies the key lessons to be learned from the crisis, and Part III outlines the major reforms adopted to date in the United States, Europe and the G-20. Finally, Part IV highlights what I regard as the principal ongoing issues affecting the financial system and suggests some approaches for dealing with them.

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