Tags: Blinder | recession | financial | mortgages

Alan Blinder: Financial Beast Still Not 'Tamed'

By    |   Thursday, 12 September 2013 08:05 AM

It has been five years since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, unveiling the Great Recession, but the financial beast still isn't tamed, says Alan Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The Great Recession has striking similarities to the Great Depression — both resulted from years of "financial shenanigans ... , some illegal but many just immoral," Blinder writes in The Wall Street Journal.

But there is also a major difference, he notes.

Editor’s Note:
New Video: Obama Plans to Redistribute Seniors’ Wealth

The Depression prompted a strong response from government, giving rise to real forces of protection in the financial system such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the FDIC.

Government's response to the recent recession was Dodd-Frank, a "weak" body of law that "seems to be withering on the regulatory vine."

"Far from being tamed, the financial beast has gotten its mojo back — and is winning. The people have forgotten — and are losing," he writes.

Bad mortgages were a major contributor to the Great Recession, as Wall Street was able to package the toxic debt and sell it to investors.

Dodd-Frank aimed to discourage a replay with the "risk retention" rule, which requires issuers of asset-backed securities to retain at least 5 percent of the credit risk, keeping a little "skin in the game."

The legislation's co-author, former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., described this as the bill's "most important" provision, The Washington Post reports.

But there's a catch, Blinder explains. "The 5 percent requirement does not apply to qualified residential mortgages," which is a term regulators have been left to define.

One criteria regulators proposed was requiring a 20 percent down payment for home purchases. But a wide range of lobbies protested, claiming that would unduly limit access to credit and kill the housing recovery. Hundreds of members of Congress agreed. And in August, regulators backed down, The Post states.

Dodd-Frank went into effect in 2010 and required a specific rule be written within 270 days, but the country is still waiting, Blinder maintains.

And, it's not just that one rule that exposes the lack of meaningful progress. Blinder suggest there is a "pattern" of weakness in reform efforts.

He blames derivatives based on mortgages for turning the housing problem into a catastrophe and imposing huge losses on investors and financial firms. Dodd-Frank calls for measures to create safer, more transparent trading of these products, but "the law exempts the vast majority of derivatives."

In addition, the credit ratings agencies that "blessed financial junk" are still hired and paid by the very companies whose securities they rate, just as they were when Lehman Brothers crashed.

And the Volcker rule, which bans proprietary trading by preventing banks from gambling with FDIC-insured funds has yet to be finalized. It's tied up with internal bureaucratic squabbles and pressure from the banking industry, Blinder says.

The next chairman of the Federal can set a better tone, he claims. But that person "must be prepared to move bureaucratic mountains, fend off hordes of lobbyists opposing financial reform and not bleed sympathy for Wall Street."

Editor’s Note: New Video: Obama Plans to Redistribute Seniors’ Wealth

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It has been five years since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, unveiling the Great Recession, but the financial beast still isn't tamed, says Alan Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.
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2013-05-12
Thursday, 12 September 2013 08:05 AM
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