Friday, January 28, 2011

Succinct explanation of 2008 financial crisis

Not from the official Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, but from three of the commissioners in a one-page WSJ op-ed.  Here is the story in a nutshell:
  1. Credit bubble in US and Europe
  2. Housing bubble in US (and other places such as Spain)
  3. Growth in subprime lending accompanied by lax regulation
  4. Failures in credit rating as derivatives based on subprime mortgages get passed on as AAA
  5. Broad range of financial institutions become exposed to risk of housing bubble bursting
  6. And same institutions are way, way too highly leveraged
  7. And they are way too interdependent, so when one firm goes under it creates big problems for counterparties
  8. And since almost everyone has placed all their bets on a continued rise in home prices, we see
  9. PANIC with failure or restructuring of household name financial institutions
  10. Leading to questions about the health of almost all financial institutions, regardless of their exposure to toxic mortgages
The official commission report (all 545 pages of it) appears to place most of the blame on lax regulation and supervision (at least that is what I get from newspaper accounts and the executive summary).  Has the Fed -- the very agency that now has enhanced regulatory powers -- forgotten how its own low interest rate policies provided rocket fuel to this entire scenario?

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