... the excess capital that the broker-dealers kept varied wildly, making it hard to see that they were targeting a specific amount of excess. In any event, Kwak and Johnson have a point: What happened at the broker-dealer level is murky and should be better understood. But the problem is that saying the rule change "might" have caused increased leverage just at the broker-dealer level is very different from saying it was an important cause of the crisis (especially since Lehman's broker-dealer stayed solvent after its bankruptcy -- it wasn't the root of Lehman's problems).


if the rule change wasn't behind the increased leverage at the investment banks, or the broker-dealers, then what was? If our goal is to prevent another crisis, isn't it important to understand what actually happened? Or as Lo said to me: "If we haven't captured the killer, then the real killer is still out there somewhere."

There was not just one "rule change" that enabled the kind of leverage that caused the financial crisis. It was a long-term process, consisting of many rule changes, loosenings, and slackening of banking and regulatory culture.

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