Late-2000s Financial Crisis - Government Responses - Regulatory Proposals and Long-term Responses

Regulatory Proposals and Long-term Responses

Further information: Obama financial regulatory reform plan of 2009, Regulatory responses to the subprime crisis, and Subprime mortgage crisis solutions debate

United States President Barack Obama and key advisers introduced a series of regulatory proposals in June 2009. The proposals address consumer protection, executive pay, bank financial cushions or capital requirements, expanded regulation of the shadow banking system and derivatives, and enhanced authority for the Federal Reserve to safely wind-down systemically important institutions, among others. In January 2010, Obama proposed additional regulations limiting the ability of banks to engage in proprietary trading. The proposals were dubbed "The Volcker Rule", in recognition of Paul Volcker, who has publicly argued for the proposed changes.

The U.S. Senate passed a regulatory reform bill in May 2010, following the House which passed a bill in December 2009. These bills must now be reconciled. The New York Times provided a comparative summary of the features of the two bills, which address to varying extent the principles enumerated by the Obama administration. For instance, the Volcker Rule against proprietary trading is not part of the legislation, though in the Senate bill regulators have the discretion but not the obligation to prohibit these trades.

European regulators introduced Basel III regulations for banks. It increased capital ratios, limits on leverage, narrow definition of capital (to exclude subordinated debt), limit counter-party risk, and new liquidity requirements. Critics argue that Basel III doesn’t address the problem of faulty risk-weightings. Major banks suffered losses from AAA-rated created by financial engineering (which creates apparently risk-free assets out of high risk collateral) that required less capital according to Basel II. Lending to AA-rated sovereigns has a risk-weight of zero, thus increasing lending to governments and leading to the next crisis. Johan Norberg argues that regulations (Basel III among others) have indeed led to excessive lending to risky governments (see European sovereign-debt crisis) and the ECB pursues even more lending as the solution.

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