Dissection d’une crise

BERKELEY – Pour sortir de la pagaille financière dans laquelle nous sommes aujourd’hui plongés, il est nécessaire de comprendre comment nous en sommes arrivés là. À en croire des gens comme John McCain, la cause première est la cupidité et la corruption de Wall Street. Sans être de ceux qui réfutent l’existence de motifs si bas, je veux insister sur le fait que les origines de cette crise remontent à des décisions politiques clés prises pendant des décennies.

Aux États-Unis, il y a eu deux décisions de ce type. La première, dans les années 1970, a déréglementé les commissions versées aux agents de change. La seconde, dans les années 1990, a supprimé les restrictions du Glass-Steagall Act sur l’incompatibilité entre banque de dépôt et d’investissement. À l’époque des commissions fixes, les banques d’investissement pouvaient gagner confortablement leur vie grâce au commerce des actions. La déréglementation a été synonyme de concurrence et de marges plus minces. La suppression de la loi Glass-Steagall a ensuite permis aux banques de dépôt de s’aventurer sur les terrains de chasse autrefois exclusifs des banques d’investissement.

En réaction, les banques d’investissement se sont lancées dans d’autres secteurs, comme l’émission et la distribution de produits dérivés complexes. Elles ont emprunté de l’argent et l’ont fait travailler pour alimenter leur rentabilité. Cela a donné naissance aux premières causes de la crise : le modèle de titrisation originate-and-distribute (octroi et cession) et le recours extensif à l’effet de levier.

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