Financial Regulators’ Global Variety Show

In the early phases of the financial crisis, it was fashionable to argue that the US system of regulation needed a fundamental structural overhaul. But there is no clear evidence that one particular model of financial regulation is more effective than others.

PARIS – In the early phases of the financial crisis, it was fashionable to argue that the United States’ system of regulation needed a fundamental structural overhaul. Differences of opinion between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) had obstructed effective oversight of investment banks and derivatives trading (only the US believes that it makes sense to regulate securities and derivatives separately).

Indeed, the plethora of separate banking regulators had created opportunities for banks to arbitrage the system in search of a more indulgent approach to capital. Likewise, the lack of a federal insurance regulator had left AIG regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and the New York State Insurance Department, which proved to be a wholly inadequate arrangement.

Little has come of these arguments. The Dodd-Frank Act did succeed in putting the OTS out of its misery, but jealous congressional oversight committees have prevented a merger of the SEC and CFTC, and nothing has been done to rationalize banking supervision. So the American system looks remarkably similar to the one that turned a collective blind eye to the rise of fatal tensions in the early 2000’s.

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