This guest post is by Ivo Pezzuto, Professor at the Swiss Management Center University (SMCU) in Zurich, Switzerland, and an experienced observer of the global financial services industry.
I share the analysis of most economists and observers that the following are among the main causes of the current global financial crisis:
- the U.S. Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy at the beginning of the last decade, the resulting credit euphoria of both lenders and borrowers;
- the more ”relaxed” credit initiation and control policies and procedures of lenders;
- the “exotic” innovative features of some mortgage lending products;
- the overwhelmingly optimistic view of future house prices which prevailed in the market that has led to both the housing and the mortgage lending bubbles;
- the widespread use of badly controlled (OTC trading) innovative financial engineering tools (i.e., derivatives, securitizations, CDS, CDO, MBS, RMBS, CLO, etc.).
- Imbalances, exchange rates and interest rates differences between the US and other emerging economies and the resulting speculative trading and arbitrages.
As I reported on October 7th, 2008 in my SMCU working paper (ISSN 1662-761X), however, from a more thorough and in–depth analysis of how the U.S. subprime mortgage loans crisis has originated and evolved, it seems to me that this dramatic financial and economic event might not have been generated only by the above mentioned items.
My assumption is that many bankers probably knew quite well what was really happening to their subprime mortgages portfolios and why. These explanations are reported in my SMCU working paper which can be downloaded free-of-charge from this link, or reading my chapter (chapter 16) in the forthcoming book of Robert W. Kolb, Professor of Finance/Frank W. Considine Chair of Applied Ethics at the School of Business – Loyola University Chicago.
These days, unfortunately, we are still reading of the persistence of unethical or at least “questionable” behaviours of some key players in the financial industry. Some of these organizations are rewarding their executives with higher salaries and bonuses, while 10% of the American workforce is unemployed thanks to “miraculous lending and financial engineering” practices.
I am not against in principle granting employees and executives generous bonuses if they are well deserved. I just hope that after such a dramatic crisis, there will be more rigorous attention to reward only those who have actually worked to improved general economic conditions and not only their personal wealth through financial speculation.
Furthermore, it seems as if some organizations are still relying on the “too-big-to-fail” philosophy and on the government’s protection to continue to grow aggressively their highly volatile derivatives and investment banking portfolios, or using the TARP funds (provided by the US taxpayers) and the Federal Reserve’s aggressive “monetary easing” policy (Fed Funds close to zero % or “money for free”) to increase their present and future salaries/bonuses through more profitable speculative operations.
The massive protections, recapitalizations, nationalizations, and financial and liquidity support banks received were orchestrated by governments and central banks to avoid systemic risks (long recession and potential depression) and the highly probable implosion of giant banks and other key financial institutions in the US and other markets. Now it is very sad to see that some of these funds have been misused by some bankers to continue to speculate in highly profitable and risky financial engineering operations instead of devoting their time, money, effort, and soul in helping troubled companies to avoid bankruptcy, the overall economy to grow, to reduce unemployment, to invest in R&D and innovation projects, to finance sustainability and green economy projects, and to restore trust and hope in the mind of troubled mortgage loans borrowers.
It is also sad seeing some bankers aggressively rejecting any introduction of additional and necessary regulation of the financial sector since they think that the bad times are over now. Regarding this last issue, I would like to stress the an important point. We all know that banking and financial markets are globalized today, thus the G20 countries have to be very careful not to introduce in the coming months or years significant discrepancies in their countries’ regulations of the financial sector – otherwise there will new opportunities for arbitrages and speculations taking advantage of the different national policies and rules.
Overall, I think we still have a long way to go…. …… but fortunately, I feel that President Obama is moving in the right direction.
By Ivo Pezzuto