By Simon Johnson. This post comprises the first three paragraphs of my latest Bloomberg column; you can read the full column there.
Here we go again. Major shocks potentially threaten the solvency of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. Concerns grow over the ability of European leaders to shore up their banks, which are reeling from a sovereign-debt crisis. In the U.S., the shares of some large banks are trading at less than book value, while creditor confidence crumbles.
Private conversations among economists, regulators and fund managers turn naturally to so-called resolution powers — the expanded ability to take over and wind down private financial companies granted to federal regulators by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The proponents of these powers, including Tim Geithner and Henry Paulson, the current and former U.S. Treasury secretaries, argue that the absence of such authority in the fall of 2008 contributed to the financial panic. According to this line of thought, if only the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had the power to manage the orderly liquidation of big banks and nonbank financial companies, the government could have decided which creditors to protect and on what basis. This would have helped restore confidence, it is argued.
Instead, the government was forced to rely on the bankruptcy process, as in the case of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., or complete bailouts for all creditors, as in the case of American International Group. The FDIC already has limited resolution authority, which functioned well over many years for small and medium-sized banks.
To read the rest of this column, please click on this link to Bloomberg: