Financial Regulation: Still Unsettled a Decade After the Crisis

Financial Regulation: Still Unsettled a Decade After the Crisis

This article assesses the accomplishments, unfinished business, and outstanding issues in the post-crisis approach to prudential regulation. After briefly reviewing how the ongoing integration of capital markets and traditional lending channels undermined the New Deal regulatory framework, I explain how the post-crisis regulatory approach of instigating changes across a range of bank activities and practices brought about a steady improvement in the resiliency of the financial system, especially in the largest financial institutions. Next, I turn to an evaluation of how durable this regulatory approach will prove over time. The answer will depend on how financial regulators can and will respond to what will surely be the highly adaptive behavior of financial market participants to changes in regulation, technology, and the overall market environment. The hurdles to doing so, both political and institutional, are substantial. While regulators have ample legal authority to contain risks at prudentially regulated banking organizations, over time they may lack the will or organizational capacity to exercise those authorities effectively. It is doubtful whether they have adequate authority to address threats to financial stability that may arise outside the perimeter of prudentially regulated firms. In particular, there is reason for concern about appropriate regulation of liquidity and short-term finance, which would likely be at the center of a future crisis. Thus, while the resiliency of the financial system is likely to remain fairly high in the near term, the medium- and longer-term prospects are hazier than one might hope.

Daniel K. Tarullo

Journal of Economic Perspectives

January 2019

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