Archive for the ‘Financial Reform’ Category

Can Financial Regulatory Changes Help Jumpstart Long-Term Investment?

Michael Stephens | November 15, 2016

In a presentation here at the Levy Institute, Emilios Avgouleas argued that financial regulatory changes since the crisis have become so complex they represent a source of financial instability, and that new liquidity and capital requirements have contributed to the problem of “short-termism” in finance.

Avgouleas proposed regulatory simplification and a reorientation that would create greater relative incentives for funding long-term investment projects (e.g., infrastructure), including a lower regulatory and tax burden on long-term instruments. Empowering issuers of long-term instruments like project bonds with intellectual property rights could, he suggested, help control the quality of these financial products by preventing “slicing and dicing” in derivatives markets, on pain of losing prescribed privileges.

You can watch the presentation below: “The Financial Regulation Conundrum: Why We Should Discriminate in Favor of Long-Term Finance”


Why Minsky Matters, Reviewed in Times Higher Education

Michael Stephens | January 13, 2016

L. Randall Wray’s recently published book on the work of Hyman Minsky (Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the Work of a Maverick Economist) was reviewed by Victoria Bateman for Times Higher Education. Here’s a taste:

Having experienced the pain of a new Great Depression, the very least we should expect is that economists try to learn from it. Unfortunately, still too few of them understand the importance of what Minsky had to say …. While Minsky is now quite well known, his contributions are still widely ignored or misunderstood.

In terms of name recognition or casual citation, there’s been a lot of progress made in raising Minsky’s profile. As for comprehension of his vision of economics and public policy (or the influence of that vision on policymaking), there’s a tremendous amount of work ahead. Here’s hoping the book helps us move a little further along that path. Read the entire review here.


25th Annual Minsky Conference Returns to Blithewood

Michael Stephens | November 10, 2015

The 2016 Minsky conference will be held here at Blithewood mansion, home of the Levy Institute. Barney Frank will be among the keynote speakers:

Will the Global Economic Environment Constrain US Growth and Employment?

Organized by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College with support from the Ford Foundation

Levy Economics Institute of Bard College
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 12504

April 12–13, 2016

The 2016 Minsky Conference will address whether what appears to be a global economic slowdown will jeopardize the implementation and efficiency of Dodd-Frank regulatory reforms, the transition of monetary policy away from zero interest rates, and the “new” normal of fiscal policy, as well as the use of fiscal policies aimed at achieving sustainable growth and full employment.


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Is a “Bad Bank” Model the Solution to Greece’s Credit Crunch?

Michael Stephens | October 30, 2015

Dimitri Papadimitriou and new Levy Institute Research Associate Emilios Avgouleas write about one of the obstacles to recovery of the Greek economy: the absence of credit expansion in connection with still-troubled Greek banks.

Beyond deposit flight and the ongoing recession, Papadimitriou and Avgouleas argue that the botched recapitalization of Greek banks can also be blamed for the failure to alleviate this liquidity crunch. As the next round approaches, they warn that past recapitalization efforts did not follow internationally-tested best practices:

The decision by creditors to allow the old, now minority, shareholders and incumbent management to retain effective control of Greek banks is highly questionable. This rather unusual governance approach in a post-rescue period meant that the Greek banking system did not benefit from any cleanup efforts, especially in light of the interlocking and privileged relationships some bankers enjoy with Greek political, media, and economic interests.

In addition, they stress that effective recapitalization requires some attempt to restructure loan portfolios: an attempt to deal with the significant — and still growing — share of loans falling into the “nonperforming” category (NPLs). This chart showing the growth of NPLs (from a strategic analysis by Papadimitriou, Michalis Nikiforos, and Gennaro Zezza), gives you a sense of the debt-deflation trap in which Greece is stuck:

Greece_Nonperforming Loans

In order to clear the way for Greek banks to return to making loans, Avgouleas and Papadimitriou propose the creation of a “bad bank” that would take on the NPLs, with government guarantees currently extended to Greek banks withdrawn and applied instead to the bad bank fund.

Under this scheme, Greek borrowers would be offered an effective way to restructure their borderline loans while banks could avoid writing off all NPLs, with significant consequences for their balance sheets, and instead have the loans objectively valued and transferred to the bad bank. In addition, creditors would not have to face an unduly inflated Greek bank rescue bill, and the investment that Greek taxpayers have made and will make in the banking sector would not be entirely wiped out. Sound bank recapitalization with concurrent avoidance of any creditor bail-in—which under the current circumstances would prove catastrophic—and implementation of robust and sensible corporate governance changes could help the Greek banking sector return to financial health.

The complete analysis can be found in their newly released policy note (pdf).


Elizabeth Warren on Structural vs Technocratic Financial Reform

Michael Stephens | April 16, 2015

From yesterday’s session of the 24th Annual Minsky Conference in Washington, D.C.:


Modern Money, Financial Reform, and the Euro Experiment—an Interview with Randall Wray

Michael Stephens | March 28, 2015

Below is the wide-ranging interview L. Randall Wray gave to EKO – Público TV in Spain as part of the launch of the Spanish edition of his Modern Money Primer (questions in Spanish):


Public Banking and Boom Bust Boom

L. Randall Wray | March 24, 2015

While in Spain for the launch of my Modern Money Primer in Spanish, I gave a long interview for Public Television. Parts of that interview are interspersed in this segment on public banking. My interview is in English (with Spanish subtitles), while the rest is in Spanish. Other portions of my interview will be broadcast later.

The Boom Bust Boom movie on Minsky will be released next month. Watch for it. I do not know how widely it will be distributed, but it is well worth seeing. Here’s a nice piece from The Guardian:

To Move Beyond Boom and Bust, We Need a New Theory of Capitalism

By Paul Mason, The Guardian UK

23 March 15

his is the year that economics might, if we are lucky, turn a corner. There’s a deluge of calls for change in the way it is taught in universities. There’s a global conference at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, where the giants of radical economics – including Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis – will get their biggest ever mainstream platform. And there’s a film where a star of Monty Python talks to a puppet of Hyman Minsky.

Terry Jones’s documentary film Boom Bust Boom hits the cinemas this month. Using puppetry and talking heads (including mine), Jones is trying to popularise the work of Minsky, a US economist who died in 1996 but whose name has become for ever associated with the Lehman Brothers crash. Terrified analysts labelled it the “Minsky moment”.

Minsky’s genius was to show that financially complex capitalism is inherently unstable. Under conditions of stability, firms, banks and households will, over time, move from a position where their income pays off their debt, to one where it can only meet the interest payments on it. Finally, as instability rises, and central banks respond by expanding the supply of money, people end up borrowing just to pay back interest. The price of shares, homes and commodities rockets. Bust becomes inevitable.

This logical and coherent prediction was laughed at until it came true. Mainstream economics had convinced itself that capitalism tends towards equilibrium; and that any shocks must be external. It did so by reducing economic thought to the construction of abstract models, which perfectly describe the system 95% of the time, but break down during critical events.

In the aftermath of the crisis – which threatens some countries with a phase of stagnation lasting decades – Minsky’s insight has been acknowledged. But his supporters face a problem. The mainstream has a model; the radicals do not. The mainstream theory is “good enough” to run a business, a finance ministry or a central bank – as long as you are prepared, in practice, to ignore that theory when faced with crises.

Read the rest here.


The 24th Annual Minsky Conference

Michael Stephens | March 5, 2015

Is Financial Reregulation Holding Back Finance for the Global Recovery?

Organized by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College with support from the Ford Foundation

The National Press Club
Washington, D.C.
April 15–16, 2015

The 2015 Minsky Conference will address, among other issues, the design, flaws, and current status of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, including implementation of the operating procedures necessary to curtail systemic risk and prevent future crises; the insistence on fiscal austerity exemplified by the recent pronouncements of the new Congress; the sustainability of the US economic recovery; monetary policy revisions and central bank independence; the deflationary pressures associated with the ongoing eurozone debt crisis and their implications for the global economy; strategies for promoting an inclusive economy and a more equitable income distribution; and regulatory challenges for emerging market economies.

To register, please click here.


Lakshman Achuthan
Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer, Economic Cycle Research Institute

Daniel Alpert
Managing Partner, Westwood Capital, LLC

Robert J. Barbera
Co-director, Center for Financial Economics, The Johns Hopkins University

Lael Brainard*
Member, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

James Bullard
President, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Vítor Constâncio
Vice President, European Central Bank

Scott Fullwiler
Professor of Economics and James A. Leach Chair in Banking and Monetary Economics, Wartburg College

Michael Greenberger
Professor, School of Law, and Director, Center for Health and Homeland Security, The University of Maryland

Bruce Greenwald
Robert Heilbrunn Professor of Finance and Asset Management, Columbia University

Thomas Hoenig
Vice Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Jan Kregel
Senior Scholar, Levy Institute, and Professor, Tallinn University of Technology

Paul McCulley

Perry Mehrling
Professor of Economics, Barnard College

Patricia Mosser
Deputy Director, Research and Analysis Center, Office of Financial Research, US Department of the Treasury

Dimitri B. Papadimitriou
President, Levy Institute

D. Nathan Sheets*
Under Secretary for International Affairs, US Department of the Treasury

Gillian Tett*
US Managing Editor, Financial Times

Paul Tucker
Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School

Éric Tymoigne
Research Associate, Levy Institute, and Professor of Economics, Lewis & Clark College

Elizabeth Warren
US Senator (D-MA)

Maxine Waters*
US Representative (D-CA, 43)

L. Randall Wray
Senior Scholar, Levy Institute, and Professor, University of Missouri–Kansas City

* Invited


Needed Macro Policies: Targeted, Broad, and Universal

Greg Hannsgen | January 30, 2015

The recent 40 percent jump in the value of the Swiss Franc will have some effects similar to those of deflation where it seems to be taking hold, including Japan and much of Europe. When a currency increases in value, foreign debts in those currencies become more of a burden. The New York Times brings it home with the story of households in Poland and other European countries who have some foreign debt of their own—mortgages whose payments are suddenly much higher in their own currency, after the Swiss National Bank (the Swiss counterpart to the ECB and the Fed) stopped using foreign-currency operations to peg its currency against the Euro. In fact, the FT reports that mortgages in the Swiss currency make up 37 percent of Polish home loans. The Swiss decision was encouraged by a European Central Bank that is getting ready to push long-term interest rates down further through its own program of quantitative easing (QE). Instead of printing more Francs to buy Euro and other currency, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) allowed the Franc to rise in one big move, abandoning its peg to the depreciating Euro. This move will increase import demand in Switzerland from Poland and other European producers. But as always with a sudden devaluation, foreign-currency debtors suffer from a so-called currency mismatch problem as the amount of debt rises in terms of the things that they sell to make a living, including hours of labor.

Exchange rate pegs are difficult to maintain for an extended period, especially in relatively poor countries, as changing economic conditions cause misalignments in exchange rates. One reason not to institute a peg is the instability that can ensue when it is abandoned, and this instability can cause penury for debtors, including governments. A second bad policy is interest rates that that need to be reduced generally by the monetary policy authorities where possible. One policy approach is to target help at the debtors themselves, particularly households and countries that must be helped up to maintain autonomy. The latter include Greece, for which our Greek macro team recently suggested an interest-payment moratorium. Sometimes, a reduction in the amount owed, or principal, is in order, as it was —and probably still is—for many subprime and Alt-A (mid-range credit rating) borrowers affected by the US mortgage crisis. Eastern European countries debated converting Swiss mortgages into domestic-currency debts at a higher-than-market domestic exchange rate. A slightly less-targeted form of help is to implement jobs programs of various types and to hold the line on public-sector wages. But when unemployment and other economic indicators suggest stagnation if anything, such targeted policy stimulus helps, yet it has only an indirect impact on private investment, overall economic growth, and unmet infrastructure, poverty-reduction, and pension needs.

The ECB is smart to implement QE, given high rates of unemployment in almost every country in the Eurozone. The SNB may even be smart to allow its currency to rise, given strong economic performance. And by the same token, if the Polish government can broadly raise spending, increasing resources for budget items that encourage economic growth and inflation is under control (2 percent—one common benchmark—is rather low for a target, especially given high unemployment), it should do so. Monetary stimulus might also form part of the picture. With such a move, the government would take steps in the same direction as the ECB and the Japanese government, recognizing the threat of  debt deflation.

Generally, the a combination of the three types of policy outlined here would work effectively in many countries with high unemployment, weak growth, and large amounts of bad private-sector debt. Targeted help for borrowers can take many forms, but writing off a portion of the principal, with the central bank’s help, if necessary, is often the only way to avert widespread private-sector bankruptcies. In contrast, broad measures might include, for example, devaluations of the domestic currency, investments in infrastructure and R&D, wide-ranging open-market purchases, tax cuts, and other available measures to spur all sectors of the economy. Third, universal measures—programs available to all who meet eligibility criteria—would include Social Security and its counterparts in affected countries. (An employer-of-last resort, or ELR, program would fit within both universal and targeted categories.) It is more risky rather than less not to maintain such programs during a crisis.


Mission-Oriented Finance (Video)

Michael Stephens | September 10, 2014

The following clips are from the Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation conference held in London, organized by Mariana Mazzucato as part of a research project with L. Randall Wray on “Financing Innovation.”

L. Randall Wray, “Financing the Capital Development of the Economy: A Keynes-Schumpeter-Minsky Synthesis” (slides)


Pavlina Tcherneva, “Full Employment, Value Creation and the Public Purpose” (slides)