Capital Standards, Regulatory Ignorance and the Financial Crisis of 2008
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In their new book, “Engineering the Financial Crisis: Systemic Risk and the Failure of Regulation” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), Jeffrey Friedman and Wladimir Kraus argue that the primary cause of the financial crisis of 2008 was minimum capital standards intended to steer banks toward safer investments. Regulators adopted these standards with little understanding of how they related to other rules—especially those requiring mark-to-market accounting and those sanctioning ratings bureaus as the arbiters of investment risk. The result was a dangerous concentration of risky mortgage-backed securities at leading financial institutions. But Friedman and Kraus argue that the ultimate culprit is not a single policy decision, but rather the idea that systemic risk can be managed by the decisions of regulators—whose knowledge of the future is necessarily as limited and partial as the knowledge of those being regulated. In the face of uncertainty, the best protection against catastrophic failures like the collapse of 2008 is to permit multiple competing approaches toward financial risk, rather than imposing any single, uniform approach. At this AEI book forum, Friedman will present his book’s arguments, followed by comments from AEI’s Peter Wallison and Alex Pollock and a general discussion.

Purchase the book here

2:45 PM

3:00 PM

JEFFREY FRIEDMAN, University of Texas, Austin, and Critical Review

3:40 PM



5:00 PM

Speaker Biographies

Christopher DeMuth was president of AEI from December 1986 through December 2008. Previously, he was administrator for information and regulatory affairs in the Office of Management and Budget and executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief in the Reagan administration; taught economics, law and regulatory policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University; practiced regulatory, antitrust and general corporate law; and worked on urban and environmental policy in the Nixon White House.

Jeffrey Friedman
is the coauthor, with Wladimir Kraus, of “Engineering the Perfect Storm: How Banking Regulations Caused the Financial Crisis” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). He is the editor of Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society, which he founded in 1987; and a visiting scholar in the government department of the University of Texas at Austin. Mr. Friedman has taught political theory at Barnard College, Columbia University, Dartmouth College and Harvard University. He is also the editor of “What Caused the Financial Crisis” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).

Alex J. Pollock
is a resident fellow at AEI focusing on financial policy issues, including housing finance, government-sponsored enterprises, retirement finance, corporate governance, accounting standards and the banking system. Previously, he spent thirty-five years in banking, including twelve years as president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. He is the author of numerous articles on financial systems and the organizer of the “Deflating Bubble” series of AEI conferences. In 2007, he developed a one-page mortgage form to help borrowers understand their mortgage obligations. He is a director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and the International Union for Housing Finance, and the chairman of the board of the Great Books Foundation.

Peter J. Wallison
holds the Arthur F. Burns Chair in Financial Policy Studies at AEI, where he codirects the institute’s program on financial market studies. He was also a cochair of the Pew Financial Reform Task Force and a member of the congressionally authorized Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Mr. Wallison previously practiced banking, corporate, and financial law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York and Washington, DC. During 1986 and 1987, he was White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan. From 1981 to 1985, Mr. Wallison was general counsel of the Treasury Department, where he played a significant role in the development of the Reagan administration’s proposals for deregulation in the financial services industry. He also served as general counsel to the Depository Institutions Deregulation Committee and participated in the Treasury Department’s efforts to deal with the debt held by less-developed countries. Between 1972 and 1976, Mr. Wallison was special assistant to New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and, subsequently, counsel to Mr. Rockefeller when he was vice president of the United States.


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