The regulatory framework proposed by Treasury Secretary
Henry Paulson will not address fundamental problems in the banking sector that
contributed significantly to the recession and that must be fixed to rescue the
U.S. economy from recession and avoid future crises.
The banks and securities companies, essentially, created
overly complex and risky securities when bundling subprime mortgages and other
loans into bonds. The banks became engaged in bogus, off books operations and
credit default swaps that proved less than worthy. Ultimately, the value of
these bonds collapsed, as investors could not adequately evaluate those bonds
and discount for their risks.
Now fixed income investors no longer trust the credibility
of the banks and securities companies, and these firms can no longer bundle
mortgages, consumer loans and business loans into bonds, giving rise to the
current credit shortage.
Even with a lower fed funds rate and beefed up access to the
discount window, banks lack the credibility to raise funds in the fixed income
market to make loans adequate to power the economy out of recession.
The regulatory reform and reorganization proposed by Secretary
Paulson would enhance the Federal Reserve's access to information about
investment bank and securities companies activities, and subject many to
stricter prudential financial standards; however, it does little to constrain
the banks and securities from the kinds of abuses that gave rise to the current
crisis. Nor does his plan provide adequate safeguard to avoid future credit
crises and recessions from a recurrence of securitization abuses.
Further, Paulson's plan does not address the problem of the
bond rating agencies. Rating services are paid by the banks and securities
companies to rate the bonds created by those companies. This has proven a
flawed model that Paulson seems unwilling to address.
Peter Morici is a professor at the University of
Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S.
International Trade Commission during the Clinton administration.