Is Credit Suisse Really in Jail?

Credit Suisse’s guilty plea to a charge of tax fraud seems to be a major step forward for a Justice Department that was satisfied both before and after the financial crisis with toothless deferred prosecution agreements and large-sounding fines that were easily absorbed as a cost of doing business. A criminal conviction certainly sounds good, and I […]

Where Do You Want to Be Born?

That seems like a nonsensical question. Of course, each of us born where he or she was born, and we didn’t have much choice in the matter. But, philosopher John Rawls asked, if you lived behind a veil of ignorance, not knowing what position you would occupy in the socio-economic hierarchy, what rules would you […]

Insurance Companies and Systemic Risk

The systemic risk posed by insurance companies is something that I’ve never been entirely clear about. I know it’s an enormous issue for large insurers who want to avoid additional oversight by the Federal Reserve. I’m well aware of the usual defense, which is that insurers are not subject to bank runs because their obligations […]

The Free Market’s Weak Hand

“Except where market discipline is undermined by moral hazard, owing, for example, to federal guarantees of private debt, private regulation generally is far better at constraining excessive risk-taking than is government regulation.” That was Alan Greenspan back in 2003. This is little different from another of his famous maxims, that anti-fraud regulation was unnecessary because […]

Good Times for Capital

Last week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted a Federal Reserve report on total household net worth. Surprise! Americans are richer than ever before, both in nominal and real terms. At the same time, though, wealth inequality is increasing from its already Gilded Era levels. The main factor behind increasing household net worth over the past year was […]

‘Retirement Security in an Aging Society,’ or the Lack Thereof

James Poterba wrote up a very useful overview of the retirement security challenge in a new NBER white paper. (I think it’s not paywalled, but I’m not sure.) He provides overviews of much of the recent research and data on life expectancies, macroeconomic implications of a changing age structure, income and assets of people at or […]

Obama’s 2015 Budget: Posturing from Weakness

President Obama’s 2015 budget proposes a number of tax increases that will mainly affect the rich. They include: Limiting the tax savings on deductions to 28 percent of the deduction amount (and applying this limit to exclusions as well, such as the one for employer-provided health benefits) Requiring a minimum 30% income tax on income less charitable […]

The Social Value of Finance

It’s been more than five years since the peak of the financial crisis, and it seems clear (to me, at least) that not much has changed when it comes to the structure of the financial sector, the existence of too-big-to-fail banks, and the types of activities that they engage in. It’s also clear that the […]

Water Down the Volcker Rule at Markets’ Peril

The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal financial regulators may yet again carve a  loophole in the Volcker Rule. This time, the issue is whether banks subject to the rule’s proprietary trading prohibitions can hold collateralized loan obligations (CLOs)—structured products engineered out of commercial loans, just like good old collateralized debt obligations were engineered out of […]

Why We Have a Debt Problem, Part 23

So, we have eleven aircraft carrier groups. No other country in the world has more than one. Everyone who has looked at the issue has agreed that we could do with fewer than eleven while still achieving our national security goals: Bush/Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Obama Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and think tanks on […]

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