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The global financial crisis, and the ensuing Dodd-Frank Act, identified size and complexity as determinants of banks’ systemic importance, increasing the potential risks to financial stability. While it’s known that big banks haven’t shrunk, the question that remains is: have they simplified? In this post, we show that while the largest U.S. bank holding companies (BHCs) have somewhat simplified their organizational structures, they remain very complex. The industries spanned by entities within the BHCs have shifted more than they have declined, and the countries in which some large BHCs have entities still include numerous “secrecy” or tax-haven locations.
In January 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department made its first sale of floating rate notes (FRNs), securities whose coupon rates vary over time depending on the course of short-term rates. Now that a few years have passed, we have enough data to analyze dealer trading and positioning in FRNs. In this post, we assess the level of trading and positioning, concentration across issues, and auction cycle effects, comparing these properties to those of other types of Treasury securities.
The term “reach for yield” refers to investors’ tendency to buy riskier assets in hopes of securing higher returns. Do low rates on safe assets encourage such yield-seeking behavior, particularly among U.S. prime money market funds (MMFs)? In a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Financial Economics, I develop a model of MMF competition to understand whether competitive pressure leads these funds to reach for yield in a low-rate environment like the current one. I test the model’s predictions on the 2002-08 period and show that, after controlling for changes in risk premia, declines in risk-free rates actually reduced MMF risk-taking, leading to a “reach for safety.”
Erin Denison, Michael Fleming, Warren B. Hrung, and Asani Sarkar
Second of two parts
Our previous post described the workings of the Term Securities Lending Facility Options Program (TOP), which offered dealers options for obtaining short-term loans over month- and quarter-end dates during the global financial crisis of 2007-08. In this follow-up post, we examine dealer participation in the TOP, including the extent to which dealers bid for options, at what fees, and whether they exercised their options. We also provide evidence on how uncertainty in dealers’ funding positions was related to the demand for the liquidity options.
Erin Denison, Michael Fleming, Warren B. Hrung, and Asani Sarkar
First of two parts
During the global financial crisis of 2007-08, collateral markets became illiquid, making it difficult for dealers to obtain short-term funding to finance their positions. As lender of last resort, the Federal Reserve responded with various programs to promote liquidity in these markets, including the Primary Dealer Credit Facility and the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF). In this post, we describe an additional and rarely discussed liquidity facility introduced by the Fed during the crisis: the TSLF Options Program (TOP). The TOP was unique among crisis-period liquidity facilities in its provision of options. A follow-up post will analyze dealer participation in the TOP.
It is widely said that a lack of “skin in the game” would distort lenders’ incentives and cause a moral hazard problem, that is, excessive risk‑taking. If so, does more skin in the game—in the form of extended liability—reduce bankers’ risk‑taking? In order to examine this question, we investigate historical data prior to the Great Depression, when bank owners’ liability for losses in the event of bank failure differed by state and primary regulator. This post describes our preliminary findings.
Nicola Cetorelli, Gerard Dages, Paul Licari, and Afshin Taber
The Committee on the Global Financial System, made up of senior officials from central banks around the world and chaired by New York Fed President William Dudley, recently released a report on “Structural Changes in Banking after the Crisis.” The report includes findings from a wide-ranging study documenting the significant structural adjustments in banking systems around the world in response to regulatory, technological, and market changes after the crisis, while also assessing their implications for financial stability, credit provision, and capital markets activity. It includes a new banking database spanning over twenty-one countries from 2000 to 2016 that could serve as a valuable reference for further analysis. Overall, the study concludes that the changed regulatory and market environment since the crisis has led banks to alter their business models and balance sheets in ways that make them more resilient but also less profitable, while continuing their role as intermediaries providing financial services to the real economy.
Editor's note: This post has been corrected to show that the $750 billion increase in common equity at CCAR banks since 2009 reflects a rise of more than 150 percent. (October 20, 2017, 2:06 p.m.)
On June 28, the Federal Reserve released the latest results of the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR), the supervisory program that assesses the capital adequacy and capital planning processes of large, complex banking companies. The Fed did not object to any of the banks’ capital plans, an outcome that was widely heralded as a signal that these banks would be able to increase payouts to their shareholders. And in fact, immediately following the release of the CCAR results, several large banks announced substantial increases in quarterly dividends and record-sized share repurchase programs. In this post, we put these announced increases into recent historical context, showing how banks’ payouts to shareholders have increased since the financial crisis and describing how CCAR has affected the composition of payouts between dividends and share repurchases.
In a previous post, I documented that much of the expansion into nontraditional activities by U.S. banks began well before the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999, the legislation that repealed much of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. The historical record actually contains many prior instances of the Glass-Steagall restrictions being circumvented, with nonbank firms allowed to operate as financial conglomerates and engage in activities that go beyond traditional banking. These broad industry dynamics might indicate that the business of banking tends to expand firm boundaries beyond a traditional—“boring”—perimeter.
Since the global financial crisis and Great Recession, many critics have called for regulatory and legislative reforms to restore a system of “boring” banks constrained to traditional banking activities like deposit taking and lending. The narrative underlying this argument holds that the partial repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act enabled banks to expand into nontraditional activities such as securities trading and underwriting, thereby contributing to the financial crisis some ten years later. The implication is that if we could restore the Glass-Steagall Act, banks would become boring once again, and financial stability would be enhanced. The reality, however, may be more complex; an in-depth look “under the hood” of banks’ organizational structure over the past forty years shows that bank holding companies (BHCs) began expanding into those financial activities in the early 1980s and that this expansion was, in fact, nearly complete by 1999.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, Donald Morgan, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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