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In March 2020, U.S. dollar-denominated prime money market funds (MMFs) suffered heavy outflows as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic increased in the United States and Europe. Investors redeemed their shares en masse not only from funds domiciled in the United States (“domestic”) but also from offshore funds. In this post, we use differences in the regulatory regimes of domestic and offshore funds to identify the impact of the redemption gates and liquidity fees recently introduced as part of MMF industry reforms in both the United States and Europe.
An important role of capital and liquidity regulations for financial institutions is to counteract inefficiencies associated with “fire-sale externalities,” such as the tendency of institutions to lever up and hold illiquid assets to the extent that their collective actions increase financial vulnerabilities. However, theoretical models that study such externalities commonly assume perfect competition among financial institutions, in spite of high (and increasing) financial sector concentration. In this post, which is based on our forthcoming article, we consider instead how the effects of fire-sale externalities change when financial institutions have market power.
Regulations are not written in stone. The benefits derived from them, along with the costs of compliance for affected institutions and of enforcement for regulators, are likely to evolve. When this happens, regulators may seek to modify the regulations to better suit the specific risk profiles of regulated entities. In this post, we consider the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) passed by Congress in 2018, which eased banking regulations for smaller institutions. We focus on one regulation—the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR)—and assess how its relaxation affected newly exempt banks’ assets and liabilities, and the resilience of the banking system.
Jennifer Dlugosz, Brian Melzer, and Donald P. Morgan
The 25 percent of low-income Americans without a checking account operate in a separate but unequal financial world. Instead of paying for things with cheap, convenient debit cards and checks, they get by with “fringe” payment providers like check cashers, money transfer, and other alternatives. Costly overdrafts rank high among reasons why households “bounce out” of the banking system and some observers have advocated capping overdraft fees to promote inclusion. Our recent paper finds unintended (if predictable) effects of overdraft fee caps. Studying a case where fee caps were selectively relaxed for some banks, we find higher fees at the unbound banks, but also increased overdraft credit supply, lower bounced check rates (potentially the costliest overdraft), and more low-income households with checking accounts. That said, we recognize that overdraft credit is expensive, sometimes more than even payday loans. In lieu of caps, we see increased overdraft credit competition and transparency as alternative paths to cheaper deposit accounts and increased inclusion.
Sarah Ngo Hamerling, Donald P. Morgan, and John Sporn
Did the 2007-09 financial crisis or the regulatory reforms that followed alter how banks change their underwriting standards over the course of the business cycle? We provide some simple, “narrative” evidence on that question by studying the reasons banks cite when they report a change in commercial credit standards in the Federal Reserve’s Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey. We find that the economic outlook, risk tolerance, and other real factors generally drive standards more than financial factors such as bank capital and loan market liquidity. Those financial factors have mattered more since the crisis, however, and their importance increased further as post-crisis reforms were phased in in the middle of the following decade.
Nina Boyarchenko, Thomas M. Eisenbach, Pooja Gupta, Or Shachar, and Peter Van Tassel
“Arbitrageurs” such as hedge funds play a key role in the efficiency of financial markets. They compare closely related assets, then buy the relatively cheap one and sell the relatively expensive one, thereby driving the prices of the assets closer together. For executing trades and other services, hedge funds rely on prime brokers and broker-dealers. In a previous Liberty Street Economics blog post, we argued that post-crisis changes to regulation and market structure have increased the costs of arbitrage activity, potentially contributing to the persistent deviations in the prices of closely related assets since the 2007–09 financial crisis. In this post, we document how post-crisis changes to bank regulations have affected the relationship between hedge funds and broker-dealers.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, William Nober, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
COVID-19 and associated social distancing measures have had major labor market ramifications, with massive job losses and furloughs. Millions of people have filed jobless claims since mid-March—6.9 million in the week of March 28 alone. These developments will surely lead to financial hardship for millions of Americans, especially those who hold outstanding debts while facing diminishing or disappearing wages. The CARES Act, passed by Congress on April 2, 2020, provided $2.2 trillion in disaster relief to combat the economic impacts of COVID-19. Among other measures, it included mortgage and student debt relief measures to alleviate the cash flow problems of borrowers. In this post, we examine who could benefit most (and by how much) from various debt relief provisions under the CARES Act.
Donald P. Morgan, Dong Beom Choi, and Michael R. Holcomb
Leverage limits as a form of capital regulation have a well-known, potential bug: If banks can’t lever returns as desired, they can boost returns on equity by shifting toward riskier, higher yielding assets. That reach for yield is the leverage rule “arbitrage.” But would banks do that? In a previous post, we discussed evidence from our working paper that banks did do just that in response to the new leverage rule that took effect in 2018. This post discusses new findings in our revised paper on when and how banks arbitraged.
Erol and Lee consider the cat-and-mouse game played between financial regulators and those attempting to trade on inside information, including how insiders might form networks in order to circumvent restrictions, and how regulators might cope with insiders’ tactics.
After the global financial crisis, regulatory changes were implemented to support financial stability, with some changes directly addressing capital and liquidity in bank holding companies (BHCs) and others targeting BHC size and complexity. Although the overall size of the largest U.S. BHCs has not decreased since the crisis, the organizational complexity of these same organizations has declined, with less notable changes being observed in their range of businesses and geographic scope (Goldberg and Meehl forthcoming). In this post, we explore how different types of BHC risks—risks that can influence the probability that a BHC is stressed, as well as the chance of systemic implications—have changed over time. The results are mixed: Levels of most BHC risks currently tend to be higher than in the years immediately preceding the crisis, but are markedly lower than the levels seen during and immediately following the crisis.
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