As 2009 begins, the economic lessons learned during the financial crisis will quickly be put to the test. Participants in the recent research symposium, “Preventing the Next Financial Crisis: Lessons for a New Framework of Financial Market Stabilization,” which was hosted by the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics, provided a look at some of the issues and trends that will shape the year ahead:
Monetary policy is still effective, said keynote speaker Professsor Frederic Mishkin. “I think it’s an absolute fallacy that monetary policy isn’t effective during a financial crisis. It’s just plain wrong.”
Bankruptcy should be an option, because it allows for speedy work outs, argued Professor David Skeel of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “The problem is that if you address one form of moral hazard [with a bailout], you create another. With Bear Sterns the Fed addressed shareholders’ moral hazard, but [in doing so, it] created creditor moral hazard. That is why, I argue, firms like Lehman didn’t do a lot to try and change their balance sheets after the Bear Sterns collapse,” he said.
Regulatory process will undergo a major overhaul in 2009, said Dean Glenn Hubbard. Many panelists agreed that the systemic risk of trillion dollar markets, such as those for credit default swaps, is too great and that such instruments should be traded in regulated clearinghouse exchanges.
The price of homes must be bolstered, said Senior Vice Dean Chris Mayer, who, with Dean Hubbard, has designed a proposal to stabilize the housing market by guaranteeing a 4.5% interest rate for American homeowners. According to Mayer and Hubbard’s calculations, this would allow Americans to refinance their homes, yielding an average monthly savings of $350.
Financial literacy is poor amongst the poor. Data presented by Professor Stephan Meier about financial literacy showed that 30% of people with adjustable rate mortgages do not know that they have them. This percentage is fairly descriptive of all income groups, however Meier said that it is highest among the poorest.