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The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong with Banking and What to Do about Itby Anat R Admati
Synopses & Reviews
"More than four years after the financial meltdown devastated the economy, our banking system remains resistant to reform and riddled with risk. The Bankers' New Clothes challenges us to question the status quo and to think anew about the transformative changes in banking that are needed to serve the public interest. This work should spur a long-overdue debate on real banking reform."--Phil Angelides, chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
"Providing a sound analysis of the role of banking and its regulation in the public interest, The Bankers' New Clothes is free of technical jargon and widely accessible to all policymakers and all who are concerned about banking's future, which is virtually everybody. The book's clear exposition conveys a deep understanding of the pervasive place of banking in the economy and stands in opposition to the self-interested forces of obscurity."--Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"The Bankers' New Clothes underscores that there is perhaps no reform more important and central to a stable financial system than capping the ability of financial institutions to take excessive risks using other people's money."--Sheila C. Bair, author of Bull by the Horns and former chairperson of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
"The Bankers' New Clothes accomplishes the near impossible by translating the arcane world of banking regulation into plain English. In doing so, it exposes as false the self-serving arguments against meaningful financial reform advanced by Wall Street executives and the captured politicians who serve their interests. This revelatory must-read shreds bankers' scare tactics while offering commonsense reforms that would protect the general public from unending cycles of boom, bust, and bailout."--Neil Barofsky, author of Bailout
"Anyone interested in the past, present, or future of banking and financial crises should read The Bankers' New Clothes. Admati and Hellwig provide a forceful and accessible analysis of the recent financial crisis and offer proposals to prevent future financial failures. While controversial, these proposals--whether you agree or disagree with them--will force you to think through the problems and solutions."--Michael J. Boskin, former chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers
"With extraordinary clarity, Admati and Hellwig explain why the banking system is reckless and distorted, what can be done to tame it, and how the politics of banking has failed the public. A must-read for all, The Bankers' New Clothes educates and empowers citizens to demand a better system and tells policymakers how to deliver it."--Jeff Connaughton, author of The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins
"This entertaining book is an accessible exposé of the myths that financial firms use to perpetuate the advantages they get from government guaranties of their debt. A must-read for concerned citizens, The Bankers' New Clothes should be studied and memorized by lawmakers and regulators so they won't be duped by these false claims in the future."--Eugene F. Fama, University of Chicago
"Bankers have sold us a story that their risky practices are the necessary cost of a dynamic system. Admati and Hellwig expose this as a misguided and dangerous lie, and show how banks can be made more stable--if less profitable for the bankers themselves--without sacrificing economic growth. This brilliant book demystifies banking for everyone and explains what is really going on. Investors, policymakers, and all citizens owe it to themselves to listen."--Simon Johnson, coauthor of 13 Bankers
"At last! Two eminent economists explain in plain English what is wrong with banks and what needs to be done to make them safer."--Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England
"This excellent book should be read by everyone concerned with banking systems. Legislation has not removed too-big-to-fail financial policies, continuing the mistake of making innocent citizens responsible for bankers' errors. The Bankers' New Clothes makes the case for increased equity capital and answers bankers' arguments."--Allan H. Meltzer, author of A History of the Federal Reserve and Why Capitalism?
"A clearheaded antidote to the ill-advised snap reactions to the financial crisis, The Bankers' New Clothes carefully counteracts arguments that the banking system is now more secure. With direct and rigorous analysis, Admati and Hellwig lay bare the ongoing misinformation about modern banks, and show what remains wrong with banking. This book is the voice shouting that the bankers are still not wearing any clothes. We should listen."--Frank Partnoy, author of Infectious Greed
"Almost subversive in its clarity, The Bankers' New Clothes is the most important book about banking in a very long time. It argues that as long as implicit taxpayer guarantees incentivize banks to raise funds almost exclusively through issuing debt, the global financial system will be subject to periodic destructive crises. The most effective remedy is to force banks to strike a better balance between debt and equity, but there have been many obstacles to implementing this improvement. Future efforts to regulate the financial system should start here."--Kenneth S. Rogoff, coauthor of This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
"With a knack for explaining complex concepts in a very straightforward fashion, Admati and Hellwig take readers on an immensely rewarding and often surprisingly amusing journey. Their brilliant book has much to offer everyone, from novices to experts."--Stephen Ross, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Admati and Hellwig are on a mission to teach citizens, policymakers, and academic economists about the principles of sound banking practice and regulation, as well as the pitfalls and immense social costs of failing to abide by those principles. Much economic pain--such as the U.S. savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and the 2007-2009 financial crisis--could have been avoided had policymakers and the economists who advise them understood and implemented crucial fundamentals."--Thomas Sargent, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"I like this book. The Bankers' New Clothes explains in plain language why banking reform is still incomplete, contrary to what lobbyists, politicians, and even some regulators tell us."--Paul Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. Economic Recovery Advisory Board
"I regard The Bankers' New Clothes as the most important contribution to the analysis of banking regulation in the past twenty five years. . . . This book should be required reading for bank regulators, bankers, and legislators; it should also do a lot to demystify banking for the concerned public. It is beautifully written and forcefully argued. . . . [T]his is a terrific book. It took courage, a deep understanding of banking and finance, and first-rate expository skills to write."--Morris Goldstein, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, from event introduction speech on February 11, 2013
"Once upon a time the banking system was thriving, not a worry in sight. However, the 2007 financial crisis exposed the banks' inner workings and the risk taking that came at significant cost to the economy. Professor and journalist Admati and economic researcher Hellwig argue that it is possible to have a well-balanced banking system without any cost to society; weak regulations and lax enforcement is what caused the buildup of risk unleashed in the crisis. Here, they aim to demystify banking and expand the range of voices in the debate; encouraging people to form opinions and express doubts will ensure a healthier financial system as people understand the issues and influence policy. Part one provides an overview of how borrowing works and how it affects risk. Part two addresses the delicacy of the financial system and how its fragility can be reduced. Part three explains the possibility of transitioning to a healthier system that provides a solid system that consistently supports the economy. The authors push for aggressive reform by outlining specific steps that can be taken to change our banking system for the better; the question, is will anyone take those steps? (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Taking risks is a valid part of the business banks do, but Claire Hill and Richard Painter, both prominent experts on banking law and behavior, point out that its not really clear where the line is between appropriate and irresponsible. Starting with an expertly curated collection of the most poignant examples of bankers gone wild, Restoring Responsibility in Banking presents an accessible history of banking in the past few decades and shows exactly how banks became such risk-takers—and how they started creating and investing in dangerously complex securities. Hill and Painter then delve into banker behavior, going beyond just a simple pursuit of money, and look into the culture, need for status, and other factors that contribute to how success is defined in banking. They show how the most effective solution is for banks to give individual employees more personal liability for the risks taken by the bank as a whole, and they step back and say that, actually, greed is not good, and theres no reason the entire culture of an industry should ride on it. Restoring Responsibility in Banking is a refreshing yet authoritative call for banks to return to the idea that theirs is a noble profession that serves society as well as themselves.
Taking financial risks is an essential part of what banks do, but there’s no clear sense of what constitutes responsible risk. Taking legal risks seems to have become part of what banks do as well. Since the financial crisis, Congress has passed copious amounts of legislation aimed at curbing banks’ risky behavior. Lawsuits against large banks have cost them billions. Yet bad behavior continues to plague the industry. Why isn’t there more change?
In Better Bankers, Better Banks, Claire A. Hill and Richard W. Painter look back at the history of banking and show how the current culture of bad behavior—dramatized by the corrupt, cocaine-snorting bankers of The Wolf of Wall Street—came to be. In the early 1980s, banks went from partnerships whose partners had personal liability to corporations whose managers had no such liability and could take risks with other people’s money. A major reason bankers remain resistant to change, Hill and Painter argue, is that while banks have been faced with large fines, penalties, and legal fees—which have exceeded one hundred billion dollars since the onset of the crisis—the banks (which really means the banks’shareholders) have paid them, not the bankers themselves. The problem also extends well beyond the pursuit of profit to the issue of how success is defined within the banking industry, where highly paid bankers clamor for status and clients may regard as inevitable bankers who prioritize their own self-interest. While many solutions have been proposed, Hill and Painter show that a successful transformation of banker behavior must begin with the bankers themselves. Bankers must be personally liable from their own assets for some portion of the bank’s losses from excessive risk-taking and illegal behavior. This would instill a culture that discourages such behavior and in turn influence the sorts of behavior society celebrates or condemns.
Despite many sensible proposals seeking to reign in excessive risk-taking, the continuing trajectory of scandals suggests that we’re far from ready to avert the next crisis. Better Bankers, Better Banks is a refreshing call for bankers to return to the idea that theirs is a noble profession.
Prudent, verifiable, and timely corporate accounting is a bedrock of our modern capitalist system. In recent years, however, the rules that govern corporate accounting have been subtly changed in ways that compromise these core principles, to the detriment of the economy at large. These changes have been driven by the private agendas of certain corporate special interests, aided selectivelyandmdash;and sometimes unwittinglyandmdash;by arguments from business academia
With Political Standards, Karthik Ramanna develops the notion of andldquo;thin political marketsandrdquo; to describe a key problem facing technical rulemaking in corporate accounting and beyond. When standard-setting boards attempt to regulate the accounting practices of corporations, they must draw on a small pool of qualified expertsandmdash;but those experts almost always have strong commercial interests in the outcome. Meanwhile, standard-setting rarely enjoys much attention from the general public. This absence of accountability, Ramanna argues, allows corporate managers to game the system. In the profit-maximization framework of modern capitalism, the only practicable solution is to reframe managerial norms when participating in thin political markets. Political Standards will be an essential resource for understanding how the rules of the game are set, whom they inevitably favor, and how the process can be changed for a better capitalism.
About the Author
Anat Admati is the George G. C. Parker Professor of Finance and Economics at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She serves on the FDIC Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee and has contributed to the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, and the New York Times. Martin Hellwig is director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods. He was the first chair of the Advisory Scientific Committee of the European Systemic Risk Board and the cowinner of the 2012 Max Planck Research Award for his work on financial regulation.
Table of Contents
1The Emperors of Banking Have No Clothes 1
PART I Borrowing, Banking, and Risk 15
2How Borrowing Magnifies Risk 17
3The Dark Side of Borrowing 32
4Is It Really "A Wonderful Life"? 46
5Banking Dominos 60
PART II The Case for More Bank Equity 79
6What Can Be Done? 81
7Is Equity Expensive? 100
8Paid to Gamble 115
9Sweet Subsidies 129
10Must Banks Borrow So Much? 148
PART III Moving Forward 167
11If Not Now, When? 169
12The Politics of Banking 192
13Other People's Money 208
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