Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Other Voices – January 5, 2009

  • IMF study links lobbying by US banks to high-risk lending, guardian.co.uk (Jan 4). Three IMF economists conclude that extensive lobbying and political contributions by financial institutions were highly correlated with naughty behavior in the mortgage markets:
    The paper, written by a trio of high-profile IMF economists, established that firms who spend more on buying access to politicians are more likely to engage in risky securitisation of their loan books, have faster-growing mortgage loan portfolios as well as poorer share performance and larger loan defaults.

    The landmark paper will increase pressure on US politicians to regulate the mortgage industry, which Washington insiders say has so far been immune from meaningful financial reform in the aftermath of the bank crisis.

    Highlighting 33 pieces of federal legislation that would have tamed predatory lending or introduced more responsible banking but were the target of intense lobbying, the IMF found that the efforts by banks to resist the legislation overwhelmingly succeeded.

    "Our analysis suggests that the political influence of the financial industry can be a source of systemic risk," Deniz Igan, Prachi Mishra and Thierry Tressel wrote in their conclusion. "Therefore, it provides some support to the view that the prevention of future crises might require weakening political influence of the financial industry or closer monitoring of lobbying activities to understand better the incentives behind it."
    More evidence from the archives of the Department for the Obvious Department on the capacity of directed influence and money to piss in the policy well. Is it time to reevaluate campaign contributions and directed lobbying as "protected speech" yet?

  • Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue, Matt Taibbi (Jan 4). The scourge of vampire squiditude and plutocracy everywhere sets his frame a little wider. In it, he comes to the conclusion, inter alia, that: 1) everyone was to blame for the financial crisis; 2) our entire socioeconomic system is endemically if not irretrievably corrupt; and 3) the mainstream media is incapable of interpreting these events and problems outside the lens of Red State–Blue State politics.
    To me all of these people were equally guilty of making bad decisions to benefit themselves in the here and now at the expense of the whole in the future. When it comes to bubbles, It Takes a Village ...
    My prediction? Taibbi will rapidly tire of a fight in which there are so many combatants—many of whom, unlike Goldman Sachs, will have no compunction about fighting back without restraint. He will retire to the country and write clever hatchet jobs about despicable people and institutions who, because they do not gaze back when you look in the mirror, are much easier and far more entertaining for his readers to hate.