The Financial Crisis Turns Five

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19 September 2013
Anshuman Jaswal
We like to think that we learn from our mistakes, and the financial crisis was no exception. But we seem to be making the same (or similar) errors, jeopardizing the security of our financial system. The large fines imposed on JPMorgan for the London Whale episode underline this. Furthermore, new risks are surfacing that are different from the risks seen in 2007-2008 – but just as worrying. The recent instance of Goldman Sachs sending wrong orders for options to a number of leading American exchanges, along with the Flash Freeze at Nasdaq, not to mention the earlier Flash Crash and Knight Capital episodes, show that in the future it might be exchange-traded products that make the system vulnerable. At a time like this, moving OTC derivatives to swap execution facilities and central counterparty clearing to make them more similar to exchange-traded products seems like a dangerous venture. We are centralizing risk without knowing whether we are capable of handling the concentration of OTC trading and clearing. So have we learned anything? It’s highly debatable. My Banking colleague Gareth Lodge puts it differently. The Chinese leader Zhou Enlai was once asked, by Richard Nixon, what impact the French Revolution had. “Too soon to tell,” was his response. Gareth (and Zhou Enlai) may be right. Maybe the crisis is still teaching us, or just celebrating its fifth birthday and continuing to grow in more subtle ways.

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