With finance crisis, hands-off era over
More oversight lies ahead, no matter who's in the Oval Office.
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Already Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has overshadowed New York's titans of finance with his decisions as to which institutions will get government aid and which will not. If things don't get worse, history may credit Mr. Paulson with helping to pull the economy back from the brink, as financier J.P. Morgan did in the Bankers' Panic of 1907.
Beyond that, a long period of Washington laissez faire toward financial markets may well be at an end. The details of regulation could be different, depending on which candidate wins the White House this fall. But more US oversight seems inevitable.
Financial regulators may win access to more internal information from financial institutions, allowing them to better judge the risks they are running. They may also look for ways to control derivatives, financial instruments backed by mortgages or other types of assets, which have become complex "to the point of absurdity," in Mr. Elmendorf's words.
There's a sense that Washington needs to modernize a system of financial oversight rooted in government entities founded after the Great Depression.
"We have an archaic financial regulatory system ... it really needs to be rebuilt," Paulson told reporters at the White House on Sept. 15. The US needs a balance between regulation and market discipline, added Paulson, who last spring proposed a package of tougher regulations for investment banks, including giving more oversight powers to the Federal Reserve.