It was nearly five years ago on September 15, 2008 when the public learned that Lehman Brothers had gone bankrupt, resulting in billions of dollars of losses on a financial system already struggling with a housing market that was failing, as well as a growing credit crisis. Also, Merrill Lynch (MER) would be forced to join with Bank of America (BAC), the US car industry was in trouble, and insurer AIG stood on the brink of collapse. Now, while there has the economy has somewhat recovered, many Americans can’t help but worry that such a financial meltdown could happen again.
Back then, Wachovia (WB) was also in peril of going down and Washington Mutual (WAMUQ) was failing miserably—to become the biggest US banking failure to date—and government and financial industry leaders scrambled to save what they could. Bailouts were issued and emergency measures taken including: a federal takeover of housing finance giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which kept the housing market going by allaying worries that the two entities would default on bonds,the guaranteeing of money market mutual funds that the then-trillion dollar industry depended on for the business short-term funding as well as retirement, and the setting up of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (allowing the Treasury to help put back confidence in banks via the buying of equities of securities in many of these banks and recapitalizing the system.
In a USA Today article, ex-US senator Christopher Dodd said that he believes there will be another crisis; only this one could also involve China, Brazil, and India—not just the US and the European continent. Meantime, while US Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness CEO and President David Hirschmann said that a crisis as big as the one in 2008 is not as likely, he predicts there will still be failures. He also said that it is unclear whether we’ve established a better system for identifying problems and risks.
In August, US President Obama delineated a proposal to rework the country’s housing finance-system, which would phase out Freddie and Fannie. While putting them under government control a few years back provided some reprieve, this was never meant to be permanent solution to the problems that happened.
Also in the article, ex-US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he wants broader industry reform and while he believes the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act is a big move n the right direction, he expressed the need for a reworking of the federal financial regulatory agencies and a closer examination of their duties, which sometimes overlap. There also have been calls from government watchdogs for reforms to the biggest US banks because of concerns that their interrelatedness and complexities make them an ongoing risk to the financial system.
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