Toward a Supply-Side Theory of Financial Innovation
University of Oxford
June 27, 2012
Journal of Comparative Economics, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2013
Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 44/2012
Innovation. The word is evocative of ideas, products and processes which have somehow made the world a better place. In the frothy days leading up to the global financial crisis, many viewed financial innovation as unequivocally falling into this category. Underpinning this view was a pervasive belief in the self-correcting nature of markets and their consequent optimality as mechanisms for allocating society’s resources. This belief, in turn, exerted a profound influence on how we regulated financial markets and institutions. This paper examines the influence of this market fundamentalist thinking on the regulation of OTC derivatives markets in the U.S. during the pivotal period between the enactment of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Act (1974) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010). More specifically, it traces how the conventional ‘demand-side’ view of financial innovation played an important role in blinding policymakers to a host of pressing regulatory challenges ranging from uninformed contracting; to fraud and other opportunistic behavior, to regulatory arbitrage and the unprecedented build-up of systemic risk. Ultimately, the objective of this paper is to start us down the path toward a more complete theoretical account of the nature, sources and potential private and social welfare implications of financial innovation. In the process, it also aspires to move us incrementally toward a more constructive equilibrium between the important insights of financial theory and how we conceptualize and pursue the objectives of financial regulation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: financial innovation, Modigliani and Miller, OTC derivatives, securitization, structured finance, swaps, collateral swaps, synthetic exchange-traded funds, ETFs, Dodd-Frank Act
JEL Classification: A12, B26, D86, G5, G18, G28, G38, K22
Date posted: June 27, 2012 ; Last revised: August 19, 2014
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