The Legal Foundations of Financial Collapse

41 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2009

Date Written: October 6, 2009


In 1984, in 1990 and in 2005 Congress passed laws exempting certain financial contracts from the standard provisions of the bankruptcy code. In each case, the effect of the law was to protect collateral securing the contract from those provisions of the bankruptcy code that allow a judge to review the claims of secured creditors and to protect the interests of other creditors whenever necessary.

The introduction of inequitable treatment into the bankruptcy code would be acceptable, if in fact the financial contract exemptions worked to protect the stability of the financial system. Recent experience indicates, however, that the special treatment granted to repurchase agreements and over the counter derivatives tends to reduce the stability of the financial system by encouraging collateralized interbank lending and discouraging careful analysis of the credit risk of counterparties. The bankruptcy exemptions also increase the risk that creditors will run on a financial firm and bankrupt it. Thus, the bankruptcy code has been rewritten to favor financial firms and this revision of the law has had a profoundly destabilizing effect on the financial system.

Keywords: regulation, banking, collateral, derivatives, financial crisis, bankruptcy law

JEL Classification: E58, G2, K22

Suggested Citation

Sissoko, Carolyn, The Legal Foundations of Financial Collapse (October 6, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Carolyn Sissoko (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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