Pitfalls of Global Harmonization of Systemic Risk Regulation in a World of Financial Innovation

29 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2019

See all articles by Roberta Romano

Roberta Romano

Yale Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Date Written: December 17, 2018


The working hypothesis of international financial regulation is that it should be globally harmonized. This paper contends, to the contrary, that we should be wary about the efficacy of global harmonization, and in particular, harmonization of systemic risk measurement and regulation. The thesis is informed by what I consider two key lessons from the recent global financial crisis. The first lesson is that, when business strategies that internationally-harmonized regulation induces banks to follow go seriously awry, the adverse consequences will spread globally and not be limited to one regulator’s domain. The second lesson is that, innovations in financial technology that have been engines of prosperity across the globe also may contain the seeds of financial calamity with imprudent use and regulatory inattention. In addition, three kinds of uncertainty operate in this context: i) uncertainty regarding how best to define and measure systemic risk; (ii), dynamic uncertainty, that financial institutions respond to regulation in unpredictable ways that tend to undermine regulatory effectiveness; and (iii) radical uncertainty, that we do not know all possible future states of the financial system and therefore cannot compute the probabilities of outcomes that would be necessary for informing rules regarding systemic risk measures. The uncertainty in the regulatory context, in conjunction with the lessons from the crisis, suggest that a value-added international regulatory strategy would foster at least a modicum of diversity across national regulatory regimes, along with periodic updating of global standards. At the national level, they suggest adopting a dual-pronged regulatory approach that focuses regulators’ attention on monitoring developments in short-term debt markets, leverage levels, and the impact of new financial products and services, as well as on promoting experimentation, to better inform regulatory decisionmaking.

Keywords: systemic risk regulation, financial regulation, global financial crisis, financial innovation

JEL Classification: G21, G28, K22, K23, K29

Suggested Citation

Romano, Roberta, Pitfalls of Global Harmonization of Systemic Risk Regulation in a World of Financial Innovation (December 17, 2018). Yale Law & Economics Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3304814 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3304814

Roberta Romano (Contact Author)

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