Five years after the Lehman collapse, is the financial system safer?

Sep 12, 2013

Lehman Brothers Put Their Artworks Up For Auction

Two employees of Christie’s auction house move the Lehman Brothers corporate logo, the collapsed investment bank on September 24, 2010.; Credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers is typically seen as the beginning of the unraveling of the U.S. financial system that ultimately ushered in a period of economic contraction not felt since the Great Depression. It’s not an overstatement to argue that everything changed that day in September and that we, as Americans, are still dealing with the consequences today.

From macroeconomic issues like chronic unemployment and the popping of the housing bubble, to personal financial decisions like how much we save and how much we spend, the recession has touched all aspects of our lives, whether we realize it or not.

Five years after the start of the financial crisis, the question we at AirTalk want to ask is: are we safer going forward? Could something on the scale of the Lehman collapse happen again? Have we laid the foundation–legally, ethically and regulatorily–to preempt another domestic economic catastrophe?

Is the era of “too big to fail,” too interconnected to fail, reckless lending, easy borrowing, the trading of esoteric derivatives, and irresponsible secularization a thing of the past? Or has it been a crisis wasted? To take on those questions is, in essence, to take on the topic of regulation.

Has Dodd-Frank, the signature financial reform bill that came out of the crisis — done the work that it is supposed to? Have regulators done enough? Has the financial industry been reined in?

Ross Levine, an economist at UC Berkeley and a former economist at The World Bank. He is also a co-author of the book, “Guardians of FInance: Making Regulators Work for Us” (MIT Press, 2012)

Aaron Klein,  the director of the Financial Regulatory Reform Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center. and former deputy assistant for economic policy at the US Department of the Treasury

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