Much ado about nothing? Macro-prudential ideas and the post-crisis regulation of shadow banking

Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, Vol. 70, Spl. 1, pp. 259–286
Jan Friedrich,
Matthias Thiemann
Reseach Area:
Financial Institutions

Post-crisis, macro-prudential ideas have challenged the epistemic authority of private risk management technologies, declaring them to be pro-cyclical contributors to systemic risk. This discursive challenge has been most critical of the shadow banking system, where private risk management instruments are central. This challenge, however, has not been translated into regulatory tools which reflect these convictions. This paper studies this process of discursive challenge to (failed) regulatory intervention for the case of the repo-market, the heart of the current shadow banking system. It traces regulatory efforts on the global and EU level from regulatory statements to (lack of) action, documenting both the persistent articulation of macro-prudential ideas challenging private risk-management systems and timid to no regulatory intervention. It links this hiatus to international coordination problems, the need for macro-prudential action to span regulatory communities, involving banking and financial market authorities and disagreements between micro- and macro-prudentially oriented regulators. The lack of evidence and the difficulty to generate it are identified as major impediments for regulatory consensus, further aggravated by ambiguities about the goals of anti-cyclical regulation. Beyond governance problems and the persistent appeal of private risk-management systems, the paper thus points to difficulties operationalizing macro-prudential ideas as a major explanatory factor.

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