Fed's Bill Dudley Explains Bank Runs, Discusses Collateral Risks, Suggests Way To Prevent Systemic Collapse

Tyler Durden's picture

An impressively comprehensive presentation by Bill Dudley before the Center for Economic Policy Studies Symposium earlier, discusses, and ties in, all the key concepts Zero Hedge has been discussing over the past several months, among these the tri-party repo system, bank runs (what and why), collateral, moral hazard, maturity mismatch, unsecured markets, Primary Dealer Credit Facility, Commercial Paper Funding Facility, and liquidity. In fact, at some points in the speech we get the feeling Mr. Dudley is indirectly refuting some of Zero Hedge's recent allegations vis-a-vis the Fed's actions and regulatory oversight. The presentation is largely devoid of bias except for some of the proposals on how to avoid future systemic meltdowns, which of course are moral hazard prevention lite and philosophy heavy. Not a lite piece of reading, yet recommended for all who want a grasp of the big picture from the Fed's perspective.

Without presenting much commentary, one thing to keep in mind when reading this speech is the Exter pyramid, which best explains the reasons behind every bubble collapse courtesy of a flawed Keynsian economic system. When one considers that there is roughly $1 quadrillion in shadow assets (and by implication liabilities), the one and only thing that happens each time there is a contraction of credit (not debt, but the confidence kind), the mythical assets end up collapsing to the lowest tangible asset value. Which is why Zero Hedge keyword of the year is "collateral." When counterparties do not trust each other further than they can throw one another, from providing turns and turns of leverage on a given fixed asset, suddenly the ratio drops to 1 or close thereby (not to mention that the purest of all tangible assets is gold, whose global estimated value is about $3 trillion). As such, if the Fed is ever incapable of terminating the collapse of Exter's "liquidity" pyramid to itself in a reverse Big Bank event, the one and only true asset that would remain, would be commodities, and specifically gold. And the less credit there is, the greater the worth of gold. Which is the main reason the Fed must be very concerned about gold's dramatic price appreciation, as it is the most obvious statement by the market that increasingly more investors are concerned about the credibility relationships between various liability classes. And is why the Fed is prevented from continuing the dollar's decline as very soon either the excess liquidity will push commodities to the stratosphere (oil at $150 will cause a revolution by the middle class) as well as gold well above $2,000, or the one-way "short dollar" trade will eventually reverse.


 

More Lessons from the Crisis [Highlights ours.]

William C.
Dudley
, President and Chief Executive Officer

Remarks at the Center for Economic Policy Studies (CEPS) Symposium, Princeton, New Jersey

Thank you for having me here to speak today. It is a real pleasure to
have this opportunity to speak at CEPS again—this is a great forum to
talk about policy issues. Tonight I want to discuss some of the challenges
we face in making our financial system more robust. We have
learned a great deal over the past two years about our financial system and
its vulnerabilities. The task ahead is to put these lessons to good use. Our
goal must be to make the financial system more resilient to shocks. If
we can do that successfully, we should be able to reduce the risk of financial
crises.

In assessing the causes of this crisis, one clear culprit was the failure
of regulators and market participants alike to fully appreciate the strength
of the amplifying mechanisms that were built into our financial system. These
mechanics exacerbated the boom on the way up and the bust on the way down. Only
by better understanding the sources of these damaging dynamics can we construct
solutions that will strengthen our financial system and make it more robust.

Today, I am going to focus mainly on the extraordinary liquidity events that
played out during this crisis. I will tackle this topic in four
parts. I will begin by describing how funding dried up rapidly for firms
such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and AIG. I then will propose
a conceptual framework that might prove helpful in better understanding what
went wrong on the liquidity front. With this conceptual framework in
hand, I will then suggest some concrete steps we might take toward making the
financial system more resilient—cautioning that there are no magic bullets. Finally,
I will talk about the major initiatives that are already underway to help reduce
the risk of future liquidity crises.

As always, my remarks reflect my own views and opinions and not necessarily
those of the Federal Reserve System.

At its most fundamental level, this crisis was caused by the rapid growth
of the so-called shadow banking system over the past few decades and its remarkable
collapse over the past two years.
Let me give you some figures to illustrate
the disparity between the growth of what I will call the “traditional” commercial
banking system and the shadow banking system in recent years. At
the end of 2006, the shadow banking system had grown so large that U.S. commercial
banks’ share of credit market assets had fallen to only 17.7 percent,
down from 27.3 percent in 1980.

With this shift in the composition of activity also came an important change
in the composition of funding, particularly in the middle part of this decade.
Commercial paper outstanding grew from $1.3 trillion at the end of 2003 to
a peak of about $2.3 trillion. Repo funding by dealers to nonbank financial
institutions—as measured by the reverse repos on primary dealer balance
sheets—grew from less than $1.3 trillion to a peak of nearly $2.8 trillion
over this period. In contrast, commercial bank retail deposits rose by
less than 30% in the four year period from 2003 to 2007.

Though the shadow banking system was often credited with better distributing
risk and improving the overall efficiency of the financial system, this system
ultimately proved to be much more fragile than we had anticipated.
Like
the traditional banking system, the shadow banking system engaged in the maturity
transformation process in which structured investment vehicles (SIVs), conduits,
dealers, and hedge funds financed long-term assets with short-term funding.
However,
much of the maturity transformation in the shadow system occurred without the
types of stabilizing backstops that are in place in the traditional banking
sector.

A key vulnerability turned out to be the misplaced assumption that securities
dealers and others would be able to obtain very large amounts of short-term
funding even in times of stress. Indeed, one particularly destabilizing
factor in this collapse was the speed with which liquidity buffers at the large
independent security dealers were exhausted.
To take just one illustrative
example, Bear Stearns saw a complete loss of its short-term secured funding
virtually overnight. As a consequence, the firm’s liquidity pool
dropped by 83 percent in a two-day span.1

These liquidity dynamics were driven by two main factors. The
first factor was the underlying stress on dealer balance sheets as the prices
on complex collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), private label residential
mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), and commercial real estate-related assets
fell sharply and uncertainty about underlying asset values rose sharply. The
uncertainty stemmed, in part, from the lack of transparency about what prices
these assets could be sold for, which, in turn stemmed from the difficulty
of valuing these extremely complex and heterogeneous securities.

The stress on underlying asset prices and the uncertainty about the valuations
of pools of illiquid assets caused investors to become concerned about the
solvency of some of the weaker dealers.2 These
concerns contributed to liquidity pressures, which, in turn, led to forced
asset sales by dealers and others.
These sales both further depressed
asset prices and increased asset price volatility.

The second factor contributing to the liquidity crisis was the dependence
of dealers on short-term funding to finance illiquid assets. This short-term
funding came mainly from two sources, the tri-party repo system and customer
balances in prime brokerage accounts. By relying on these sources of
funding, dealers were much more vulnerable to runs than was generally appreciated.

Consider first tri-party repo, a market in which money market funds, securities
lending operations, and other institutions finance assets mainly on an overnight
basis. As asset prices fell and volatility climbed during this period,
the financial condition of some dealers became more troubled. As a result,
some investors in this market became worried about the risk that they might
not get their cash returned in the morning, but instead might be stuck with
the collateral that secured their lending. Investors responded by increasing
their haircuts—that is the margin of extra collateral used to secure
their funding—and reducing the range of collateral they would accept
as security for their lending.
Of course, these very rational reactions
on the part of investors only further weakened the liquidity positions of the
major securities firms.

A similar dynamic occurred in the context of prime brokerage accounts. Some
institutions treated the free cash balances associated with these accounts
as if they were a stable source of funding. Implicitly, they assumed
that these balances would be “sticky” due to the strength of broader
business relationships and the cost incurred by customers in shifting the business
elsewhere. However, once markets became strained, this assumption of
stable funding proved to be false. Prime brokerage customers began to
withdraw their free credit balances and some moved their business elsewhere. Both
of these steps reduced dealer liquidity buffers and further tightened the funding
noose.

In the case of the tri-party repo market, the stress on repo borrowers was
exacerbated by the design of the underlying market infrastructure. In
this market, investors provide cash each afternoon to dealers in the form of
an overnight loan backed by securities collateral.

Each morning, under normal circumstances, the two clearing banks that operate
tri-party repo systems permit dealers to return the cash to their investors
and to retake possession of their securities portfolios by overdrawing their
accounts at the clearing banks. During the day, the clearing banks
finance the dealers’ securities inventories.

Usually, this arrangement works well. However, when a securities dealer
becomes troubled or is perceived to be troubled, the tri-party repo market
can become unstable.
In particular, if there is a material risk that
a dealer could default during the day, the clearing bank may not want to return
the cash to the tri-party investors in the morning because the bank does not
want to risk being stuck with a very large collateralized exposure that could
run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Overnight investors, in
turn, don’t want to be stuck with the collateral.
So to avoid such
an outcome, they may decide not to invest in the first place. These self-protective
reactions on the part of the clearing banks and the investors can cause the
tri-party funding mechanism to rapidly unravel. This dynamic explains
the speed with which Bear Stearns lost funding as tri-party repo investors
pulled away quickly.

Despite the strains created by the collapse of Bear Stearns, the “rivets” of
the tri-party repo system held for several reasons. First, Bear Sterns
did not fail; instead it was acquired by JPMorgan Chase with assistance from
the Federal Reserve. Second, the Federal Reserve stepped in to support
the tri-party repo system by implementing the Primary Dealer Credit Facility
(PDCF).
The PDCF essentially placed the Fed in the role of the tri-party
repo investor of last resort
thereby significantly reducing the risk to the
clearing banks that they might be stuck with the collateral. As a consequence,
the PDCF reassured end investors that they could safely keep investing. This,
in turn, significantly reduced the risk that a dealer would not be able to
obtain short-term funding through the tri-party repo system.3

Over much of this period preceding the failure of Lehman Brothers, U.S. commercial
banks were relatively insulated from the liquidity run dynamics that plagued
the securities dealers.4 This
relative stability was due, in part, to the broad access these commercial banks
had to the Fed’s discount window through the traditional primary credit
facility and through the Term Auction Facility (TAF), which had been introduced
earlier in the crisis in response to liquidity strains in the interbank market. The
fact that most commercial banks relied on insured deposits for significant
portions of their funding was also important. Not only were these insured
deposits stable sources of funding because they were guaranteed by the Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), but also because they were unsecured;
these deposits freed up collateral that could be used by banks to secure borrowing
from the central bank and elsewhere.

However, once Lehman Brothers failed, many commercial banks and other financial
institutions encountered significant funding difficulties. News that
the Reserve Fund—a large money market mutual fund—had “broken
the buck” due to its holdings of Lehman Brothers paper led panicked investors
to withdraw their funds from money market mutual funds. This caused the
commercial paper market to virtually shut down. This hurt bank holding
companies and other large financial firms that depended on the commercial paper
market for short-term funding.

The result was a widespread loss of confidence throughout the money market
and interbank funding market. Investors became unwilling to lend even
to institutions that they perceived to be solvent because of worries that others
might not share the same opinion. Rollover risk—the risk that
an investor’s funds might not be repaid in a timely way—became
extremely high.

The extreme market illiquidity did not abate until a number of extraordinary
actions were taken by the Federal Reserve and others.
For example, the
Federal Reserve introduced the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF) to
reduce rollover risk in the commercial paper market, the Federal Reserve and
other central banks’ massively expanded the ability of banks to obtain
dollar funding through the TAF and associated foreign exchange swap programs;
the Treasury guaranteed money market mutual fund assets; and the FDIC increased
deposit insurance limits and set up the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program
(TLPG) to backstop bank and bank holding company debt issuance.

Having described “what” happened on the liquidity front during
the crisis, I next want to examine, in a bit more detail, “why” it
happened.
To do this, I will lay out a simple conceptual framework that I will
then use to assess what can be done to mitigate the risk of such runs occurring
in the future. As a starting point, I will talk about how unsecured
lenders react in a crisis, and then I will consider the behavior of secured
lenders.

Unsecured liquidity providers run for two basic reasons. First, they
run because there is a risk that the company they are lending funds to is insolvent. In
other words, there is a risk that the assets will be worth less than the liabilities,
creating the potential for loss to the creditor. The second reason
that unsecured creditors run is the risk that they will not be repaid in a
timely way.
Even if the borrowing firm ultimately turns out to
be solvent, there may be a delay in a lender getting its funds back, and this
delay may prove to be unacceptably costly to the lender.

This second cause of liquidity runs—the risk of untimely repayment—is
significant because it means that expectations about the behavior of others,
or their “psychology”, can be important.
This is a classic
coordination problem. Even if a particular lender judges a firm to be solvent,
it might decide not to lend to that firm for fear that others might not share
the same assessment. The less certain any one lender is about the willingness
of other lenders to provide liquidity to a firm, the greater the risk that
too few loans will be extended to prevent liquidation. In that case, even if
the lender turns out to be correct in its judgment of the firm’s solvency,
there still will be a cost in terms of delay in receiving repayment.

A few pictures can help to illustrate these concepts. Figure 1 illustrates
what a creditor’s assessment of the net worth of a financial firm might
look like in normal times. Creditors have uncertainty about what that
value is, thus, the valuation is represented by a probability distribution. The
higher the degree of uncertainty, the greater is the degree of dispersion in
the probability distribution. As long as the probability distribution
is sufficiently far to the right—in other words—well within positive
territory so that there is virtually no risk that the firm is insolvent, lenders
will generally be willing to lend.

So what happens in a financial crisis? First, the probability
distribution shifts to the left as the financial environment deteriorates and
the financial firm takes losses that deplete its capital. Second, and
even more importantly, the dispersion of the probability distribution widens—lenders
become more uncertain about the value of the firm. These two phenomena
are shown together in Figure 2. A lack of transparency in the
underlying assets will exacerbate this increase in dispersion. As the
degree of dispersion widens, a portion of the probability distribution falls
into negative territory. This means that there is a real risk of
loss for unsecured creditors if the firm were forced to liquidate its assets.

Finally, in a crisis, unsecured lenders become more uncertain about others’ assessment
of the probability distribution.
For example, if creditor A believes
the probability distribution looks like Figure 1, but at the same time is concerned
that creditor B views the probability distribution as looking like Figure 2,
creditor A may pull back. If there is a risk creditor B and others will
not lend, the firm may not receive sufficient funding. In other words,
even if creditor A believes the firm is solvent, it may not lend because it
does not want to risk a delay in repayment.

So what can creditors do to mitigate these risks? First, they
can respond by charging a higher interest rate in compensation for the increase
in the risk of default. However, there are a number of difficulties
that limit how well this works in practice. Most significantly, by undermining
the firm’s profitability, the higher interest rates may increase the
risk of insolvency. If higher rates push insolvency risk up sharply,
then higher rates may not be sufficient to make lending—even at higher
rates—an attractive proposition.

In addition, some investors such as money market mutual funds may have a very
low tolerance for risk.
Thus, they may not be interested in trading off
higher rates as compensation for a non-negligible increase in insolvency risk. Finally,
paying higher rates may generate an adverse signal about the health of the
borrowing institution. This may cause investors to become more worried
about the risk of default.

Second, creditors can secure their lending—taking collateral valued
at more than the amount they lend.
However, this is not foolproof because
secured funding can be just as vulnerable to a run dynamic as unsecured funding. For
starters, the same types of uncertainties about the value of the firm may apply
to the liquidation value of the collateral. This is especially
the case if the collateral is lower quality and markets are already illiquid.
Moreover,
if creditors are left with the collateral instead of being repaid, fear of
widespread collateral liquidation might further erode collateral values. If
investors respond by seeking more collateral to ensure they will be secured—that
is, that they will be made whole in a liquidation scenario—the firm may
run out of high-quality collateral that the firm can borrow against. This
is a significant risk when a financial firm is highly leveraged and equity
is only a very small proportion of total assets.5

The risks of liquidity crises are also exacerbated by some structural sources
of instability in the financial system. Some of these sources are
endemic to the nature of the financial intermediation process and banking. Others
are more specific to the idiosyncratic features of our particular system. Both
types deserve attention because they tend to amplify the pressures that lead
to liquidity runs.

Turning first to the more inherent sources of instability, there are at least
two that are worthy of mention. The first instability stems from
the fact that most financial firms engage in maturity transformation—the
maturity of their assets is longer than the maturity of their liabilities.
The
need for maturity transformation arises from the fact that the preferred habitat
of borrowers tends toward longer-term maturities used to finance long-lived
assets such as a house or a manufacturing plant, compared with the preferred
habitat of investors, who generally have a preference to be able to access
their funds quickly.
Financial intermediaries act to span these preferences,
earning profits by engaging in maturity transformation—borrowing shorter-term
in order to finance longer-term lending.

If a firm engages in maturity transformation so that its assets mature more
slowly than its liabilities, it does not have the option of simply allowing
its assets to mature when funding dries up.
[THIS IS CRITICAL AS THIS IS RAPIDLY BECOMING THE NEXT MAJOR FOCAL POINT OF SYSTEMIC CREDIT RISK FOR THE AMERICAN FINANCIAL SYSTEM] If the liabilities cannot
be rolled over, liquidity buffers will soon be weakened. Maturity transformation
means that if funding is not forthcoming, the firm will have to sell assets.
Although this is easy if the assets are high-quality and liquid, it is hard
if the assets are lower quality. In that case, the forced asset sales are likely
to lead to losses, which deplete capital and raise concerns about insolvency.6

The second inherent source of instability stems from the fact that firms are
typically worth much more as going concerns than in liquidation.
This
loss of value in liquidation helps to explain why liquidity crises can happen
so suddenly. Initially, no one is worried about liquidation. The
firm is well understood to be solvent as shown in Figure 1. But once
counterparties start to worry about liquidation, the probability distribution
can shift very quickly toward the insolvency line, as shown in Figure 2, because
the liquidation value is lower than the firm’s value as a going concern.

There are also a number of idiosyncratic sources of instability worthy of
mention, some of which are unique to our particular system. One source
of instability is the tri-party repo system that I discussed earlier. Another
is the convention of tying collateral calls to credit ratings. In this
case, if a firm’s credit rating is lowered, the firm may have to post
additional collateral to its counterparties, eliminating this collateral as
a potential source of funding. This phenomenon was a particularly important
problem for AIG, which lost its access to the commercial paper market and was
subject to increased collateral calls. Both factors caused the liquidity
of the AIG parent company to be depleted very quickly. Finally, if asset
volatility rises, haircuts can increase. This can lead to haircut spirals
in which higher haircuts lead to forced asset sales, increased volatility and
still higher haircuts.

These sources of instability create the risk of a cascade—of firms moving
rapidly from the situation represented in Figure 1 to that shown in Figure
2. Once the firm’s viability is in question and it is does not
have access to an insured deposit funding base, the next stop is often a full-scale
liquidity crisis that often cannot be stopped without massive government intervention.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the risk of a cascade. First,
we can require that financial intermediaries hold more capital.
This
would push the probability distribution to the right in Figure 2. With
sufficient additional capital, the probability of insolvency could be reduced
to a low enough level that liquidity providers would not run.

Higher capital requirements work to reduce the risk of liquidity runs, but
potentially at the cost of making the process of financial intermediation much
more expensive. In particular, a requirement that firms must hold more
capital increases intermediation costs. Moreover, banks may respond to higher
capital requirements by taking on greater risk. If an increase in risk-taking
were to occur, the movement of the probability distribution to the right in
Figure 2 might be offset by an increase in the degree of dispersion. Thus,
higher capital requirements might not necessarily be sufficient to push all
of the probability distribution above zero.

Second, regulators could require greater liquidity buffers. These
buffers would help protect the firm against having to liquidate assets under
duress, and would therefore help prevent the probability distribution from
sliding left toward the zero line in Figure 2. But there is a
cost to the firm from holding greater liquidity buffers in terms of lower returns
on capital. So, requiring greater liquidity buffers would also tend to
drive up intermediation costs. And, just as in the case of higher
capital requirements, banks could respond by taking greater risks.

Third, regulators could implement changes that would reduce the degree of
dispersion in the potential value of a firm, pushing the right tail of the
distribution in Figure 2 to the left. For example, we could require greater
transparency about the composition and quality of the firm’s assets and
liabilities.
Or, regulators could increase transparency by forcing greater
disclosure of the sale price of assets and/or by pushing for greater homogeneity
and price discovery for products such as OTC derivatives. We could
improve the quality of regulation and supervision, which would increase confidence
in regulatory measures of capital and financial firms’ soundness.

Fourth, the central bank could provide a liquidity backstop to solvent firms. For
example, the central bank could commit to being the lender of last resort as
long as it judged the firm to be solvent and with sufficient collateral.
This
would reduce the coordination problem and the risk of panics sparked by uncertainty
among lenders about what other creditors think. If the central bank
is willing to provide backstop liquidity, then a lender that judges the financial
firm to be solvent should be willing to lend. The backstop liquidity ensures
timely repayment. The lender of last resort role eliminates the externality
in which the expectations about the willingness of one lender to lend influences
the decisions of others.

However, providing a liquidity backstop is not without its own set of problems. If
firms have liquidity backstops that are viewed as credible, then this creates
moral hazard.
Firms do not have to worry as much about what lenders think
about their capital adequacy or the size of their liquidity buffers. This
creates incentives to run leaner in terms of capital and liquidity, which increases
the risks to the backstop liquidity provider.

To mitigate such effects, the backstop liquidity provider could presumably
charge financial firms for the value of the backstop. But what fee would
be appropriate? It is difficult to assess the probability of financial panics
and the value of backstop liquidity facilities.7

Fifth, regulators could take steps to reduce the difference between the value
of the firm dead versus alive.
For example, we could improve the resolution
process so that less of a firm’s value is destroyed by the liquidation
process. If we could reduce the difference in value between a firm as
a going concern versus the same firm in liquidation we could reduce the severity
of the cascade effect when financial conditions deteriorate.

Sixth, we could make structural changes to the financial system to make it
more stable in terms of liquidity provision.
For example, consider the
three structural issues outlined earlier that amplified the crisis—tri-party
repo, collateral requirements tied to credit ratings, and haircut spirals. In
the case of tri-party repo, the amplifying dynamics could be reduced by enforcing
standards that limited the scope of eligible collateral or required more conservative
haircuts. Formal loss-sharing arrangements among tri-party repo borrowers,
investors, and clearing banks might reduce or eliminate any advantage that
might stem from running early. Eliminating the market’s reliance
on intraday credit provided by clearing banks could eliminate the tension between
the interests of clearing banks and investors when a dealer becomes troubled. In
the case of collateral requirements, collateral haircuts could be required
to be independent of ratings.

Many of these suggestions are already in the process of being implemented. For
example, the Basel Committee is in the process of strengthening bank capital
in four ways: 1) higher capital requirements; 2) higher quality capital;
3) more complete risk capture; and 4) capital conservation measures, including
the use of contingent capital instruments. With greater capital
buffers, the risk of liquidity runs should be reduced going forward. It
should be noted, however, that use of contingent capital instruments, or any
other potential changes to our current capital regime, does not obviate the
need for an improved resolution process.

Second, the Basel Committee is moving forward with its work in establishing
liquidity standards for large, complex financial institutions. These
liquidity standards would consist of two parts. First, there would be
a liquidity buffer made up of high-quality liquid assets that would be of sufficient
size so that the firm could manage a stress event caused by a short-term loss
of investor confidence. Second, there would be rules concerning the degree
of allowable maturity transformation. Long-term illiquid assets would
have to be largely funded by equity and longer-term borrowing, not by short-term
borrowing, such as tri-party repo.

Third, the Federal Reserve is working with
a broad range of private sector participants, including dealers, clearing banks,
and tri-party repo investors to eliminate the structural instability of the
tri-party repo system so that tri-party borrowers are less vulnerable
to runs. Exactly
how the mechanics of the tri-party repo system will be adjusted is still a
work in process.8

Fourth, the major U.S. securities dealers are now subject to supervision by
the Federal Reserve under the Bank Holding Company Act. This means that
their liquidity funding needs are subject to supervisory oversight, including
stress tests, to ensure that the firms can meet large funding drains.

Liquidity risk will never be eliminated, nor should it. The preferences
of borrowers to borrow long and of lenders to lend short means that the maturity
transformation process generates real benefits. However, we can do better
to make our system less prone to the types of liquidity runs that we have experienced. If
we remain committed to implementing the reforms that are already underway,
I am confident that we can dramatically reduce the risks of the type of liquidity
crises that we experienced all too recently.

Thank you for your kind attention. I would be happy to take a few questions.

__________________________________________

1 The collapse of the shadow banking system, in turn, put
intense pressure on commercial banks. Off-balance- sheet items came
back on to bank balance sheets and the quality of bank assets fell
sharply. The end result was a sharp tightening in the availability of
credit that served to exacerbate the downward pressure on economic
activity.
2Some dealers were further weakened by having provided
significant amounts of funding to failed investment funds, which
reduced the amount of funding that was available to meet other needs.
3
One final factor that was important in exacerbating the funding crises
was the novation of over-the-counter (OTC) derivative exposures away
from a troubled dealer. In a novation, a customer asks a different
dealer to stand in between the customer and the distressed dealer. This
process results in the outflow of cash collateral from the distressed
dealer. The novation of OTC derivatives was an important factor behind
the liquidity crises at both Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.
4
There were funding strains prior to the Lehman Brothers failure and
these were most apparent in the elevated spreads evident in term LIBOR
funding compared with the federal funds rate.
5
Moreover, certain classes of investors such as money market mutual
funds do not take much comfort in collateral. Also, the headline risk
of having exposure to a troubled participant could subject investors
such as money market funds to liquidity pressures of their own.
Investors could withdraw funds before losses are realized.

6This problem has been largely addressed in the banking
sector by deposit insurance and by providing access to lender of last
resort facilities. In addition, supervisory and reporting requirements
address transparency issues.
7
Supervision could also be brought to bear to limit the tendency for
firms to reduce their capital and liquidity when provided with a
credible liquidity backstop.

8Work is also underway to shift the settlement of OTC
derivative trades to central counterparties (CCPs). This is important
because CCPs reduce risk exposures by netting out the offsetting
exposures among the CCP participants. Also, because the counterparty
risks move to the CCP rather than staying with the individual dealers,
the incentive to novate—move trades away from troubled dealers—is
reduced.