- Paul-Martin Foss, Carl Menger Center for the Study of Money & Banking
Professor Todd J. Zywicki joined a Teleforum conference call on his new book, Consumer Credit and the American Economy, co-authored with Thomas Durkin, Gregory Elliehausen, and Michael Staten. The book examines the economics, behavioral science, sociology, history, institutions, law, and regulation of consumer credit in the United States. Because of the importance of consumer credit in consumers' financial affairs, Professor Zywicki's intended audience includes anyone interested in these issues, not only specialists who spend much of their time focused on them. For this reason, the authors have carefully avoided academic jargon and the mathematics that is the modern language of economics. It also examines the psychological, sociological, historical, and especially legal traditions that go into fully understanding what has led to the demand for consumer credit and to what the markets and institutions that provide these products have become today. Bill Himpler, Executive Vice President at the American Financial Services Association, offered his comments and questions.
While other fields of law are trying to anticipate the future ramifications of the widespread use of drones, robots, and self-driving vehicles, financial markets have already confronted the fact that – for about five years now – automated trading programs have made the majority of all trades in equities and commodities. Automation has substantially reduced the cost of trading, but it has also had profound effects on the structure of financial markets, and has raised questions about its facilitation of allegedly abusive practices. A 2013 documentary, “Ghost Exchange,” and a 2014 best-selling book, Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, focused public attention on the effects of high-frequency trading (HFT) on market integrity and stability, and helped precipitate a series of aggressive enforcement investigations as well as rulemaking initiatives at financial regulatory agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Our experts reviewed the state of the debate over HFT, and possible paths forward.
Operation Chokepoint is a new initiative of the Obama administration led by the Department of Justice, the FDIC, and the CFPB. It aims to pressure certain industries, primarily payday lending and online lending, by increasing oversight requirements to such levels that it becomes unprofitable for the banks to work with the third-party payment processors who enable these targeted industries to process payments. Other industries that may be targeted by the program include firearms/fireworks sales, ammunition sales, “As Seen on TV” products, gambling, home-based charities, pornography, online pharmaceuticals, and sweepstakes. Our experts shed light on the little-known program, and offered a thorough discussion of the legal and policy implications.
One feature of the Dodd-Frank Act is the authority given to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to designate certain nonbank firms as systemically important, subjecting them to "stringent" regulation by the Federal Reserve Board. Could the exercise of this authority change the very nature of our financial system? Is the FSOC Dodd-Frank provision based on accurate information about what actually happened in the financial crisis, or does information only more recently available argue in another direction? Should this authority Dodd-Frank confers not be exercised until Congress has had an opportunity to reconsider the underlying facts?
The paper discussed by our experts is available here.