Squam Lake Papers

A collection of papers on financial reform from 15 financial economists who first met at Squam Lake, NH, in November 2008.

Prime Brokers and Derivatives Dealers

Prime Brokers and Derivatives Dealers

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Runs by prime-brokerage clients and derivatives counterparties were a central cause of the global financial crisis. These runs precipitated the failures of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers by substantially reducing the broker's liquidity. This Working Paper, the ninth in the Squam Lake series distributed by the Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, argues for higher regulatory liquidity requirements for dealer banks that use assets of clients and counterparties as a source of liquidity.

See more in Financial Crises; Financial Regulation; United States

Regulation of Executive Compensation in  Financial Services

Regulation of Executive Compensation in Financial Services

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Many people argue that inappropriate compensation policies in financial companies contributed to the global financial crisis. Some say the overall level of pay was too high. Others criticize the structure of pay, claiming that contracts for CEOs, traders, and other professionals induced them to pursue excessively risky and short-term strategies. This Working Paper, the eighth in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, argues that governments should generally not regulate the level of executive compensation at financial firms. Instead, a fraction of compensation should be held back for several years to reduce employees' incentives to take excessive risk.

See more in Financial Crises; Corporate Regulation; United States

Improving Resolution Options for Systemically Relevant Financial Institutions

Improving Resolution Options for Systemically Relevant Financial Institutions

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

This Squam Lake Working Group Paper endorses legislation that would give authorities the necessary powers to effect an orderly resolution of large complex financial institutions. As part of this authority, every such institution should be required to create "living wills" that would help authorities address the difficulties that might arise in a resolution.

See more in Financial Crises; Corporate Regulation; United States

Regulation of  Retirement Saving

Regulation of Retirement Saving

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Retirement saving is undergoing a fundamental change as employers shift from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) accounts. This Working Paper, the sixth in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, analyzes the pros and cons of defined contribution plans and recommends measures that will improve the performance of the nation's retirement saving system.

See more in United States; Financial Crises; Aging

Credit Default Swaps, Clearinghouses, and Exchanges

Credit Default Swaps, Clearinghouses, and Exchanges

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Credit default swaps (CDS) are contracts that provide protection against the risk of default by borrowers. The failure of one important participant in the CDS market can destabilize the financial system by inflicting significant losses on many trading partners simultaneously. A clearinghouse could in theory reduce counterparty risk by standing between the buyer and seller of protection, insulating the counterpartiesí exposure to each otherís default. This Working Paper, the fifth in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, analyzes the market for credit default swaps and makes specific recommendations about appropriate roles for clearinghouses and about how they should be organized.

See more in United States; Financial Markets; Financial Regulation

A Systemic Regulator for Financial Markets

A Systemic Regulator for Financial Markets

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Financial regulations in almost all countries are designed to ensure the soundness of individual institutions, principally commercial banks, against the risk of loss on their assets. This focus on individual firms ignores critical interactions between institutions and can also cause regulators to overlook important changes in the overall financial system. The solution: One regulatory organization in each country should be responsible for overseeing the health and stability of the overall financial system. This Working Paper, the fourth in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, argues that the central bank should be charged with this important new responsibility.

See more in Financial Regulation; Financial Markets; Global

An Expedited Resolution Mechanism for Distressed Financial Firms: Regulatory Hybrid Securities

An Expedited Resolution Mechanism for Distressed Financial Firms: Regulatory Hybrid Securities

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

This Working Paper, the third in the Squam Lake Working Group series distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, recommends support for a new regulatory hybrid security that will expedite the recapitalization of distressed financial companies. The new instrument resembles long-term debt in normal times, but converts to equity when the financial system and the issuing bank are both under financial stress. The regulatory hybrid security the authors envision would be transparent, less costly to taxpayers, and more effective than the ad hoc measures taken in the current crisis.

See more in Financial Crises

Reforming Capital Requirements for Financial Institutions

Reforming Capital Requirements for Financial Institutions

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

This Working Paper, the second in a series from the Squam Lake Working Group distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, argues that regulators consider systemic effects when setting bank capital requirements. Everything else the same, capital requirements should be proportionately higher for larger banks, banks that hold more illiquid assets, and banks that finance more of their operations with short-term debt. But capital requirements are not free. When designing capital requirements that address systemic concerns, regulators must weigh the costs such requirements impose on banks during good times against the benefit of having more capital in the financial system when a crisis strikes.

See more in Global; Financial Markets; Financial Regulation

A New Information Infrastructure for Financial Markets

A New Information Infrastructure for Financial Markets

Author: Squam Lake Working Group on Financial Regulation

Information about prices and quantities of assets lies at the heart of well-functioning capital markets. In the current financial crisis, it has become clear that many important actors—both firms and regulatory agencies—have not had sufficient information. Distributed by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies, this Working Paper proposes a new regulatory regime for gathering and disseminating financial market information. The authors argue that government regulators need a new infrastructure to collect and analyze adequate information from large (systemically important) financial institutions. This new information framework would bolster the government's ability to foresee, contain, and, ideally, prevent disruptions to the overall financial services industry.

See more in United States; Financial Markets; Digital Infrastructure

The Squam Lake members are: Martin Baily, Brookings Institution; Andrew Bernard, Dartmouth College; John Campbell, Harvard University; John Cochrane, University of Chicago; Doug Diamond, University of Chicago; Darrell Duffie, Stanford University; Ken French, Dartmouth College; Anil Kashyap, University of Chicago; Rick Mishkin, Columbia University; Raghu Rajan, University of Chicago; David Sharfstein, Havard University; Bob Shiller, Yale University; Matt Slaughter, Dartmouth College; Hyun Song Shin, Princeton University; Renť Stulz, Ohio State University.