James Forsyth

Tory guru: Financial system riskier now than it was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers

Tory guru: Financial system riskier now than it was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers
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There’s a good article in the New York Times today about how little has changed in the way Wall Street does business since the collapse of Lehman—employment in the sector is only down eight percent, Goldman employees will earn on average $700,000 this year and derivatives are still not being traded on an open exchange. Indeed, the new Tory guru Nassim Taleb, the author of The Black Swan, thinks that the system might be riskier now than it was when Lehmans collapsed:

“Mr. Taleb warns that the system has grown riskier since last fall. The extensive government support that began after Lehman collapsed will lead investors to assume that governments will always prevent major banks from collapsing, he said.

So investors will lend money to the financial industry on easy terms. In turn, financial institutions will use that cheap money to make risky loans and trades. The banks will keep the profits when their bets pay off, while taxpayers will swallow the losses when the bets go bad and threaten the system.” This problem of moral hazard is considerable. But having bailed out the banks, I find it hard to see how governments can deal with it. A declaration that the banks would not be bailed out again would be a hostage to fortune.