Bernanke at Jackson Hole
The Fed is holding its annual summer retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which features Fed officials and outside experts discussing the critical issues of the day. Kicking off the event, Chairman Ben Bernanke offered a sobering review of the past year ("Reflections on a Year of Crisis"). Bernanke noted that at the same symposium a year earlier, market participants didn't anticipate the crisis that would start to unfold only a month later, although the economic and financial situation was hardly normal in August 2008.
Shortly after Jackson Hole 2008, the crisis unfolded: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put into conservatorship and the Treasury Department would provide massive support; Lehman Brothers failed and many prominent firms struggled to survive in the aftermath of the Lehman failure (Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America; Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were stabilized when the Fed approved their applications to become bank holding companies); AIG nearly failed and considerable resources were supplied to shore it up. The crisis has been global, as has been the policy response.
He commented that the outcome could have been much worse in the absence of the aggressive monetary, fiscal and financial policies that were taken around the world, in contrast to the 1930s.
With financial regulatory reform still pending, Chairman Bernanke discussed why we need a systemic financial regulator and why it should be the Fed (the proposal for the Fed has been extremely controversial). Noting the role of liquidity in systemic crises, he stated that strengthening liquidity risk management at firm level would not be sufficient to prevent a systemic crisis, although it was important; and that only central banks were positioned to step in and provide liquidity.