David Henderson reviews the new Alan Blinder book

The review is here, here is one interesting paragraph:

Mr. Blinder omits a crucial fact about Lehman, one that, by itself, explains why the huge drop in value of Lehman’s mortgage-backed securities led to its collapse: the effect of changes in federal bankruptcy law. Thanks to the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, when Lehman went bankrupt it could not simply, as in earlier days, pay holders of derivatives as much as possible with its assets. Instead, it had to give each derivative holder a new contract identical to the one it had signed with Lehman, but with a different counterparty. Lehman would also have to pay the transaction cost of the new contract. Such costs are typically about 0.15% of the contract’s total value. That’s small, right? No. When Lehman went bankrupt, the face value of Lehman’s derivative contracts was $35 trillion—with a “t.” The transaction costs alone were $52.5 billion. That is what sank Lehman.

The strange and indeed unjustified senior status of derivatives contracts remains an under-discussed area for financial reform.  Here is a relevant Bolton and Oehmke paper (pdf).  The Blinder book you can buy here.


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