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Wall Street’s takeover of peer-to-peer lending almost complete
Big banks are excellent at creativity and innovation, some of it a legitimate component of the business that helps the economy, and creativity in other areas has proven to be less than beneficial to the economy and market security. This includes finding and exploiting regulatory cracks and arbitrage opportunities, as a recent Financial Times piece observed, applying a sense of historical reflexivity to the recent dominance of the peer-to-peer lending revolution by banks and Hedge Funds.
With peer-to-peer lending, sharp-eyed readers might feel a sense of déjà vu
“Sharp-eyed readers might feel a sense of déjà vu,” Gillian Tett, U.S. managing editor of the Financial Times observes today. While discussing Wall Street’s ascendancy to dominate several angles of a “peer-to-peer” lending process that was advertised as a method to disintermediate banks, Tett, in a piece titled “The sharing economy is now a playground for Wall Street,” observes what what algorithmic traders might otherwise call a confirmation pattern. A confirmation pattern is a re-occurring event that often ends with the same conclusion. For Tett, the combination of banks operating in regulatory cracks is something that will end in "tears."
"History suggests that whenever innovation and regulatory arbitrage are combined in an era of ultra cheap money, it often ends in tears — somewhere. If nothing else, that also suggests that policymakers need to find ways to stop activity falling between the regulatory cracks; not least because financiers are endlessly creative at dancing in those gaps."
Peer-to-peer lending operating in regulatory cracks as a business model
While she did not specifically identify it, Tett was peeling back the onion on a highly evolved business model. "The idea of using innovations to dance around tough capital rules is hardly new: in the early years of the past decade, banks used structured investment vehicles and collateralised debt obligations in the same way,” she writes, noting a unique relative value strategy. “They also took advantage of cracks in regulatory structures to create products that policymakers could not easily monitor or control (it was unclear, for instance, who was supposed to oversee mortgage derivatives).”
This big bank issue has occurred on a frequent basis and can be tied back to 1998 with a man at the center of assisting in creating big bank “cracks” that can be exploited, one who is also at the center of the peer-to-peer revolution today: Larry Summers.
In 1998 Summers fought hard to punish then CFTC Chair Brooksley Born, who wanted to study unregulated derivatives that would eventually have a significantly negative impact on the economy on more than one occasion. At that point, regulatory confusion and allowing banks to operate in the “cracks” seemed like the point, as the unwritten rules against questioning questionable bank behavior on derivatives were later codified into law in the form of the Commodity Modernization Act of 2000, stripping away common sense derivatives