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Extra resources for A Retrospective on the Bretton Woods system
There are some economies of scale, but they also become more unwieldy and difficult to manage. To think that a board of directors that meets once a quarter is going to have any understanding of what a company the size of Citigroup is doing every day around the world is ludicrous. If twelve members of a board of directors came to work every day for ten hours a day they could not possibly supervise all of Citigroup’s operations around the world. Citigroup is composed of hundreds of different businesses in hundreds of different countries offering thousands of different securities and products to their customers.
Like all banks do, they first created a boom by over-lending, then they created a crash by restricting lending. At the same time the banks were lending too much to homeowners, the banks were repackaging these mortgage securities, selling them upstream to long-term investors, and very quickly getting them off their books. Banks had no incentive to be certain that these mortgages would ever be repaid. Long-term investors, like pension funds and sovereign governments, that ended up holding these mortgage securities were duped by investment banks, commercial banks, and especially the rating agencies into thinking they held AAA securities when they actually held the equivalent of securities trash.
Banks had no incentive to be certain that these mortgages would ever be repaid. Long-term investors, like pension funds and sovereign governments, that ended up holding these mortgage securities were duped by investment banks, commercial banks, and especially the rating agencies into thinking they held AAA securities when they actually held the equivalent of securities trash. But the story does not end with subprime mortgages. We shall see that even prime mortgages are experiencing dramatically increased default rates and foreclosures, and that the banks will realize significant losses in their prime residential mortgage portfolios.