Financial Regulation and the Current Crisis: A Guide for the Antitrust Community

The U.S. financial crisis of 2007-2008 has been a searing experience. The popping of a housing bubble exposed the subprime lending debacle, which in turn created a wider financial crisis. In its response to this crisis, the federal government has provided financial assistance to a number of financial institutions that are often described as “too big to fail” (TBTF) – which, to those who associate antitrust with size, seems to bring antitrust potentially into the picture.

This paper will offer a guide to the antitrust community that will cover the U.S. financial sector, financial regulation, and the debacle and subsequent financial crisis. The tensions that can arise between financial regulation and antitrust will be highlighted. TBTF is not one of them, however, because TBTF is about size and interconnectedness, but not about competition and market power. Although much progress has been made in removing anticompetitive elements from financial regulation over the past three to four decades, there are still important advances that can be made. The paper concludes by offering a set of policy recommendations for the removal of some of the important remaining elements of financial regulation that impede competition.