In 2008, the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the world’s biggest bankruptcy, triggering a massive wave that had severe implications for people all over the globe. It also, in the written words of Andrew Ross Sorkin for the New York Times: “broke a social contract between the plutocrats and everyone else.”
It eroded a lot of public trust in global financial institutions and systems. “The overall losses have been in the trillions, and the world has experienced subpar economic growth since,” wrote Naseem Khadem in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Global debt now stands at a staggering $215trn. In the US, problems still persist when trying to stop risky lending and products, despite tougher financial regulations—due to their ineffectiveness. The controversial pay packets of banking executives are back up in the millions, inviting further cynicism—and proving that incentives in the financial system are still biased and unfair.
Lord Adair Turner, who chaired the UK Financial Services Authority between 2008 and 2013 and helped redesign global banking, stated that the world still suffers from “irrational exuberance” and “debt overhang”. Countries still tend to get trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, which they then end up ultimately defaulting on.
He predicted that the next crisis will come courtesy of China and that was only a few years away. According to him– it will lay the roots for their economic destruction.
Then there are countries like Australia—which is “one of the countries closest to recession and financial crisis”, according to David Levy, an American economist and author and chairman of economic consultancy Jerome Levy Forecasting Center in New York.
Australia’s current household debt to GDP is currently at 123% of GDP – the second-highest in the world. This debt binge is aided by generous tax concessions – negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount – which encourage housing investors to acquire more property.
As house prices climb rapidly in Sydney and Melbourne, wage growth is stagnant, meaning the household debt-to-income ratio has climbed to an all-time peak of 189%.
The risks also extend to Europe. James Galbraith, an American economist and academic, stated that banks are more concentrated than before the crisis, “therefore more powerful and more dangerous.”
“The economy of Europe has not recovered; that of the US has recovered growth but has not restored employment, in relation to population. The derivative exposure of a single German bank – DB – is said to be equal to the entire GDP of Europe.”
“Non-performing loans in Italy, not to mention Greece, are at crisis levels.”
William White is chairman of Economic and Development Review Committee at the OECD called the US$215 trillion in debt at the end of 2016, at “an unprecedented level”. He further stated that “this increased leverage has come at a time when one might have expected leverage in the ‘bust after the boom’ to have been going in the opposite direction.”
While the tide seems to be turning post-Brexit and the volatile days of the Trump administration, it may not be for the better. That is, if it has ever turned at all.
Lord Turner stated that Trump planned to deregulate Wall Street.
“I’m concerned that the attack on Dodd-Frank is about undoing necessary regulation that was brought in after 2008,” he stated.
While he did say those post-crisis reforms have largely stopped outrageous 100% loan-to-value mortgages and harmful products like synthetic CDOs—banks were still loosening credit standards.
“I would prefer higher [capital] buffers still,” Lord Turner stated, and even went as far as advocating banning loans above a certain level.