The S&L Debacle: Public Policy Lessons for Bank and Thrift Regulation

By Lawrence J. White | Go to book overview

Preface

This book is about the savings and loan debacle.

From November 12, 1986, until August 18, 1989, I was one of the three Board Members of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. The Bank Board was the regulator of and provider of deposit insurance (through the FSLIC) to the thrift industry. I had taken a leave of absence from my position as professor of economics at New York University to serve on the Bank Board; I returned to NYU at the end of my Bank Board service. This book was written after my return.

In this book I have tried to combine my skills as an economist with my experience at the Bank Board to provide a coherent analysis of the debacle: what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and what reforms are necessary so that it never happens again. The emphasis of this book is on analysis, rather than on personalities or anecdotes. This focus reflects my strong belief that an understanding of the economic forces and incentives that were at work is crucial to an understanding of the debacle and of the need for fundamental reform in bank and thrift regulation. I have tried to present this analysis in non-technical terms that will be comprehensible to the lay reader as well as to the specialist.

My period of service at the Bank Board was contemporaneous with most of the events and controversies included in Chapters 7, 8, and 9. These chapters cover the period when the depth of the problems of the insolvent thrifts became evident, when the Bank Board undertook major transactions to dispose of hundreds of insolvent thrifts, and when the concomitant need for substantial public financing to cover the government's insurance guarantees to depositors was fully recognized. I believe that my experience at the Bank Board helped develop and inform the insights that I have tried to convey concerning those events and controversies; in the writing of these chapters, however, I have chosen to exclude any first-person references. In the end, readers will have to decide for themselves whether my

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