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Did Lobbying Contribute to the Financial Crisis?

The answer is a firm yes, at least according to three IMF economists who studied the correlation between firms’ lobbying efforts, financial risk-taking, and default rates. Their findings (abstract here; full report here) show that:

[L]obbying was associated with more risk-taking during 2000-07 and with worse outcomes in 2008. In particular, lenders lobbying more intensively on issues related to mortgage lending and securitization (i) originated mortgages with higher loan-to-income ratios, (ii) securitized a faster growing proportion of their loans, and (iii) had faster growing originations of mortgages. Moreover, delinquency rates in 2008 were higher in areas where lobbying lenders’ mortgage lending grew faster.

(Digital Vision)

Deniz IganPrachi Mishra, and Thierry Tressel spent two years on the report, which is thought to be the first to document how lobbying contributed to the risk-taking that brought on the financial crisis. They conclude:

While pinning down precisely the motivation for lobbying is difficult, our analysis suggests that the political influence of the financial industry contributed to the financial crisis by allowing risk accumulation. Therefore, it provides some support to the view that the prevention of future crises might require a closer monitoring of lobbying activities by the financial industry and weakening of their political influence.