Financial Structures and Regulation: A Comparison of Crises by Alessandro Roselli (auth.)

By Alessandro Roselli (auth.)

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Legislation concerning life assurance – various Life Assurance Acts – also went back to the nineteenth century, and defined specific rules separating life and general insurance. 1: from a regulatory perspective, on the liability side of the balance sheet of life insurers is the issue of transparency in selling insurance products to customers-investors, and of protecting them against mis-selling; on the asset side, life assurance firms are active lenders or investors in various instruments on the capital market.

As a consequence, banking regulation was left to the States and no federal oversight of banks initially existed. Some States provided firm regulation, others hardly any. Many States made sure banks remained small by forbidding branching, thus permitting “unit banks” only. Within this limit, however, “free banking” prevailed, with low entry barriers and power to issue banknotes. Issue was guaranteed by bonds, deposited with the State banking authority. This meant that the monetary system too was unconstrained by federal authorities.

1 But it is much less so if we consider the structure and legislation which, until then, had characterized its financial system, and if we take into account that in the interwar period almost everywhere prevailed louder claims for greater State intervention in the economy. A further paradox is that, while the Glass–Steagall legislation of 1933 is today sometimes invoked as a beneficial alternative to the current regulatory arrangements, in the 1980s and 1990s it was the target of violent attacks.

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