The JPMorgan $2 billion-trading-loss story is nearly a week old, and the news has predictably gone through the various spin cycles of the political right and left. Initially, progressives pounced on the loss as reason to strengthen the yet-to-be-fully-implemented Dodd-Frank financial-reform law. Conservatives then pushed back on that conclusion, arguing that the loss was not a disaster for shareholders given the size and profitability of the bank overall and that policymakers shouldn’t overreact with more stringent regulation.
However, there is another, smaller chorus of voices that is blaming neither government inaction nor banker recklessness but the policies of the Federal Reserve. These critics are arguing that excessive intervention by the central bank has distorted financial markets and forced big banks to resort to risky moves in order to maintain profits.
David Schawel, a money manager and financial blogger, argues that quantitative easing policies, under which the Fed has bought up “risk-free” assets like U.S. Treasury bonds, have caused there to be fewer safe assets to go around. In addition, the Fed’s decision to keep interest rates near zero since the height of the financial crisis in 2008 has reduced the profitability of banks’ usual business lines. Writes Schawel:
“Bernanke is not responsible for risk failures at JP Morgan or any o