Should banks or regulators come up with “living wills”?

November 4, 2009

USBROKERS/RESEARCH-CITIGROUP The idea that financial firms whose collapse could create trigger broad economic problems should come up with their own living wills has been gaining traction lately.

After the confused attempt to bailout or save Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and AIG in 2008, some regulators have been suggesting that banks and important financial institutions plan for their own demise.

A senior Canadian finance official said on Wednesday that the Group of Twenty (G20) are thinking about the idea as a way to avoid financial meltdowns.

 Even one of the top financial advisors unwinding Lehman Brothers’ has said a living will would have helped.

But is it the banks or the regulators that oversee them who should come up with these living wills? Should they come up with them together? Who would have better incentives to prevent systemic issues?

The issue was discussed on Wednesday at a Practising Law Institute conference in New York by  H. Rodgin Cohen, a mergers & acquisitions lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, who personally worked on deals like JPMorgan-Bear Stearns, Barclays-Lehman, and Wells Fargo-Wachovia last year.  Here is what Cohen told the conference:    

“I do think we have it somewhat backwards on all this emphasis on the living wills for these institutions. Actually the living will isn’t the institution’s responsibility. It is truly surprising to me that sitting in a locked desk somewhere there isn’t a living will which the relevant supervisor has for each institution. Clearly that did not exist last year, and hopefully we have it today. “

So who should come up with these “living wills”? Banks or Regulators or both?

3 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

A living will requires a power of attorney, an unbearable illness and life support protocols.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive

I thought that is why we paid Executives in this country, to manage their business and plan for contigencies. would not the production of a Living Will as it were be considered a contigency plan? In most every deal I have consumated in my business life I have also included in that deal a unwind feature. So that being said, of course the Executives should be establishing the contingency Living Will, for their respective banks and then through industry organisations sharing that info to ensure that one plan would not be disruptive to another. If you continue to involve the regulatory agencies, who along with congress aided in achieving the current mess, I believe all inovation will leave the financial world.

Posted by robert foss | Report as abusive

There,obviously,is a reluctance to look at the real reasons and the remedy,by those concerned,and this casts doubts on the integrity of the G20 as a whole,whose members,it seems, are using the printing press to save a few big players in Derivatives.Subprime lending and Derivatives Trading are the reasons for the present Financial Crisis.While the first one, is a fait accompli,there is still time to BAN the second one,the ONLY solution.


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