Bank regulator Walsh has pragmatic philosophy on financial crisis repeat

March 1, 2011

John Walsh has spent many years in Washington — having worked at the Senate Banking Committee, the Treasury Department, and now asĀ  acting Comptroller of the Currency — and has a bit of perspective on government reaction to crises over the years.

FINANCE-SUMMIT/WALSHSo he has a fairly pragmatic philosophical approach on whether U.S. efforts will succeed in making sure the financial crisis does not recur.

“It is hubris to imagine that we can anticipate all the things that can go wrong and prevent them. That has never happened in human history, I don’t know why it would happen here,” Walsh said at the Reuters Future Face of Finance summit.

The Dodd-Frank set of Wall Street reforms includes components that are “on point to try to avoid such a thing happening again,” he said.

The Federal Reserve and other bank regulators are “absolutely right” to add liquidity during a crisis, but that is different from having an expectation that large financial institutions must be saved from failing, Walsh said.

“It’s that challenge of trying to figure out who’s the dead guy in the crowd as the whole boat seems to be headed for the bottom — how do you keep the boat afloat but still weed out the bad actors on the boat that have gotten themselves into insolvency?” he said.

And with a bit of a twist on philosopher George Santayana’s famous saying, Walsh adds: “Those that have studied financial history know we’re doomed to repeat it.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Walsh at the Reuters summit)

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