The spike in demand for consultants, services, and products around the first of the year (or in the government’s case the beginning of October) appears to be a natural part of the business cycle. The fact that there is an onrush in spending, however, suggests the existence of an artificial driver. Truth be told, it’s the time of year when many companies replenish their budgets and subsequently start or restart their projects – all at the same time. And while there may be a certain logic to this occurrence from a dollars and cents perspective, simultaneously launching so many projects challenges the organization from a human resource perspective, namely, that there are often not enough people within the organization to staff all of these projects at the same time.
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From the outset of the financial collapse of 2008, it was apparent that the troubles of large financial institutions such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG could and did profoundly impact all aspects of the American financial system. Given their sheer size, such firms represent a ‘systemic risk’ to the whole economy and were subsequently labeled as ‘too big to fail;’ suggesting not that these firms couldn’t fail but that they should not be allowed to fail because of the risk posed to the U.S. economy.
The ‘too big to fail’ philosophy found a home in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This act provides the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) with the power to seize and break up ‘too big to fail’ companies if it believes they are headed toward financial collapse.1 The FDIC’s authority covers non-financial corporations with at least $50 billion in assets as well as financial institutions. While this may sound like a reasonable solution to the ‘too big to fail’ problem, it only serves to make matters worse.
“One of the highest priorities is identifying the universe of non-bank financial companies that – because of their leverage; off-balance sheet exposures; nature, scope, size, scale, concentration, interconnectedness, and mix of activities; or other factors identified in the Dodd-Frank Act – should be subject to enhanced prudential supervision by the FRB.” 2
Sheila C. Bair
Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
on Systemically Important Institutions and the Issue of “Too Big to Fail” before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission
September 2, 2010
The ‘too big to fail’ provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will not prevent companies systemically linked to the health of the U.S. economy from collapsing and in several ways promotes conditions that will exacerbate the next financial downturn. Consider:
- the Dodd-Frank Act does nothing to prevent companies from failing, it only prescribes a method for dealing with them once failure becomes eminent
- it places Washington bureaucrats in charge of dispositioning troubled companies; the same individuals who are often unable to balance the U.S. government’s budget, can’t tell citizens and businesses what the tax rates for 2011 will be three months in advance, and have compliance issues with respect to paying their personal income taxes
- by directing the dismantlement of large companies, fewer such large companies within the given sector will remain effectively increasing the impact their future collapse will have on the nation’s economy should such a collapse occur
- by providing a government supported collapse mechanism the financial risk associated with large companies is reduced which in turn will help them secure lower interest rates on borrowed funds and encourage further risk taking3
While the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act seeks to minimize the impact of the collapse of a ‘too big to fail’ company on the U.S. economy, it’s mechanism of corporate dismantlement and risk removal leaves the door open to even more impactful collapses in the future. As such, the solution provided addresses only half the issue. What the act missed is the prevention of a systemically linked company’s collapse to being with or, dare we suggest, the elimination of ‘too big to fail’ companies all together in a non-crisis setting.
StrategyDriven Recommended Practices
The significant marketplace uncertainty created by the Dodd-Frank Act will not likely be resolved soon; necessitating that company leaders act to mitigate, transfer, or eliminate these risks facing their organizations. In this specific case, StrategyDriven suggests company leaders consider the following:
- Follow the FDIC’s ‘too big to fail’ rule making process and understand how these new regulations will impact the operations of your firm’s ‘too big to fail’ partners, suppliers, and customers.
- Evaluate the financial position of those ‘too big to fail’ companies providing resources or services to your organization and the impact of an FDIC takeover on continued operations; implementing compensatory measures as appropriate
- Assess the financial position of those ‘too big to fail’ companies that are your clients and the potential impact an FDIC takeover would have on the demand for your products and/or services; implementing compensatory measures as appropriate
- Analyze your company’s overall supplier and customer portfolio and ensure the risks associated with ‘too big to fail’ companies previously identified are mitigated to an appropriate extent through the use of portfolio balancing
The somewhat ill-conceived ‘too big to fail’ provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act serve as a lesson in problem resolution. As noted earlier, the Dodd-Frank Act does nothing to mitigate, transfer, or alleviate the problem of ‘too big to fail’ companies actually succumbing to financial collapse thereby doing nothing to prevent the initiating event of the Financial Crisis of 2008. Additionally, provisions of the act create circumstances that may make it more likely for a financial collapse to occur in the future, one with even greater impact. Remember that to effectively resolve any issue it is important to first define the problem and its causes and then to define and select a solution set that fully addresses the defined problem and its causes. Additional information on sound decision-making practices can be found in StrategyDriven’s Decision-Making topic area.
In an upcoming edition of the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective, we’ll look at the potential impacts of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that could present a proportionately larger burden on small companies.
As always, we’ll provide our thoughts on how business leaders can best prepare for the implementation of the financial reform law and weather the storm in the long-term. We also hope you’ll share your thoughts, lessons learned, and recommended resources with us and the StrategyDriven audience.
The strength in our community grows with the additional insights brought by our expanding member base. Please consider rating us and sharing your perspectives regarding the StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast on iTunes by clicking here. Sharing your thoughts improves our ranking and helps us attract new listeners which, in turn, helps us grow our community.
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- “FDIC puts breaks on ‘too big to fail’ reforms,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2010
- “Statement of Sheila C. Bair, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on Systemically Important Institutions and the Issue of “Too Big to Fail” before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission,” Sheila C. Bair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, September 2, 2010 (http://fdic.gov/news/news/speeches/chairman/spsep0210.html)
- “What Does ‘Too Big to Fail’ Really Cost?” Alain Sherter, BNET, March 29, 2010 (http://www.bnet.com/blog/financial-business/what-does-8220too-big-to-fail-8221-really-cost/4486?tag=content;drawer-container)
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, named Time’s Man of the Century in 1999, and best known for his conception of the theories of special and general relativity
New Rules May Hamstring Employers’ Ability to Innovate Existing Plans…
The grandfather clause is a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that seeks to keep a key promise made by the Obama administration: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” But interim final rules handed down by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies June 17, 2010, appear likely to frustrate the intent of the law and hamstring employers’ ability to offer the best coverage options in a cost-effective manner. In adopting an overly restrictive interpretation of the grandfather clause, the rules essentially diminish employer flexibility to make plan design changes by tying allowable changes to current plan structures.
A new report by the Healthcare Performance Management Institute examines the grandfather clause, the new HHS rules that will govern its implementation and the likely impact on employer health plans. The report also addresses factors organizations should consider when deciding whether or not the benefit of retaining grandfather status outweighs making certain plan design changes.
Click here to download a complimentary copy of this Healthcare Performance Management Institute report.
Want to learn more?
Listen to our recent StrategyDriven Editorial Perspective podcast interview with George Pantos, Executive Director of the Healthcare Performance Management Institute during which we discuss how companies can keep their current health plans in light of the recently passed healthcare legislation and under what circumstances they may wish to do so.
StrategyDriven Podcasts focus on the tools and techniques executives and managers can use to improve their organization’s alignment and accountability to ultimately achieve superior results. These podcasts elaborate on the best practice and warning flag articles on the StrategyDriven website.
Special Edition 47 – An Interview with Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance explores how to effectively managing business change by overcoming the three common change objections and better engaging the workforce in not only making the change but in sustaining the results. During our discussion, Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance: Why 70% of All Changes Still Fail – and What You Can Do About It, shares with us his insights and illustrative examples regarding:
- why companies experience such a high change management failure rate
- why people resist change
- whether resistance has to occur with every change or whether it can be avoided
- the key phases of the change management cycle
- when change management activities should be started
- the most damaging change management mistake leaders make and how to avoid it
- what leaders should do to improve their change management effectiveness
In addition to the outstanding insights Rick shares in Beyond the Wall of Resistance and this special edition podcast are the resources accessible from his websites, www.RickMaurer.com and www.ChangeManagementNews.com. Rick’s book, Beyond the Wall of Resistance, can be purchased by clicking here.
The strength of our community grows with the additional insights brought by our expanding member base. Please consider rating us on iTunes by clicking here. Rating the StrategyDriven Podcast and providing your comments online improves our ranking and helps us attract new listeners which, in turn, helps us grow our community.
Thank you again for listening to the StrategyDriven Podcast!
About the Author
Rick Maurer, author of Beyond the Wall of Resistance, is a renowned change management expert, speaker, and bestselling author. He is an advisor to business leaders from a variety of organizations throughout the world, including major Fortune 500 companies, as well as private and nonprofit institutions in industries such as aerospace, healthcare, government, professional associations, telecommunications, and finance. Rick’s opinion has been sought by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, USA Today, and The Economist. To read Rick’s complete biography, click here.