The Korean Economic Forum
The Role of Financial Innovations in the Current Global Financial Crisis
Yoon-shik Park (George Washington University)Year 2009Vol. 2No. 1
<Introduction>The sign of the current global financial crisis first emerged publicly in the summer of 2007, when two German banks, IKB and SachsenLB, that had invested heavily in subprime mortgage- related securities via their off-balance sheet vehicles, had to be bailed out by the government in August 2007. Then, the crisis spread to Great Britain the following month, when long queues formed outside Northern Rock,Britain’s fifth largest mortgage lender, showcasing the first bank run in the country in 150 years. By early 2008, giant banking institutions in Wall Street and Europe also announced huge write-offs related to the crisis, resulting in the forced takeover by JP Morgan Chase in March 2008 of Bear Stearns, the fifth largest investment bank in the United States. The crisis has affected not just giant banking and financial institutions in the West. Even small towns such as Narvik in Arctic Norway and some obscure municipalities in Australia lost their preciou savings and had to come up with emergency funding to keep their towns in operations. State of Florida discovered that its state investment fund lost almost half of its $27 billion assets within two weeks and had to temporarily suspend further withdrawals from the fund, and some feared that many Floridacounties and municipalities would not have enough cash to pay teachers and trash collectors in coming months. A similar problem was faced by State of Maine, whose investments suffered big losses due to the current crisis. The Indiana Children’s Wish Fund, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses, was affected when some of its fund’s investments suffered a heavy loss as well. The international financial crisis and the resulting credit squeeze has also reached Asian countries such as Korea, where in November, after almost four months from the outbreak of the crisis in the summer, the drastically tightened credit market forced the Bank of Korea to inject emergency funding into the market and many Korean banks found themselves desperate to obtain necessary funds. Thecommon thread linking Arctic Norwegian towns to the state treasuries of Florida and Maine and stretching from regional banks in Germany and Britain to commercial banks in Korea to the mightiest names on Wall Street in a chain of misery is the current global financial crisis first triggered by the meltdown in the U.S. subprime mortgage market. The unprecedented global financial crisis has then eventually pushed the global economy into the most severe crisis since the Great Depression of the1930s. Total global losses in the current financial crisis are estimated at $40 trillion, equivalent to more than two-thirds of last year’s world GDP, including the loss of $35 trillion in publicly traded corporate equities and $5 trillion in home equity and unincorporated or privately listed businesses.1) According to the IMF, global credit losses are estimated at $4 trillion, ¾ of which are borne by banks and the restby non-bank investors.