nep-pke New Economics Papers
on Post Keynesian Economics
Issue of 2010‒08‒21
three papers chosen by
Karl Petrick
University of the West Indies

  1. The Bonus-Driven “Rainmaker” Financial Firm: How These Firms Enrich Top Employees, Destroy Shareholder Value and Create Systemic Financial Instability (revised) By James Crotty
  2. Neoliberalism’s relationship with economic growth in the developing world: Was it the power of the market or the resolution of financial crisis? By Cohen, Joseph N
  3. The Porter Hypothesis at 20: Can Environmental Regulation Enhance Innovation and Competitiveness? By Stefan Ambec; Mark A. Cohen; Stewart Elgie; Paul Lanoie

  1. By: James Crotty
    Abstract: <p><i>Revised August 2010</i></p><p>We recently experienced a global financial crisis so severe that only massive rescue operations by governments around the world prevented a total financial market meltdown and perhaps another global Great Depression. One precondition for the crisis was the perverse, bonus-driven compensation structure employed in important financial institutions such as investment banks. This structure provided the rational incentive for key decision makers in these firms (who I call “rainmakers”) to take the excessive risk and employ excessive leverage in the bubble that helped create the bubble and make the crisis so severe. This paper presents and evaluates extensive data on compensation practices in investment banks and other important financial institutions. These data show that rainmaker compensation has been rising rapidly, is very large, and has asymmetric properties that induce reckless risk-taking. Since boom-period bonuses do not have to be returned if rainmaker decisions eventually lead to losses for their firms, since large bonuses continue to be paid even when firms in fact suffer large losses, and since governments can be counted on to bail out the largest financial firms in a crisis, it is rational for rainmakers to use unsustainable leverage to invest in recklessly risky assets in the bubble. A review of the modest literature on financial firm compensation practices in general and those of investment banks in particular demonstrates that the giant bonuses of the recent past are not appropriate returns to human capital – they are unjustified rents. The paper discusses possible answers to the challenging questions: what is the source of rainmaker rents and how are they sustained over time? Answers to these questions can help guide debates over the appropriate regulation of financial markets. They are also necessary inputs to the development of an adequate theory of the “rainmaker” financial firm that can help us understand how these firms were able to maximize the compensation of their key employees through policies that destroyed shareholder value and created systemic financial fragility. To my knowledge, no such theory currently exists.</p>
    Keywords: bonuses; investment banks; leverage; financial crisis; perverse incentives
    JEL: G24 G10
    Date: 2010
  2. By: Cohen, Joseph N
    Abstract: This article examines the relationship between "economic freedom" and economic growth. Previous studies have found a positive relationship between economic growth rates and "economic freedom", and used this relationship as a basis for arguing that more liberal economic policies promote development. "Economic freedom" conflates laissez-faire policy with other important concepts, like good governance and macroeconomic stability. When laissez-faire is parsed from these other concepts, it shows no positive relationship with growth outside of the early-1990s, a period in which financially-strained developing governments and financial systems enjoyed debt bailouts in exchange for liberalization reforms. Further analysis shows that laissez-faire exerts no discernible effect on economic growth net of the debt relief, inflation containment and improved inward investment that occurred after the Cold War. I argue that free market capitalism itself may not have promoted economic development in the post-Cold War era. Instead, free market reforms occurred alongside domestic and international political developments that helped developing countries resolve a serious financial crises, and that the resolution of these crises were most important in explaining the comparative prosperity of the 1990s and 2000s.
    Keywords: economic freedom; neoliberalism; laissez faire; periodicity; economic growth; economic development; capitalism
    JEL: P11 P17 O21 E61 O4
    Date: 2010–07–15
  3. By: Stefan Ambec; Mark A. Cohen; Stewart Elgie; Paul Lanoie
    Abstract: Twenty years ago, Harvard Business School economist and strategy professor Michael Porter stood conventional wisdom about the impact of environmental regulation on business on its head by declaring that well designed regulation could actually enhance competitiveness. The traditional view of environmental regulation held by virtually all economists until that time was that requiring firms to reduce an externality like pollution necessarily restricted their options and thus by definition reduced their profits. After all, if there are profitable opportunities to reduce pollution, profit maximizing firms would already be taking advantage of those opportunities. Over the past 20 years, much has been written about what has since become known simply as the Porter Hypothesis (“PH”). Yet, even today, there is conflicting evidence, alternative theories that might explain the PH, and oftentimes a misunderstanding of what the PH does and does not say. This paper provides an overview of the key theoretical and empirical insights on the PH to date, draw policy implications from these insights, and sketches out major research themes going forward. <P>Il y a bientôt vingt ans, Michael Porter, économiste et professeur de stratégie de la Harvard Business School, a remis en question le paradigme généralement accepté quant à l’impact des réglementations environnementales sur la performance d’affaires, en affirmant que des politiques environnementales bien conçues pouvaient en fait améliorer la compétitivité des entreprises. Jusqu’alors, le point de vue dominant, accepté par la quasi-totalité des économistes, stipulait que d’imposer aux entreprises de réduire une externalité comme la pollution réduisait nécessairement les options à leur disposition et, par définition, leurs profits. Après tout, s’il y a des opportunités profitables de réduire la pollution, les firmes qui maximisent leurs profits auraient dû les identifier par elles-mêmes. Depuis 20 ans, beaucoup de choses ont été écrites sur ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler l’Hypothèse de Porter. Aujourd’hui, il y a diverses théories pour expliquer l’Hypothèse de Porter. Les résultats empiriques ne sont pas concluants et il subsiste une certaine confusion sur ce que dit et ne dit pas l’Hypothèse de Porter. Ce texte présente un survol des grands enjeux théoriques et empiriques entourant l’Hypothèse de Porter, en tire les grandes implications en termes de politiques publiques et propose des avenues de recherche pour le futur.
    Keywords: Porter Hypothesis, environmental policy, innovation, performance , Hypothèse de Porter, politiques environnementales, innovation, performance
    Date: 2010–08–01

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