Actions by federal regulators and Republicans in Congress over the past two years have paved the way for banks and other financial companies to issue more than $1 trillion in risky corporate loans, sparking fears that Washington and Wall Street are repeating the mistakes made before the financial crisis.
The moves undercut policies put in place by banking regulators six years ago that aimed to prevent high-risk lending from once again damaging the economy.Now, regulators and even White House officials are struggling to comprehend the scope and potential dangers of the massive pool of credits, known as leveraged loans, they helped create.
Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and other financial companies have originated these loans to hundreds of cash-strapped companies, many of which could be unable to repay if the economy slows or interest rates rise.“
This means that the next downturn that we have could be more serious and longer-lasting and more difficult to deal with than it would have been if we had constrained these practices,” former Federal Reserve chair Janet L. Yellen said in an interview.
The lending boom was precipitated, in part, by the rush to water down regulations at the start of the Trump administration. That’s when newly minted regulators — many with close ties to the financial industry — sought to strip away post-crisis financial rules and find ways to juice the economy by encouraging more lending.