The Man Who Called the Financial Crisis—70 Years Early

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
By Paul Martin

By JASON ZWEIG
WSJ.com

Decades before anybody had ever heard of a mortgage derivative, an economist named Melchior Palyi predicted key causes of the 2008-2009 financial crisis with precision that makes a modern reader’s hair stand on end.

His warnings help explain why investors insist on trusting market gatekeepers they know to be fallible—such as policy makers, regulators and credit-ratings firms.

The seeds of today’s problem were planted long ago, and its forgotten history holds important lessons. In 1936, as part of reforms under the new Banking Act, the U.S. government mandated that federally regulated banks could no longer hold securities that weren’t rated investment-grade by at least two ratings firms.

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