Investment Banks

Professor Shiller at Yale University characterizes investment banking by contrasting it to consulting, commercial banking, and securities trading. Then, in order to see the essence of investment banking, he reviews some of the principles that John Whitehead, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, has formulated. These principles are the basis for a discussion of the substantial power that investment bankers have, and their role in society. Government regulation of these powerful investment banks has been a thorny issue for many years, and especially so now since they played a significant role in world financial crisis of the 2000s.

Monetary Policy

To begin the lecture, Professor Shiller at Yale University explores the origins of central banking, from the goldsmith bankers in the United Kingdom to the founding of the Bank of England in 1694, which was a private institution that created stability in the U.K. financial system by requiring other banks to have deposits in it. Turning his attention to the U.S., Professor Shiller outlines the evolution of its banking system from the Suffolk System, via the National Banking era, to the founding of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. After presenting approaches to central banking in the European Union and in Japan, he emphasizes the federal funds rate, targeted by the Federal Open Market Committee, as well as the recent change to pay interest on reserve balances at the Federal Reserve, enacted by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act from 2008, as important tools of U.S. monetary policy. After elaborating on reserve requirements, which are liability-based restrictions, and capital requirements, which are asset-based, he provides a simple, illustrative example that delivers an important intuition about the difficulties that banks have faced during the recent crisis from 2007-2008. This leads to Professor Shiller’s concluding remarks about regulatory approaches to the prevention of future banking crises.

Misbehavior, Crises, Regulation and Self Regulation

After talking about human failures and foibles in the last lecture, this lecture is concerned with regulation to minimize the impact of human errors. Professor Shiller at Yale University outlines five different levels of regulation: Regulation on the firm level, on the level of trade groups, on the regional, the national, and the international level. Concerning the first level, he emphasizes the role of the board of directors as the regulators of a company, its duties of care and loyalty, and its responsibilities in the face of tunneling. On the level of trade groups, Professor Shiller presents the history of the New York Stock Exchange from the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement until today. The subsequent description of regional regulation centers on Blue Sky laws during the progressive era of the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century. On the national level of regulation, he covers the founding days of the Securities and Exchange Commission, its regulation of hedge funds, as well as its efforts against the trading of insider information and stock price manipulation. He complements his coverage of national regulation with the regulatory efforts in the aftermath of the financial crisis from 2007-2008, i.e. the creation of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by the Dodd-Frank Act from 2010, paired with the European efforts in the course of the European Supervisory Framework, also from 2010. With respect to the fifth and final level of regulation – international regulation – Professor Shiller talks about the Basel Committee on Banking Supervisionand the G-20.

Behavioral Finance and the Role of Psychology

Deviating from an absolute belief in the principle of rationality, Professor Shiller at Yale University elaborates on human failings and foibles. Acknowledging impulses to exploit these weaknesses, he emphasizes the role of factors that keep these impulses in check, specifically the desire for praise-worthiness from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. After a discourse on Personality Psychology, Professor Shiller starts a list of important topics in Behavioral Finance with Daniel Kahneman’s and Amos’s Tversky’s Prospect Theory. The value function and the probability weighting function, as two key components of this theory, help explain certain patterns in people’s everyday decision making, e.g. the existence of diamond ring insurance and airline flight insurance. An in-class experiment underscores the prevalence and importance of the concept of overconfidence. Further topics include Regret Theory, gambling behavior, cognitive dissonance, anchoring, the representativeness heuristic, and social contagion. Professor Shiller concludes the lecture with some perspectives on moral judgment in the business world, addressing shared values and integrity.

Theory of Debt, Its Proper Role, Leverage Cycles

Professor Shiller at Yale University devotes the beginning of the lecture to exploring the theoretical determinants of the level of interest rates. Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk names technical progress, roundaboutness, and time preference as the crucial factors. Professor Shiller complements von Boehm-Bawerk’s analysis with two of Irving Fisher’s modeling approaches, the view of the interest rate as the equilibrium variable in the savings market and the perspective of simple Robinson Crusoe economies on the determination of interest rates. Subsequently, Professor Shiller focuses his attention on present discounted values and derives the price for discount bonds, consols, annuities, as well as corporate bonds. His treatment of the term structure of interest rates leads him to forward rates and the expectations theory of the term structure of interest rates. At the end of the lecture, he offers insights on usurious loan practices, from ancient times until today, and describes the improvements in consumer financial protection that have been made after the financial crisis of the 2000s.

Insurance, the Archetypal Risk Management Institution, its Opportunities and Vulnerabilities

In the beginning of the lecture, Professor Shiller at Yale University talks about risk pooling as the fundamental concept of insurance, followed by references to moral hazard and selection bias as prominent problems of the insurance industry. In order to provide an explicit example from the insurance industry, he elaborates on the story behind American International Group (AIG), from its creation by Cornelius Vander Starr in Shanghai in 1919, to Maurice “Hank” Greenberg’s time as CEO, until its bailout by the U.S. government in 2008. Subsequently, he turns toward the regulation of the insurance industry, covering state insurance guarantee funds, the role of the McCarran-Ferguson Act from 1945, as well as the impact of the Dodd-Frank bill on the insurance industry. He devotes special attention to two branches of the insurance industry–life insurance and health insurance–and emphasizes, among other aspects, the consequences of the health care overhaul in the U.S. from 2010. He discusses the example of earthquakes, with insurance in Haiti and catastrophe bonds in Mexico. At the end of the lecture, he critically reflects on the role of the insurance industry in the face of catastrophes.

Portfolio Diversification and Supporting Financial Institutions

In this lecture, Professor Shiller at Yale University introduces mean-variance portfolio analysis, as originally outlined by Harry Markowitz, and the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) that has been the cornerstone of modern financial theory. Professor Shiller commences with the history of the first publicly traded company, The United East India Company, founded in 1602. Incorporating also the more recent history of stock markets all over the world, he elaborates on the puzzling size of the equity premium. very high historical return of stock market investments. After introducing the notion of an Efficient Portfolio Frontier, he covers the concept of the Tangency Portfolio, which leads him to the Mutual Fund Theorem. Finally, the consideration of equilibrium in the stock market leads him to the Capital Asset Pricing Model, which emphasizes market risk as the determinant of a stock’s return.


The stock market is the information center for the corporate sector. It represents individuals’ ownership in publicly-held corporations. Although corporations have a variety of stakeholders, the shareholders of a for-profit corporation are central since the company is ultimately responsible to them. Companies offer dividends, stock repurchases and stock dividends to give profits back to shareholders or to signal information. Companies can also take on debt to raise capital, creating leverage. The Modigliani-Miller theory of a company’s leverage in its simplest form implies the leverage ratio doesn’t matter, but including bankruptcy costs and tax effects give us a positive theory of the ratio. It’s a lecture at Yale University.

Risk Aversion and the Capital Asset Pricing Theorem

Until now we have ignored risk aversion. The Bernoulli brothers were the first to suggest a tractable way of representing risk aversion. They pointed out that an explanation of the St. Petersburg paradox might be that people care about expected utility instead of expected income, where utility is some concave function, such as the logarithm. One of the most famous and important models in financial economics is the Capital Asset Pricing Model, which can be derived from the hypothesis that every agent has a (different) quadratic utility. Much of the modern mutual fund industry is based on the implications of this model. The model describes what happens to prices and asset holdings in general equilibrium when the underlying risks can’t be hedged in the aggregate. It turns out that the tools we developed in the beginning of this course provide an answer to this question. It’s a lecture at Yale University.

Efficiency, Assets, and Time

Over time, economists’ justifications for why free markets are a good thing have changed. In the first few classes, we saw how under some conditions, the competitive allocation maximizes the sum of agents’ utilities. When it was found that this property didn’t hold generally, the idea of Pareto efficiency was developed. This class at Yale University reviews two proofs that equilibrium is Pareto efficient, looking at the arguments of economists Edgeworth, and Arrow-Debreu. The lecture suggests that if a broadening of the economic model invalidated the sum of utilities justification of free markets, a further broadening might invalidate the Pareto efficiency justification of unregulated markets. Finally, Professor Geanakoplos discusses how Irving Fisher introduced two crucial ingredients of finance,–time and assets–into the standard economic equilibrium model.