The investment banks wanted the SEC to exempt their brokerage units from an old regulation that limited the amount of debt they could take on.

The exemption would free up billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments.

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The story of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is a classic case of policy capture that highlights the importance of reliability in governance and the effects when it is absent.

The Wall Street Journal and CBS have reported that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae spent millions of dollars lobbying some influential members of congress, in exchange for, among others, lax capital reserve requirements.

In the private sector, the same concept applies – firms’ leadership enables the functioning of various departments and is responsible for the welfare of the firm’s employees.

A firm’s leadership also largely determines the firm’s performance and its ability to meet its goals.

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The 2004 decision was a chance for the SEC to supervise the banks’ increasingly risky investments in mortgage-related securities, but the agency never followed through on this and it remained a low priority, until now.

Another factor of good governance is organizational capacity.

In this financial crisis, it is hard not to question the competence of the regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing the financial institutions, and the competence of the financial institutions themselves.