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Is Crisis Returning to Europe?

Does another financial crisis loom in the Eurozone? The Financial Times says that Europe’s banking system was never cleaned up after 2008.

Bloomberg Business says that a crop of new bank CEOs in Europe have a small window to resolve the challenges of slow growth, new regulations, and surging financial technology startups: “Since the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, eight of Europe’s biggest banks have announced layoffs adding up to about 100,000 employees, paid $63 billion in legal penalties, and lost $420 billion in market value."

In Global Network Perspectives, HEC Paris’s Oliver Klein said that the structure of the Eurozone increases the risk of a crisis. But in a Yale Insights discussion, a panel of experts found some reasons for cautious optimism.

On the Other Hand

What’s happening to the global economy? Dozens of equity markets have fallen into bear territory. There’s solid job growth in the U.S., but China is struggling to avoid a hard landing. The Fed is confident enough to raise interest rates, but oil prices have crashed.

The atmosphere is one of profound uncertainty. “What makes these falling prices unnerving,” the New York Times says, “is that it’s hard to tell a simple story about what is driving them.”

What’s the worst-case scenario? “We might be at the edge of a global recession,” said Citibank’s Christian Schulz on Bloomberg. In the fourth quarter of 2015, global growth approached the 2% mark—and central banks have few options remaining. “It’s a vulnerable situation.”

The drop in equity markets may simply be a needed correction, the Economist noted. But, the magazine wrote elsewhere, “whether the market gyrations are rooted firmly in fundamentals or not, they could themselves be a source of economic instability…. A recession, after all, is nothing more than a rut of self-ratifying pessimism.”

Is There a Market Failure in the Prescription Drug Industry?

A Senate hearing on soaring drug prices heard testimony that “competition had dried up, resulting in a broken system that allowed some older drug prices to spiral out of control in ways that called for government to intervene,” according to the Washington Post.

However, some see government intervention as the source of the problem. In Wired, Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt described drug companies as the antithesis of free-market actors; rather, he said, they are “fragile little birds that the protective hand of government carefully shields from the harsh vagaries of truly free, competitive markets.” Wired pointed to a number of tools that calculate prices for drugs based on the value they deliver.

Yale Insights talked with Clive Meanwell, CEO of The Medicines Company, about the challenges that pharma faces and Meanwell’s vision for a new economic model.

Is the World Ready to Confront Climate Change?

In advance of the UN climate talks in Paris, the World Bank called for rapid and inclusive development that will mitigate the impact of climate change on the planet’s poorest people.
A poll by Pew found that a majority of people in 39 of the 40 countries surveyed support placing limits on greenhouse gases (Pakistan was the sole exception). Africans and Latin Americans are the most concerned, according to a breakdown by the New York Times. Russia has shown little engagement with the issue; President Vladimir Putin is a skeptic and the state-controlled media’s coverage is described as “climate silence,” according to the Washington Post.

A new study, published in Nature, found that left unchecked, climate change will shrink the global economy 23% by 2100. At the same time, inequality will be exacerbated because warming will do the most harm to poorer countries, according to the Washington Post.

Are Patients Ready to Be Consumers?

Are patients ready to be consumers? Just one in seven people understand the basic parts of a health insurance plan. Providers rarely know the costs of the services they recommend. Insurers are uniquely positioned to educate and align incentives along the patient-insurer-provider triad, but Dr. Rena Xu, writing in the New Yorker, finds little evidence that that’s happening.

Using a behavioral economics lens, the New York Times ticks through the many hurdles consumers facing in choosing the best health plan for their circumstances. 


The Business of Climate Change

The U.S. and China have many differences. But, Orville Schell, writing in Yale Environment360, sees climate as an unexpected point of agreement between the the world's top two emitters of greenhouse gases.

International cooperation on climate change doesn’t just mean nation-to-nation. Michael Bloomberg and John Kerry argue that city-to-city sharing of best practices is critical, in a Bloomberg View op-ed. Noting that cities account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and 90% are located in areas vulnerable to extreme weather and sea-level rise, they highlight implementable innovations.

Yale Insights reports on a discussion about the Paris climate negotiations, where the business sector will have a seat at the table for the first time.

Can We Stop Hackers Before They Strike?

Organizations receive an average of 17,000 cyber threat alerts each week. The New York Times reports on a Virginia cyberintelligence startup that searches the “dark web” for signs of hackers' next steps and provides customers, including government agencies and large businesses, with guidance on how to stay ahead of attacks.

Yale’s Paul Bracken describes how the Pentagon helped spark the development of a defense technology hub in northern Virginia—the latest chapter in the history of defense spending as a driver of technology and innovation.

Can CEO Pay Be Reined In?

The SEC’s new rule requiring companies to disclose the ratio of CEO pay to that of the median employee unleashed a flood of praise and criticism. The New York Times highlights some reasons it might reduce outsized executive pay. The Atlantic points to an alternative: Lynn Stout’s recommendation that limiting corporations’ ability to deduct executive pay from their taxes would have a far larger impact. Yale Insights talked with Stout about executive compensation and the role of shareholder value in setting direction in corporations. 

In Global Network Perspectives, Clemens Otto of HEC Paris reports that optimistic CEOs get paid less than their pessimistic peers. 

A Financial Singularity?

Professor Robert Shiller recently took on the idea that algorithmic trading is driving the investing universe toward a "financial singularity" where all alpha—a measurement of risk-adjusted returns—will go to zero. He writes, “Human judgment, good and bad, will drive investment decisions and financial-market outcomes for the rest of our lives and beyond.”

In a conversation with Yale Insights, Robert Litterman, a pioneer of quantitative investing, said that algorithm-driven investing has become more and more sophisticated as once-successful approaches are disseminated and lose their edge. But he also highlights the human part of the investing equation: “You can bring statistical evidence to bear but you also have to bring judgment to bear as well.”

Can Iran be trusted?

After a preliminary deal with Iran was announced earlier this month, Jessica T. Mathews, the former president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the New York Review of Books that any final agreement should be seen as only the beginning of a process for achieving a nonnuclear Iran.

“Those who worry that a deal with Iran will entail some risk should remember that preventing nuclear proliferation almost never happens in a single leap,” she wrote. “Countries change direction slowly. International rules and norms are built up brick by brick over years. Technical capacities to monitor and political expectations are gradually but steadily strengthened.”

A few weeks before the agreement was announced, Prof. Edieal Pinker examined the negotiations through a game theory lens.