Are Financial Institutions Too Big or Too Big to Fail?

Reunions Lecture

Fri, 05/30/2014
4:00 PM, McCosh Hall, Room 50
Event Category: 
Panel Discussion

Have recent reforms done away with the problem of “too big to fail” or not? How should large financial institutions be regulated? A distinguished panel of experts from the public sector, the private sector, and academia present contrasting perspectives on this critical issue.


  • Paul A. Volcker '49
    Former Federal Reserve chairman; Founder of the Volcker Alliance
  • Richard J. Herring *73
    Jacob Safra Professor of International Banking, Wharton School,
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Martin J. Gruenberg '75
    Chair, U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Donald S. Bernstein '75
    Partner and head of Insolvency and Restructuring Practice,
    Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Moderated by Linda Goldberg *88, Vice President of Intermediation at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.


Paul A. Volcker ’49 served two terms as chairman of the Federal Reserve (1979-1987) under Presidents Carter and Reagan, where he is credited with bringing a high level of inflation to an end. On the heels of the 2007 financial crisis Volcker served as economic adviser to President Obama and chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, from February 2009 until January 2011. During this time he proposed changes in the law to prohibit proprietary speculative trading activity by banks or bank owned institutions for their own gain rather than for the benefit of the consumer. This became part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In 2013, Volcker launched the Volcker Alliance to address ineffective public policies and distrust in government. As a nonpartisan, non-profit organization based in New York City, the Volcker Alliance aims to catalyze new thinking and action with respect to federal, state, and local government in the U.S. and abroad. Volcker was educated at Princeton, Harvard and the London School of Economics.

Richard J. Herring is Jacob Safra Professor of International Banking and Professor of Finance at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where he is also founding director of the Wharton Financial Institutions Center. He is the author of more than 150 articles, monographs and books on various topics in financial regulation, international banking, and international finance.  At various times his research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Brookings Institution, the Sloan Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Royal Swedish Commission on Productivity.  He served as Vice Dean and Director of the Wharton Undergraduate Division from 1995 - 2000 and from 2000 – 2006, he was Director of the Lauder Institute, a dual degree program that combines an MBA with an MA in international studies and a high level of proficiency in one of seven foreign languages.  Outside the university, he is co-chair of the US Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee and Executive Director of the Financial Economist's Roundtable.  He is also a member of the FDIC Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee, the Systemic Risk Council and the Hoover Institution Working Group on Resolution Policy.  Herring received his undergraduate degree from Oberlin College in 1968 and his PhD from Princeton University in 1973.

Martin J. Gruenberg is the 20th Chairman of the FDIC, receiving Senate confirmation on November 15, 2012 for a five-year term.Mr. Gruenberg served as Vice Chairman and Member of the FDIC Board of Directors from August 22, 2005 until his confirmation as Chairman. He served as Acting Chairman from July 9, 2011 to November 15, 2012, and also from November 16, 2005 to June 26, 2006.  Mr. Gruenberg joined the FDIC Board after broad congressional experience in the financial services and regulatory areas. He served as Senior Counsel to Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) on the staff of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs from 1993 to 2005. Mr. Gruenberg advised the Senator on issues of domestic and international financial regulation, monetary policy and trade. He also served as Staff Director of the Banking Committee's Subcommittee on International Finance and Monetary Policy from 1987 to 1992. Major legislation in which Mr. Gruenberg played an active role during his service on the Committee includes the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA); the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA); the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.  Mr. Gruenberg served as Chairman of the Executive Council and President of the International Association of Deposit Insurers (IADI) from November 2007 to November 2012.  Mr. Gruenberg holds a J.D. from Case Western Reserve Law School and an A.B. from Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Donald S. Bernstein is a partner with Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York, where he is head of the firm's Insolvency and Restructuring Practice Group.  Mr. Bernstein's practice includes representing debtors, creditors, liquidators, receivers and acquirers in major corporate restructurings and insolvency proceedings, as well as advising financial institutions regarding resolution planning and the credit risks involved in derivatives, securities transactions, and other domestic and international financial transactions.  He is a past chair of the National Bankruptcy Conference, a Commissioner on the ABI Commission to Study the Reform of Chapter 11, a director of the International Insolvency Institute and a past director of the American College of Bankruptcy.  He has been Treasurer and a member of the Executive Committee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and is a former Chair of City Bar Association's Committee on Bankruptcy and Corporate Reorganization and of the TriBar Opinion Committee.  He is also on the Board of Editors of Collier on Bankruptcy.  Mr. Bernstein has also served as a member of the Official United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and is a member of the Legal Advisory Panel of the Financial Stability Board.  Mr. Bernstein graduated from Princeton University and received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

Linda Goldberg is a Vice President of Financial Intermediation at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a Research Associate of the NBER. Linda's main research and policy interests are in international finance and macroeconomics, covering topics such as exchange rates and real economic activity, the international roles of the dollar, and the form and consequences of global banking. Linda is the Director of the Center for Global Banking Studies at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the co-chair of the International Banking Research Network, is a member of the Council on the International Monetary System of the World Economic Forum, and has participated in several international working groups related to international banking. Linda currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Financial Intermediation and the Journal of Financial Services Research, and previously served as editor of Current Issues in Economics and Finance and Associate Editor of the Economic Policy Review, both publications of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Book Review Editor of the Journal of International Economics. Linda is on the Board of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession for the American Economic Association. Linda was a professor of economics at New York University and a visiting professor at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked or consulted for numerous international agencies, including the IMF, the World Bank, and the OECD. Linda has a PhD in Economics from Princeton University, and a B.A. in Mathematics and Economics, from Queens College, City University of New York, where she graduated with Honors of Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude. She is a native of New York City and a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science.

Reception to follow in the McCosh Courtyard Tent. To 6:00 PM.

Sponsored by the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance.