Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2010

Lessons Learned? Brooksley Born & the OTC Derivatives Market (A)

by Clayton S. Rose and David Lane


On May 7, 1998, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, chaired by Brooksley Born, issued a "Concept Release" inviting public comment on the relevance and appropriateness of existing regulation of the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market, a market with a notional value of $29 trillion dollars. The CFTC Concept Release, often a precursor to regulatory proposals, sought analysis of "the benefits and burdens of any potential regulatory modifications in light of current market realities." The Release was not welcomed by other regulators or by the Clinton administration. Just hours after it was published, U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt announced their "grave concerns" about it in an unusual joint press release that minced no words. This case explores the battle between Born, on the one hand, and a large number of policymakers, regulators, legislators, and industry representatives, on the other, over whether and how greater regulatory oversight should be applied to the OTC derivative market. Born was defeated in her efforts; OTC derivatives played a central role in the 2008–09 financial crisis.

Keywords: Financial Crisis; Credit Derivatives and Swaps; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Policy; Business and Government Relations; Financial Services Industry; Public Administration Industry; District of Columbia;


Rose, Clayton S., and David Lane. "Lessons Learned? Brooksley Born & the OTC Derivatives Market (A)." Harvard Business School Case 311-044, November 2010.