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Regulators Alarmed by Risky Loans, But Don’t Know Who Holds Them

Chinese Yuan, Hong Kong Dollar and U.S. Dollar Banknotes
Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg
Updated on

The steady drumbeat of warnings over the surge in risky corporate borrowing is growing louder and louder. Time and again, regulators in the U.S. and Europe have pointed to the hazards of businesses taking on too much debt.

At issue is the $1.3 trillion leveraged lending market, composed of high-yield loans from firms with some of the weakest finances. While Federal Reserve and European Central Bank officials have drawn attention to these heavily indebted companies and the deteriorating standards of loans bundled into securities called CLOs, most regulators are careful to say a repeat of 2008 is unlikely because investors, rather than the banks they oversee, hold most of the debt.