Spreadsheets and the Financial Collapse

Croll, Grenville J.
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We briefly review the well-known risks, weaknesses and limitations of spreadsheets and then introduce some more. We review and slightly extend our previous work on the importance and criticality of spreadsheets in the City of London, introducing the notions of ubiquity, centrality, legality and contagion. We identify the sector of the financial market that we believed in 2005 to be highly dependant on the use of spreadsheets and relate this to its recent catastrophic financial performance. We outline the role of spreadsheets in the collapse of the Jamaican banking system in the late 1990's and then review the UK financial regulator's knowledge of the risks of spreadsheets in the contemporary financial system. We summarise the available evidence and suggest that there is a link between the use of spreadsheets and the recent collapse of the global financial system. We provide governments and regulating authorities with some simple recommendations to reduce the risks of continued overdependence on unreliable spreadsheets. We conclude with three fundamental lessons from a century of human error research.
Comment: 17 Pages
Computer Science - Computers and Society, Computer Science - Human-Computer Interaction