Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sir Jon Cunliffe. Tiberius would have regulated banks much better than the Basel Committee.

I hereby reference a speech titled “Macroprudential policy: from Tiberius to Crockett and beyond” given on July 28 by Sir Jon Cunliffe, Deputy Governor Financial Stability, Member of the Monetary Policy Committee, Member of the Financial Policy Committee and Member of the Prudential Regulation Authority Board 

Sir Cunliffe writes: “the underlying prudential standards – the reserves of capital and liquid assets that individual banks and other firms need to hold to enable them to withstand bad times – should be set not simply in relation to the risks in the individual firm, but also to reflect the importance of the firm to the financial system and the cost to the economy as a whole if the system fails”

Indeed but it was precisely there, when defining the risks of an individual firm, that regulators completely lost it:

Instead of considering the risks of unexpected losses, and the risk that banks would not be able to clear for the perceived risks, the regulators based “the reserves of capital and liquid assets that individual banks and other firms need to hold to enable them to withstand bad times” on the expected losses derived from the perceived credit risks… the only risks that were already being cleared for by banks by means of size of exposure and risk premiums…

And, as the regulator should have known, any risk even when perfectly perceived is wrongly managed if excessively considered. And that completely distorted the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

If you’re a kid and your parents assign two nannies to care for you, you can still live a fairly ordinary childhood if the average of your two nannies’ risk aversion is applied. But, if their two risk aversions are added up, you stand no chance, then you better forget about having a childhood.

Sir Cunliffe writes: “The financial system does not simply respond to the economic cycle, growing as the economy grows and vice versa. It also feeds on its own exuberance in good times and on its fear in bad times which can in turn drive the real economy to extremes, as we have witnessed in recent years. The underlying causes of this phenomenon are interactions, feedback loops and amplifiers that exist within the financial system that can act as turbo chargers in both directions”

Precisely and perceived credit risks, credit ratings are main feedback loops and amplifiers that exist within the financial system. In January 2003 in a letter published in FT I wrote: “Everyone knows that, sooner or later, the ratings issued by the credit agencies are just a new breed of systemic error to be propagated at modern speeds. Friends, please consider that the world is tough enough as it is.”

Sir Cunliffe writes: “recognition that what distinguishes ‘macroprudential’ from ‘microprudential’ and from ‘macroeconomic’ is its objective of financial system stability rather than the instruments it deploys.” 

Let me spell it out more directly: The best macro-prudential regulations is one of micro-prudential regulations that help banks to fail… fast… not the current micro-prudential regulation, which only helps to create too big to fail banks.

Sir Cunliffe so correctly writes: “The financial system plays a crucial role in a modern economy directing resources to where they can be most productive and can generate the greatest return. When the dynamics of the system itself distort incentives and judgments of risk and return, there can be a huge misallocation of resources in the economy. And when the bubble bursts and the economy has to adjust, a damaged financial system cannot guide the necessary reallocation of resources – indeed, as we have witnessed, it can slow it down.”

How unfortunate then that Sir Cunliffe, and his regulatory colleagues, cannot get themselves to understand that the pillar of their regulations, the portfolio invariant credit risk weighted capital requirements, is in fact the greatest source of distortion in the allocation of bank credit of them all. It guarantees the dangerous overpopulation of safe havens, as well as the equally dangerous lack of exploration of the riskier but perhaps much more productive bays.

Sir Cunliffe begins his speech by saying “Historians still argue about the exact causes of the financial crash of AD 33 that rocked the Roman Empire.” 

I guarantee him that historians will soon know perfectly well what caused the financial crash of 2008, and why it is taking so much time for the world to get out of it. And they will not be kind on the current batch of regulators. Without being clear about the crash of AD 33, they will have no doubt about that Tiberius would have known better than the Basel Committee.

Tiberius would have picked bank regulators who would have tried to understand why banks fail... not why bank clients fail. 

Tiberius would have picked bank regulators who would have known that the biggest risk for the banking system is that of not allocating bank credit efficiently to the real economy... as no bank can  remain safe while standing in the midst of the rubbles of a destroyed economy.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do we really want to bet our economies on government bureaucrats using bank credit better than SMEs and entrepreneurs?

Those who protest government austerity the loudest are frequently those who most want to force banks to increase their capital. Let us analyze the implications of that position:

If governments are not going to be austere and spend more, and consequentially run deficits, it is only natural governments will need to take on more debt.

If banks are forced to hold more capital then, while the banks find more capital and adjust their business models to those new realities, there is going to be quite a lot of austerity when it comes to the supply of bank credit to the economy.

Since current capital requirements for banks are lower when lending to the government than when lending to the private sector, that will generate a bank credit squeeze on the private sector, affecting most especially those against which loans banks needs to hold more equity, like the SMEs and the entrepreneurs.

The only way to bridge the contradiction between government austerity being something bad for the economy, and bank credit austerity something good for the economy, is of course by believing that government bureaucrats can use bank credit more efficiently than SMEs and entrepreneurs. And that friends, is a truly doubtful proposition on which to bet the future of our economies.

Citizens, it behooves us to unite much more than what government bureaucrats/technocrats unite.

In the case of banks, the Modigliani-Miller Theorem is absolutely inapplicable

James Kwak of the Baseline Scenario, in a post titled: “More Misinformation about Banking Regulation” while discussing the effects of increased capital requirements writes:

“The Modigliani-Miller Theorem…says that a firm’s capital structure — the amount of equity it has relative to debt — doesn’t matter: in the case of the hypothetical bank, if you increase equity and reduce debt, after the reduced debt payments, there is just enough cash left over to compensate the larger number of shareholders at the lower rate that they are now willing to accept.

Now, the assumptions of Modigliani-Miller don’t hold in the real world, but the main reason they don’t hold is the tax subsidy for debt…

Since the cost of capital doesn’t change with capital requirements (except, again, because of the tax subsidy for debt), the amount of bank lending doesn’t change either.” 

Oops… that is in itself some misinformation! 

For banks, besides tax considerations, the Modigliani-Miller Theorem is absolutely inapplicable; since it does not consider the value of the support society (taxpayers) explicitly or implicitly give the holders of bank debt. If a bank has 100% equity then all risk falls on the shareholder and the societal support is 0. If a bank has 5% equity and 95% debt then society contributes a lot to the party.

Frankly, like in Europe, where some banks were leveraged about 50 to 1, and rates on bank deposits are still low, who on earth can one even dream to bring the Modigliani-Miller Theorem into the analysis?

And the fluctuating societal support, is one of the main reasons behind the argument I have been making for over a decade, about how credit-risk adjusted capital requirements for banks distort the allocation of credit. Regulators are telling the banks: If you lend to what is perceived as safe, like to the AAArisktocracy, then you are allowed to hold less capital, meaning leveraging more, meaning you will receive more societal (taxpayer) backing, than if you lend to a risky SME. 

And so of course, if you increase capital requirements which reduces the leverage, banks will get less taxpayer support… ergo lend less and at higher interest costs. Would that be bad for the economy? Of course it would keep billions out of the economy (it already happens) especially while business models are adjusted and bank capital increased. But that austerity J (less societal support spending) though it would hurt would not necessarily be bad… what is really bad for the economy are the different capital requirements for different assets… since that stops bank credit from being allocated efficiently.

Take away all deposit guarantees and all bailout assistance, and then the Modigliani-Miller Theorem, subject to tax considerations would be more applicable to banks.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mark Carney: Would the Magna Carta include risk-weights as: King John 0%; AAArisktocracy 20%; Englishman 100%?

The Basel Accord of 1988 (signed one year before the Berlin wall fall) bank regulators assigned a 0% risk weight for loans to the sovereign and 100% to the private sector. Some years later, 2004, with Basel II, they reduced the risk-weight for loans to those in the private sector rated AAA to AA to 20%, and leaving the unrated with their 100%.

That introduced a considerable regulatory subsidy on the bank borrowings of the infallible sovereign (government bureaucrats) and of those of the private sector deemed almost infallible. And taxing the fair access to bank credit, of those deemed as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs, pays those subsidies.

Reading Mark Carney’s interesting: “From Lincoln to Lothbury - Magna Carta and the Bank of England” I felt like asking him what he would think the Magna Carta would have to say about these risk-weights.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fed: The biggest stress resulting from banks might be their misallocation of bank credit to the real economy.


Banks are not there just to make profits for their shareholders, or to be safe places where to stash away money… they are there to perform the social function of allocating as efficiently as possible bank credits to the real economy. That’s the only logical reason why taxpayers could be willing to lend them support.

In this respect any stress-test that does not include looking at assets banks have on their balance sheet from more than credit risk perspective, is an utterly incomplete test.

For instance taxpayers should be able to do know how much unsecured bank credit has gone to SMEs and entrepreneurs, and how that lending has evolved over the last 3 decades.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Prioritizing the financing of residential property over the financing of job creation is not the smartest thing to do

Based on Basel II’s standard capital requirements for banks, these are required to hold 2.8 percent in capital when lending secured by mortgages on residential property and 8 percent when lending to SMEs and entrepreneurs. 

That means that the adjusted for risk net margin paid by a residential borrower can be leveraged 35 times by the bank (100/2.8), while the same margin can only be leveraged 12.5 times (100/8) if paid by SMEs and entrepreneurs.

And that means banks can obtain much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending secured by mortgages on residential property than when lending to SMEs and entrepreneurs. 

And that means that banks will find it much more interesting to finance residential property than to finance those who can help to create the jobs to help residential mortgages and utilities to be serviced.  

That definitely sound skewed the wrong way. If I was the regulator I would much rather prefer banks financing more the creation of jobs, so that people could better afford to buy their homes with less financing… but that’s just little me.

“But building homes creates jobs?” Indeed, but once everyone has a home, and a mortgage to service, which diminishes their available income, where are our grandchildren to work?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Financial Stability Board makes efforts to identify “Risk Free Benchmarks”...and I don't know whether to laugh or cry

The Financial Stability Board issued a report on trying to identify “Risk Free Benchmarks

That, in ordinary circumstances, is a very difficult thing to do, since so many other factors than just pure risk considerations, are involved in creating interest rates… for instance tax considerations. 

But, when bank regulators, with Basel I and II, introduced credit-risk weighted capital requirements for banks, by distorting the allocation of bank credit so completely, they made it impossible to determine anything close to real risk free-rates.

The easiest way I have found to explain this issue is by making the following question: What would the rates on for instance US Treasury Bonds and Germany’s Bunds be, if banks were required to hold the same percentage of capital against these that they are required to hold against a loan to an American or a German SME?

PS. The subsidized risk free rate

Greece urgently needs lower capital requirements for banks when lending to SMEs than when lending to its government

Between June 2004 and November 2009 thanks to Basel II, banks were allowed to lend to the Government of Greece against only 1.6 percent in capital while requiring banks to hold 8 percent in capital when lending to the private sector.

That meant that banks could leverage their equity 62.5 times lending to the Government but only 12.5 times when lending to the private sector.

That meant, of course, that banks ended up lending much too much to the government and much too little to the private sector, like to Greek SMEs and entrepreneurs.

And here we are with Greece stuck in the doldrums and not finding its way out.

If I were its doctor, I would immediately recommend that banks should be allowed to hold less capital when lending to the private sector than when lending to the government. Since the private sector is the heart of the economy it is very urgent it gets out of it flat-line, by banks pumping the oxygen it needs.

Just before the fall of the Berlin wall, communists/statists gave the free market and capitalistic world the finger.

In 1988, just before the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, some communists/statists hacked into the free market capitalist world’s bank regulations. By means of Basel I, and for the purpose of determining the capital requirements for banks, they arranged so that the risk weight for lending to OECD sovereigns was zero percent, the risk weight for lending secured with houses 50%, while the risk weight for lending to the private sector was set at 100 percent.

Since the basic capital requirement was set at 8 percent that meant that banks could leverage 62.5 times to 1 (100/1.6) when lending to sovereigns, 25 to 1 (100/4) when financing the purchase of houses and 12.5 times to 1 (100/8) when lending to the private sector. 

That doomed bank to lend too much to the governments and too much to the housing sector, and basically to abandon the traditional role of banks, namely to provide credit for the private sector, like to SMEs and entrepreneurs.

And that in turn doomed the free market and capitalistic economies of the western world.

And so who’s laughing now?

Please, for the good of our grandchildren, it might already be too late for our children, help me tear down that Basel Committee wall… urgently … Greece is just the tip of the iceberg!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Do we need capital requirements for banks based on willingness-and ability-to-lie-and-cheat-ratings?

With Basel II of June 2004, the Basel Committee imposed capital requirements for banks based on credit ratings... stupidly ignoring that bankers were already clearing for such ratings by means of risk-premiums and size of exposures… and naively thinking those credit ratings would always capture real risks.

After having seen the mess that has been caused by for instance much too good credit ratings for the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector, and the loans to the government of Greece, one could suspect that smarter regulators would have based their capital requirements for banks based on willingness-and ability-to-lie-and-cheat-ratings.

Some decades ago somebody asked me… how come this honest Scandinavian country come up as  more honest than this other honest Scandinavian country on the worldwide corruption index? My instinctive reaction was… the first must have paid more.

Frankly, our current bank regulators have been taken for a ride… an extremely costly ride for us since regulators now dangerously distort the allocation of bank credit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bank regulators… dare to answer this single question

There are literally thousand of risks, especially many unexpected risks, which could bring our banking system down.

And so why on earth did you regulators base your capital requirements for banks, those which are to cover especially for unexpected risks, solely on the ex ante perceived credit risk, that which is basically the only risk already cleared for by banks, by means of interests risk premiums and the size of their exposures?

And, to top it up, you made those capital requirements portfolio invariant… as if diversification has no meaning?

If anything, should you not have based it on the risks that bankers were not able to clear for those perceived risks?

Since that dangerously distorts the allocation of bank credit to the real economy, do we not deserve a clear-cut answer on that?

I have been asking this for over a decade, and you have not even wanted to acknowledge my question. Does that not tell you something?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If the US stops distorting the allocation of bank credit to the real economy… does Europe dare to be left behind?

For 6.000 (out of 6.400) traditional US banks those that hold, effectively, zero trading assets or liabilities; no derivative positions other than interest rate swaps and foreign exchange derivatives; and whose total notional value of all their derivatives exposures - including cleared and non-cleared derivatives - is less than $3 billion...

Thomas M. Hoenig, the Vice Chairman of the FDIC is proposing the following:

“A bank should have a ratio of GAAP equity-to-assets of at least 10 percent. The substantial majority of [US] community banks already have equity-to-asset ratios of 10 percent or higher, and the number is in reach for those that do not.”

“Exempting traditional banks from all Basel capital standards and associated capital amount calculations and risk-weighted asset calculations.”

If approved, that would effectively mean the US begins to distance itself from the pillar of Basel Committees bank regulations, the credit-risk-weighted capital requirements.

Since those capital requirements odiously discriminate against the fair access to bank credit of borrowers deemed “risky”; and thereby distorts bank credit allocation, that would mean that most US banks would be able to return to real lending to the real economy.

Does Europe dare to be left behind in such development?

PS. Its about time the US suspended such regulatory discrimination, which should never have been allowed, according to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (Regulation B)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Suppose a dictator decided on bank regulations.

What if in a country there was a dictator who told banks: I will allow you to leverage much more your equity, so that you can earn much higher risk adjusted returns on your equity and on the implicit support our taxpayers give your banks, that is as long as you lend to the government, meaning to me, your infallible sovereign, to my friends and courtesans, the AAArisktocracy, and stay away from lending to those perceived as risky, like our quite vulgar SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Would you not be upset? Especially considering that it is precisely SMEs and entrepreneurs who most need to have fair access to bank credit in order to help the real economy to move forward and not to stall and fall.

Would you not be upset? Especially considering that de facto means the dictator believes the government, or the AAArisktocracy, can use bank credit more efficiently than what SMEs and entrepreneurs can?

Would you not be upset? Especially considering that never ever do major bank crises result from excessive bank lending to those perceived as risky, these always result from excessive lending to those who were erroneously perceived as safe.

For your information, the Basel Committee, and the Financial Stability Board, with their portfolio invariant credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks, dictated precisely that... for the whole world. And the world so submissively, says nothing about it.



Sunday, June 21, 2015

How do you explain to grownups the benefits of compound interests in times of zero or negative interest rates?

The Washington Post carried a story on June 21 titled “Where broke millennials go to learn aboutmoney – Financial planning for grownups.

In it its author Jonelle Marte, writes about a wine-tasting meeting organized by the Society of Grownups, in which “Stephanie Labelle was busy jotting notes as financial planner Jena Palisoul explained compound interest”.

And I was left wondering about how you go about and explain the benefits of compound interests, in times of zero or even negative interest rates.

Also, if I had been there to advise these young adults on the best way to guarantee their future I would, without a shadow of a doubt, told them to get rid of current bank regulators with their senseless risk-aversion. 

The currentcredit-risk-weighted capital requirements, make banks invest in assets much more compatible with the investment needs of a retiree with very few years of life expectancies, than with those of young grownups… those who needs banks to finance “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, in order to have the economy going and generating jobs.

Actually I would suggest the Society of Grownups writing the regulators a kind letter reminding them that major bank crisis are never ever caused by excessive exposures to what is perceived as risky, but always from too large exposures to what has been erroneously perceived as very safe.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Where could truly dangerous really unexpected events occur the most?





REALLY UNEXPECTED? THINK IT THROUGH?

Bank capital is to be held against unexpected losses because the expected losses derived from the perceived risks are already cleared for by smaller exposures and higher risk premiums,

The Basel Committee for banking supervision considered the dangerous looking forest had the greatest potential of the unexpected...

and therefore decided to require banks to hold the greatest capital when entering the dark scary forest (with its expected risks) than when entering that beautiful field (with its little expected risks).

Smart or extremely dumb?

Extremely dumb no doubt: That's why banks loaded up on what was perceived as safe, like AAA rated securities, like loans to Spanish real estate, like loans to the government of Greece... and do not give loans to those "risky" SMEs and entrepreneurs... who can help or economies to move forward, in order not to stall and not to fall.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Is the problem with our bank regulators a lack of testosterone?

We have read a lot about excessive testosterone levels producing excessive risk taking, for instance in banks. But, could a deficiency of testosterone equally produce an excessive risk aversion.

Let me explain. Even though the credit risks perceived by bankers are already cleared for by means of the size of the exposure and risk premiums, current bank regulators imposed on banks higher capital requirements for what is perceived as risky than for what is perceived as safe. 

And the above is like adding up the risk aversion of two nannies before deciding what the children can do; and so of course the children are not allowed to do much; and so of course banks will lend too much to the “safe” and too little to the “risky”… and so of course there is a monstrous distortion of the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

To top it up, it does not serve any stability purpose, since all major bank crises have always resulted from excessive exposures to what was erroneously considered “safe” and never ever to something correctly perceived as risky.

This, being so scared of what is perceived as risky and so little suspicious of what is perceived as safe, is so loony that perhaps it points to a hormonal imbalance. Could it be that current bank regulators have a serious lack of testosterone?

I, as many others, suffer from too much risk aversion, and so I could be suffering from that lack of testosterone too. But, in me, that deficiency presents no major problem, except perhaps for my kids who might therefore not inherit what they could inherit. But, when the testosterone deficiency is present in those who regulate our banks, then we are talking about that kind of systemic illnesses that can even bring a Western world down on its knees.

PS. Again. If you lend too much to what is perceived as risky and too little to what is perceived as safe, then it might be because of excessive testosterone… why then can if you lend too much too what is perceived as safe, and too little to what is perceived as risky, not be a lack of testosterone?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This is the so sad totally ignored important historic turning point event of the whole Western civilization.

In 1988, the G10 countries, signed up on the Basel Accord. With it, with Basel I, the regulators imposed on banks capital requirements based on ex-ante perceived credit risks.

And the risk weight assigned to the private sector was 100 percent, while the risk weight assigned to their governments was zero percent.

That meant banks needed to hold NO capital when lending to their governments, but 8 percent when lending to the private sector (the basic Basel 8 percent standard capital requirement, multiplied by the risk weight).

That meant that banks could leverage their equity and the support they explicitly and implicitly received from taxpayers infinitely, when lending to their governments, but only about 12 to 1, when lending to the citizens.

That meant in essence, that the regulators decreed that government bureaucrats would be able to use bank credit much more efficiently than the private sector.

That meant in essence, that the free Western world signed up to communistic precepts.

Is that not a historic turning point for our Western World? Tell me, how many times have you heard this being discussed?

And then, in 2004, with Basel II, regulators decided that the risk weight for those private sector borrowers rated AAA to AA was to be 20 percent, while for the unrated ordinary citizens and their SMEs, it remained 100 percent.

And that meant that regulatory risk aversion was also introduced with respect to bank credit to the private sector in the Western world... making it impossible for SMEs and entrepreneurs to have fair access to bank credit.

And since that its been going down down down and these two sad historical event are still being ignored.

Any civilization unwilling to take risks will stall and fall.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Greece was taken down by loony statist technocrats or by hard line communists, acting as bank regulators.

More than six years ago, in jest, but also in all seriousness, I set up a blog named AAA-bomb. In it I recounted the actions of “Carlos Molotov Pavlov, a central planner who to avenge his loss of a cushy job in the Soviet entered the bank regulatory system in Basel and managed to create, seed and detonate an AAA-bomb in the heart of the capitalist Empire”

Already in 1999 in a Op-Ed I had written: “The possible Big Bang that scares me the most is the one that could happen the day those genius bank regulators in Basel, playing Gods, manage to introduce a systemic error in the financial system, which will cause the collapse of our banks”.

The AAA-Bomb, which had been invented in 1988 with the Basel Accord, Basel I, and that had been further refined in 2004, Basel II, was the credit-risk-weighted capital requirements for banks.

While these required banks to hold 8 percent in capital when lending to any unrated SME in Europe, these allowed banks, in accordance to how Greece was then rated, to lend to the government of Greece against only 1.6 percent in capital. So banks could leverage their equity, and the support they received from taxpayers, over 60 times lending to Greece compared to only about 12 times to 1 when lending to, for instance, a German or a Greek SME.

Implicitly those capital requirements meant that regulators believed government bureaucrats were capable of using bank credit more efficiently than the private sector.

And of course that had to mean sovereigns were going to become over-indebted… and Greece was just one of the AAA-bomb's first casualties.

PS. Citizens beware of the Basel Committee's bureaucrats/technocrats bearing gifts to government bureaucrats/technocrats.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mark Twain vs. The Basel Committee for Banking Supervision… Who do you think is right?

Mark Twain is supposed to have said: “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain” 

The Basel Committee though, with its credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks, evidently argues: A banker lends you the umbrella when it rains but want it back when the sun shines”. 

I mean, otherwise, as regulators wanting banks to hold capital against unexpected losses, would it require banks to hold much more capital when lending to “the risky”, those in the rain, than when lending to “the safe”, those enjoying the sun? 

I side a hundred percent with Mark Twain… because I have never ever seen a major bank crisis that has resulted from bankers lending too much to those they perceive as being in the rain, these have always resulted from lending too much to those they believe find themselves in the sun.

If you think that would seem to mean I believe those in the Basel Committee have no idea of what they are doing… you are absolutely right… I don’t.

It is tragic. The direct consequences of what the Basel Committee is doing, is that banks will now earn much higher risk adjusted returns on what is in the sun than on what is in the rain, and therefore only lend the umbrella to those they see in the sun, and stay away entirely from lending to those they see in the rain... like to all the "risky" SMEs and entrepreneurs, those  who could create the future jobs our grandchildren will need.



Friday, June 12, 2015

The Minsky "displacement" that caused the ongoing crisis, was the credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

I cite from Charles P. Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics and Crashes” 1978.

“Financial crisis are associated with the peaks of business cycles… the culmination of a period of expansion.

According to Hyman Minsky, events leading up to a crisis start with a ‘displacement’ some exogenous, outside shock to the macroeconomic system. The nature of this displacement varies from one speculative boom to another. It may be the outbreak or end of a war, a bumper harvest or crop failure, the widespread adoption of an invention with pervasive effects – canals, railroads, the automobile – some political event or surprising financial success, or a debt conversion that precipitously lower interest rates. But whatever the source of the displacement, if it is sufficiently large and pervasive, it will alter the economic outlook by changing profit opportunities in at least one important sector of the economy. Displacement brings opportunities for profit in some new or existing lines, and closes out others… a boom is under way.

In Minsky’s model, the boom is fed by an expansion of bank credit which enlarges the total money supply… Bank credit is, or at least has been, notoriously unstable and the Minsky model is based squarely on that fact.” End of quote


In 1999 in a Op-Ed in I wrote: “The possible Big Bang that scares me the most is the one that could happen the day those genius bank regulators in Basel, playing Gods, manage to introduce a systemic error in the financial system, which will cause the collapse of our banks” 

And I have no doubt that the systemic error, the Minsky displacement that brought on the credit expansion that resulted in the financial crisis of 2007-08, was the introduction by regulators of credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

That facilitated a tremendous credit expansion by allowing banks to hold absolute minimum equity against assets perceived as safe. We are talking about zero percent when lending to sovereigns (Basel I 1988) to 1.6 percent when lending to the private sector rated AAA to AA (Basel II 2004).

And allowing for such minimum equity, while still lending the banking sector much implicit and explicit government support, made possible immense leverages and thereby immense risk-adjusted returns on bank equity on assets perceived as safe, while closing out the fair access to bank credit for all those perceived as “risky”, like the SMEs.

And today, soon a decade later, that “displacement” which completely distorted the allocation of bank credit to the real economy has not even been acknowledged much less corrected.

PS. Read Charles P. Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics and Crashes” and you will not find one evidence that supports current credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks… unless perhaps they are 180 degrees the opposite: higher for what is perceived as safe and lower for what is perceived as risky.

PS. In the Wikipedia on Hyman Minsky, I do not agree with how Paul McCulley translates the Minsky's hypothesis to the subprime mortgage crisis ignoring the minimum bank capital requirements associated with the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector.