Friday, October 15, 2010

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision is guilty of gross negligence

I have since 1997 been criticizing the regulatory paradigm of capital requirements for banks based on ex-ante perceived risks and applied by the regulators of the Basel Committee, primarily because I felt these would only confuse the market when it cleared for default risks by means of its risk premiums and that there were systemic dangers in forcing the opinions of the credit rating agencies too much on the banks.

Since all past financial and bank crisis have resulted from excessive investments in what ex-ante was perceived as low risk, I also saw these requirements of more-risk-more-capital, less-risk-less-capital, to be absolutely counterfactual.

As I frequently spoke out about the previously in very clear and harsh words, and never received a response, I simply assumed the Basel Committee regulators to be lost for words and incapable of assuming their responsibility; or just plain thick-as-a-brick.

Unfortunately, now I must also accuse them of gross negligence, as I have only recently been able to internalize to its full extent that when the regulators calculated their risk-weights, they never considered the fact that the riskier pay much higher premiums, and which, when repaid, as it most often is, goes directly to the capital of the banks.

In “An Explanatory Note on the Basel II IRB Risk-Weight Functions", July 2005 prepared by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision we read: “Interest rates, including risk premia, charged on credit exposures may absorb some components of unexpected losses, but the market will not support prices sufficient to cover all unexpected losses.” That would prove the regulators decided to completely ignore the markets… with premeditation.

This is exactly like if the insurance regulators required the insurance companies to post higher capital when insuring the health of persons who represent higher health-risks, without accounting for the fact that these persons will be obliged, precisely therefore, to pay much higher insurance premiums.

How negligent can one be? This negligence resulted in an odious regulatory discrimination of those perceived as “risky”, like the many small unrated businesses or entrepreneurs who, as a result did not get access to bank credit or had to pay much more than the market premiums for it. It also directly provoked the current crisis by creating the incentives that made the banks stampede after AAA-ratings, until they took the world over the subprime cliff.

I do not know whether or where you can present an accusation against the Basel Committee for gross negligence, but I do know that all its members should be forced to parade down the major streets of many capitals in the world, wearing their cone of shame.