Sunday, November 14, 2010

The mystery of the unconnected dots!

We have two outstanding pieces of evidence that can help us understand the current financial crisis and therefore help us to avoid repeating the same mistake… and so we could at least give new mistakes a chance to show what they are worth.

The first evidence is the really mindboggling acceleration in demand after mid 2004 for securities rated triple-A and which led to over two trillion dollars from all over the world to be invested and lost in securities which were collateralized with very badly awarded mortgages to the subprime sector.

The second evidence is represented by two dates and one piece of bank regulations:

On April 28, 2004 in an Open Meeting the SEC discussed "Alternative Net Capital Requirements for Broker-Dealers that are Part of Consolidated Supervised Facilities and Supervised Investment Bank Holding Companies" and in both cases it was approved that the respective parties “would be required periodically to provide [their respective] Commission with consolidated computations of allowable capital and risk allowances (or other capital assessment) consistent with the Basel Standards." In other words, that day, the SEC, almost explicitly, delegated some of its fundamental functions to the Basel Committee.

On June 26 2004 the G10 substituted the 30 pages long Basel I adopted in 1988 with the 251 pages long Basel II.

And Basel II, required for instance a bank to hold if it wanted to invest in triple-A rated private securities only 1.6 percent of fairly loosely defined capital, signifying that the bank was there allowed to leverage a quite loosely defined capital 62.5 to 1, signifying that if a Bank bought a triple-A rated security on which it expected to make a margin of .5 percent that it could expect a return on its capital of 31.25 percent a year. Needless to say the banks went berserk demanding triple-A rated securities. And since there were not sufficient real triple-A securities, the market, as markets do, supplied them with fake Potemkin-triple-A ratings.

It should not be difficult to connect the dots for anyone who wants to connect the dots and so the big lingering question about this crisis and its explanation remains… why do so very few experts want to connect the dots? A real mystery!