Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bank of England keeps mum about its shady distortions of the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.


View the episode of the splendid educational video produced by the Bank of England.

There you will see that at no moment does BoE indicates that it, like their colleagues in other places, require banks to hold different amounts of shareholder´s capital against different assets, and therefore allow banks to obtain different returns on equity for different assets, and therefore distort the allocation of bank credit in the real economy… with disastrous medium and long term results, even for the banks.

Why could that be? Does BoE not know it distorts, or does it have a bad conscience about it? Who knows, it does not really matter. The pain for a medium and small businesses, entrepreneur or start-up, "the risky", of  not gaining access to bank credit or having to pay more for it, is the same.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If I knew absolutely nothing about bank regulations, I might also think like Thomas Piketty does in his "Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

What are the dynamics that drive the accumulation and distribution of capital? Asks the inside cover of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital”. And since just reading from the index shows that Piketty knows nothing about the earth shattering effect of silly bank regulations, or considers the effect of protections derived from intellectual property right, patents, and extravagant market shares, the question will, unfortunately, not be answered in this book.

Currently banks by means of lower capital requirements for what is perceived as “absolutely safe” than for what is perceived as “risky”, allow banks to earn much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to the safe than when lending to the risky… and anyone who knows how important risk taking is for keeping the real economy moving forward, will know how crazy that is… just like everyone who knows that all major bank crisis have always resulted from excessive exposures to what was perceived as “absolutely safe” and never ever for excessive exposures to what was perceived as “risky” will know, twice, how crazy that is.

To top it up, any book that proposes a tax on the 1% wealthy, without exploring why Chrystia Freeland’s .01% Plutocrats became especially wealthy, risks being a Trojan horse for these Plutocrats to accumulate even a bigger share of the wealth.

And so, I am sorry, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” does not seem to me to stand on sufficiently stable ground.

And by the way, since the 1% wealthy have most of their fortunes in assets it is not clear how the sale of those assets are going to turn into a higher purchasing capacity of the poor, and if by luck that happens, how the poor are going to be able, avoiding the dilution by inflation, to satisfy their new needs at the grocery store.

Also, currently profits derived from intellectual property rights, like patents, and from extravagant market shares, are taxed at exactly the same rate as those profits derived from competing naked, with no protections, in the market. And since protected profits will always be higher than the unprotected ones, this means the protected will take over the unprotected… with dire results for western world capitalism, as we knew it.

PS. Walking around the museum Louvre in Paris, looking at all that art financed by the super wealthy and powerful, I stopped and asked myself: What would Thomas Piketty’s France exhibit at Louvre had there not been rampant wealth inequality? I mean I saw almost nothing an equal society in need of rational investments, would have been willing to finance. Life is not that clear-cut eh?

Could Thomas Piketty´s tax on 1% wealth, be a Trojan horse for Chrystia Freeland’s 0.01% Plutocrats to capture more wealth?

Today I heard at the World Bank Chrystia Freeland speak about her book “Plutocrats”... that I am now reading.

I asked her two question and some other remained unasked

First: Does the book analyze in any sort of depth, how much of Plutocrats wealth accumulation can be explained by intellectual property rights, patents? I ask this because I have argued that it is not good for capitalism, that the usually ample profits obtained under the protection of a patent (or the power of an extravagant market share) should be taxed at the same rate, than those more meager profits allowed by having to compete naked and unprotected in the market. And so the capital accumulation of “the protected” will be higher than that of “the unprotected”… with dire results in the long term.

Second: Since wealth accumulation by the Plutocrats are so often traced to market anomalies, known as rent-seeking and crony relations, could Thomas Piketty´s tax on the wealthy 1%, which he proposes in "Capital", be a Trojan horse for your 0.01% Plutocrats to increase the size of the cake that they are masters capturing?

One questions I did not have time to ask is… if you actually go after the wealth of the 1%, or even better that of the 0.01%, what would happen to their assets… who would be able to buy these? What would happen to the value of a $500 million Picasso? If it is the government, for instance by printing money, then we should be real careful because, as a Venezuelan, a country where 98% of all its exports goes straight into government coffers, I can guarantee you that government Plutocrats are much worse than the private Plutocrats who, at least for the time being, do not control all other powers.

The other question… or comment, will come later, in due time…because there is much which I do not agree with, in Freeland’s chapter on “Rent-seeking on Wall Street and in The City” and about which she already knows some. Basically it has to do with my vehement objection to the fact, so much ignored, that bank regulator’s pathological risk aversion, had them allowing banks to earn higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to “the safe” than when lending to “the risky”. 

I do agree with her though that the Canadian bank regulator showed himself to be much wiser, by setting the capital requirements for banks more based on “the unexpected” than on “the expected”… that risk which should be taken care of directly by the banks.

PS. What a coincidence! Chrystia Freeland is the representative in the Canadian Parliament of where my Canadian grandchild lives. I informed Freeland that when my grandchild reached voting age, she could try to get her vote… and I would not object. Meanwhile, hands off, she is my constituency.

Friday, April 18, 2014

There is, might really be unwittingly, a high treason going on, against the western world, against the Judeo Christian civilization.

I was born a coward. Or at least quite risk adverse. And the many risk I have taken, is mostly because of blissful ignorance, or a glass of wine too much.

But I have always known about the importance of risk-taking, which is why I have always been grateful that my world was able to ride on the coattails of daring risk-takers; and that is why I often complained that Mark Twain was too right when he, supposedly, described bankers as those who lend you the umbrella when the sun is out, and want it back as soon as it seems it is going to rain.

But then came some bank regulators and really messed it up. Even more wimpy than I, they decided banks could hold less capital when lending to what was perceived as safe than when lending to what was perceived as risky, which meant banks would be able to earn much higher risk-adjusted returns on what was perceived as “safe” than on what was perceived as ”risky”. 

And, of course, that meant banks stopped giving credits in competitive risk-adjusted terms to the medium and small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups, to those that keep our bicycle moving forward, not stalling, not falling.

And now I fret for my daughters, and I fret even more for my grandchild, soon grandchildren, because I know that if my western world, my Judeo-Christian civilization, stays in the hands of adversaries to risk taking, it will just go down, down, down.

Regulators, if you really must distort, why not do it for a purpose in mind? Why not use, instead of credit ratings, job for our youth ratings?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You the young in Europe, you don’t find jobs? Thank your sissy bank regulators for that!

You the young in Europe, especially you the unemployed, listen up!

Your bank regulators set up a system by which they allowed the banks to earn much higher risk adjusted returns on equity for what was considered safe, like AAA rated securities, real estate in Spain and lending to Greece… something which the banks liked very much, and therefore they lent too much, like to AAA rated securities, real estate in Spain and Greece, and which you all know by now caused the mother of all disasters.

And as a result of the same system your banks earn much less risk adjusted return on equity when lending to the “risky” medium and small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups, and so the banks, naturally, do not lend to those who could perhaps most provide you with the next generation of decent jobs.

And so, if you occupy Basel, in order to protest the Basel Committee, let me assure you that you have my deepest sympathy, and my full understanding… Good luck! You need it, the baby-boomers have much power. 

Per Kurowski

Do you hold any views on the issue of risk aversion vs. willingness to take risks in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

Current bank regulators, by allowing banks to hold much less capital (equity) when lending to someone perceived as “safe” than when lending to someone perceived as “risky”, have caused the banks to earn much higher risk adjusted returns on equity when lending to “the infallible” than when lending to “the risky”.

This, as I see it has introduced a serious risk aversion, or an unwillingness to take the risk which constitutes the oxygen of development, and that is very dangerous to the western world… where in its churches we used to sing “God make us daring”.

Are there any historians out there who have special knowledge on the issue of risk aversion vs. willingness to take risks in the Judeo-Christian tradition?

Why do the Basel Committee, the Financial Stability Board and the IMF not understand what any normal parent does?

If children were rewarded with ice cream for eating cookies, and punished with spinach for eating broccoli, chances are too many kids would turn out to be obese… and almost anyone would understand and know that.

And so why does the Basel Committee, the Financial Stability Board and the IMF not understand that, if you reward bankers with allowing them to hold less capital when lending to “the infallible”, so that they can earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity; and punish the bankers with having to hold more capital when lending to “the risky”, to make it harder for the banks to earn sufficiently high risk-adjusted return on equity, then banks will lend much too much to “the safe” and much too little to “the risky”… and a crisis in the banking system and in the real economy will ensue.

Friday, April 11, 2014

IMF, where have you been since the financial crisis broke out in 2007?

In January 2003, while being an Executive Director at the World Bank, in a letter published by 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. Friend, please consider that the world is tough enough as it is.”

And as predicted, with the help of the capital requirements for banks much based on credit ratings concocted by the Basel Committee in Basel II, the rating error of the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector in the US, was propagated into trillions of dollars in exposures, even in faraway Europe.

And now, soon seven years after the outbreak of the crisis, we read a compendium of articles published by the International Monetary Fund, under the not so humble title of “Financial Crises: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Responses”, and in which we do not find one single reference to the risk-weighted capital requirements.

There is one reference though to credit ratings: “Credit ratings also deteriorate notably before a default, and improve only slowly in the aftermath of debt restructuring”. But that reference, if anything, makes it even clearer why the IMF should be opposed to the risk weighted capital requirements.

Also, in the World Economic Outlook, April 2004, that has a chapter titled “Perspectives on Global Real Interests, we do not find one single reference, or adjustment to the fact that allowing banks to hold sovereign debt, at least that of “the infallible”, against no capital, translates effectively into a subsidy of public debt, and which makes historical comparisons of rates not longer really valid.

And the Global Financial Stability Report, April 2014, also clearly evidences IMF has still not understood how the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks not only distorts the allocation of bank credit but also, by amplifying the effect of any insufficient perception of risk, becomes one of the most important sources of instability in our financial system.