Tuesday, June 16, 2015
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.