Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We’ve heard a lot about predatory lending, and it should be avoided, but why allow predatory regulations?

An audit report from the office of inspector general of the FDIC broadly defines predatory lending as "imposing unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers”

Regulators know very well that those perceived as risky have to pay higher risk premiums and have less access to bank credit than those perceived as safe. 

Nonetheless regulators currently also require banks to hold much more capital against loans to those perceived as risky, when compared to what they need to hold against assets perceived as safe. And as a direct consequence those perceived as risky, when compared to those perceived as safe, will have to pay even higher interests and have even less access to bank credit. 

Since that imposes unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers… it should be regarded as predatory regulations… and of course, to top it up, by negating fair access to the opportunities for credit of those perceived as risky, these also represent a driver of inequality.

Let me quote here two passages from John Kenneth Galbraith’s “Money: Whence it came where it went” 1975.

First: “For the new parts of the country [USA’s West]… there was the right to create banks at will and therewith the notes and deposits that resulted from their loans…[if] the bank failed…someone was left holding the worthless notes… but some borrowers from this bank were now in business...[jobs created]

It was an arrangement which reputable bankers and merchants in the East viewed with extreme distaste… Men of economic wisdom, then as later expressing the views of the reputable business community, spoke of the anarchy of unstable banking… The men of wisdom missed the point. The anarchy served the frontier far better than a more orderly system that kept a tight hand on credit would have done…. what is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectfully affluent.”

Second: “The function of credit in a simple society is, in fact, remarkably egalitarian. It allows the man with energy and no money to participate in the economy more or less on a par with the man who has capital of his own. And the more casual the conditions under which credit is granted and hence the more impecunious those accommodated, the more egalitarian credit is… Bad banks, unlike good, loaned to the poor risk, which is another name for the poor man.”

And finally, let me just add that never ever are truly dangerous financial bank excesses built up with assets perceived as risky; these are always caused by excessive bank exposure to what is perceived ex ante as safe but that ex-post tum out to be risky… and so all this odious regulatory discrimination against the risky… is all for nothing.

PS. “If one is pretending to knowledge one does not have, one cannot ask for explanations to support possible objections” John Kenneth Galbraith dixit.