Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Banks and regulators don’t care about our economy

Banks, regulators and risk

The Aug. 5 Economy & Business article “What happens when lines blur between banks, regulators” referred to several issues and conflicts of importance between banks and regulators but did not mention the prime point of agreement between all regulators and all banks: None of these actors cares about the state of the real economy.

Banks love to earn high-risk adjusted returns on equity when lending to something perceived as absolutely safe, so they love when regulators allow them to hold much less equity when lending to something perceived, decreed or concocted as safe.

Regulators love it when banks avoid taking risks, so they are more than happy to allow banks to hold much less equity when lending to something ex-ante perceived by them as safe, and therefore allow banks to earn much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when staying away from the risky.

Our problem, though, is that we need for our banks to lend to the risky, such as small and medium-size enterprises and entrepreneurs, to keep our economy moving forward.

Regulators have never defined the purpose of the banks, so they do not care about whether these banks allocate credit efficiently to our real economy.

Per Kurowski, Rockville
The writer was an executive director at the World Bank from 2002 to 2004.

A letter in the Washington Post