Thursday, June 8, 2017

A safer banking system compared to our current dangerously misregulated one with so many systemic risks on steroids

What is a safer banking system?

One in which thousand banks compete and those not able to do so fail as fast as possible, before some major damage has been done, while even, as John Kenneth Galbraith explained, often leaving something good in their wake. 

What is a dangerous banking system?

One were all banks are explicitly or implicitly supported, by taxpayers, as long as they follow one standard mode that includes living wills, stress tests, risk models, credit ratings, standardized risk weights... all potential sources of dangerous systemic risks.

A bank system in which whenever there is a major problem, the can gets kicked down the road with QEs and there is no cleaning up, and banks just get bigger and bigger.

One that make it more plausible that the banks will all come crashing down on us, at the same time, with excessive exposures to something ex ante perceived safe that ex-post turned out risky, and therefore the banks holding especially little capital.

But you don’t worry; the regulators have it all under control with their Dodd-Frank’s Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA). “Orderly”? Really?

So that is why when I hear about banks “cheating” with their risk models I am not too upset, since that at least introduces some diversity. 

Also that cheating stops, at least for a while, the Basel Committee regulators from imposing their loony standardized risk weights of 20% for what has an AAA rating, and so therefore could be utterly dangerous to the system; and one of 150% for the innocuous below BB- rated that bankers don’t like to touch with a ten feet pole.

How did we end up here? That is where you are bound to end up if you allow some statist technocrats, full of hubris, to gather in a mutual admiration club, and there engage into some intellectually degenerating incestuous groupthink.

Statist? What would you otherwise call those who assign a 0% risk weight to the Sovereign and one of 100% to the citizen?

And it is all so purposeless and useless!

Purposeless? “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for”, John A Shedd

Useless? “May God defend me from my friends, I can defend myself from my enemies”, Voltaire

In essence it means that while waiting for all banks to succumb because of lack of oxygen in the last overpopulated safe-haven available, banks will no longer finance the "riskier" future our grandchildren need is financed, but only refinance the "safer" present and past.

In April 2003, as an Executive Director of the World Bank I argued: "A mixture of thousand solutions, many of them inadequate, may lead to a flexible world that can bend with the storms. A world obsessed with Best Practices may calcify its structure and break with any small wind."

PS. FDIC... please don't go there!

Note: For your info, before 1988, we had about 600 years of banking without risk weighted capital requirements for banks distorting the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

PS. The best of the Financial Choice Act is a not distorting, not systemic risks creating, 10% capital requirement for all assets. Its worst? That this is not applied to all banks.

PS. If I were a regulator: Bank capital requirements = 3% for bankers' ineptitude + 7% for unexpected events = 10% on all assets = Financial Choice Act