Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Anat Admati explains the financial crisis better than most, but does still not get to the real heart of it.

I refer to Promarket.org and Evonomics.com where Stanford professor Anat Admati discusses her paper“It Takes a Village of Media, Business, Policy, and Academic Experts to Maintain a Dangerous Financial System” May 2016.

In it she explains how a mix of distorted incentives, ignorance, confusion, and lack of accountability contributes to the persistence of a dangerous and poorly regulated financial system.

Here some quotes and comments:

1. “Admati draws a contrast with aviation. Although tens of thousands of airplanes take off and land, often in crowded skies, busy airports, and within short time spans, crashes are remarkably rare. Everyone involved in aviation collaborates to maintain high safety standards”

PK. The main explanation for that is that everything in aviation is considered risky… and there are no aviation regulators giving anyone the excuse of “at this point you can relax”.

2. “When they seek profits banks effectively compete to endanger their depositors and the public. An analogy would be subsidizing trucks to drive at reckless speed even as slower driving would cause fewer accidents.”

PK. Of course allowing reckless speeds, like no limit at all when lending to Greece, and 62.5 times when AAA to AA ratings are present, must cause serious crashes.

But, the worst part of it all is that banks are not allowed to drive all assets at the same speed. As a consequence, being paid on delivery, banks will not go to where they must go slower, like the leverage speed limits that apply when lending to entrepreneurs, and will therefore not perform their vital function of allocating credit efficiently to the economy. The words “the purpose of banks is” are sadly nowhere to be seen in bank regulations.

3. “Politicians, find implicit guarantees attractive because they are an ‘invisible form of subsidy’ that appear free because they do not show up on budgets, as the costs associated are ultimately paid for by the citizenry.”

PK. At this moment the statist regulators and politicians find those “implicit guarantees” especially attractive because of its quid-pro-quo component. “We scratch your back with implicit guarantees and you scratch ours something for which we in 1988, with the Basel Accord assigned to the sovereign a 0% risk weight, and one of 100% to the citizen” And ever since the “good and friendly” sovereigns have had access to subsidized credit… and the regulators have now painted themselves into a corner. 

4. “Credit rating agencies, “private watchdogs,” have conflicted interests because they derive revenues from regulated companies as well as sometimes from regulators.”

PK. Yes but notwithstanding that, even if the credit rating agencies have behaved totally independent, there can be little doubt that assigning so much decision power to some few human fallible credit rating agencies would introduce the mother of all systemic risks.

And besides, since bankers already consider risks perceived when deciding on size of exposures and risk premiums to charge, to have perceived risks also reflected in the capital requirements, violates the “Kurowski dixit” rule: “Risks, even when perfectly perceived, leads to the wrong actions, if excessively considered.” 

5. “I had expected academics and policy makers to engage and care about whether what they were saying and doing was appropriate, particularly since they often know more than the public about the issues and are entrusted to protect the public”

PK. So had I. They, Anat Admati included, are still not able to explain to regulators about conditional probabilities. And so regulators keep on regulating based on the perceived risk of assets and not based on the risk of assets based on how these are perceived.

In terms of airplanes they regulate based on how the pilots perceive the risks and not based on that the pilots could perceive the wrong risks or act incorrectly when facing the correct risks.

6. “Lawmakers are rarely held accountable for the harmful effect of implicit guarantees combined with poor regulations.”

PK. Yes not one single regulators have been forced to parade down 5thAvenue wearing a dunce cap. On the contrary many of them have been promoted and are still regulating without even considering the possibility they have been mistaken all the time.

PS. Even though Daniel Moynihan is supposed to have opined: “There are some mistakes it takes a Ph.D. to make”, the challenges still remain for the PhDs about what to do with the opinions of the lowlier graduates, like with just an MBA. Do we dare to quote him?

And here my soon 2.800 letters to the Financial Times on this. Am I obsessed? Sure, but so are they ignoring my arguments.

And finally here a humble home-made youtube https://youtu.be/TUdKhm6_a8Y

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The risk weighted capital requirements for banks should have had to consider the conditional probabilities... it did not!

What are the conditional probabilities of assets being dangerous to bank systems when conditioned to that bankers have perceived these assets as risky?

Assets perceived by bankers as risky become safer, not riskier.

What are the conditional probabilities of assets being dangerous to bank systems when conditioned to that bankers have perceived these assets as safe?
Assets perceived by bankers as safe become riskier, not safer.

So regulators who base their capital requirements for banks on that what’s perceived as risky is more dangerous to the bank systems than what’s perceived as safe, is that because they have never heard about conditional probabilities?

The risk-weighted capital requirements for banks guarantee especially large exposures, against especially little capital, to what is ex-ante perceived, decreed or concocted as especially safe, dooming our bank systems ex-post to especially large crisis... like that one in 2008.

Here is an aide-mémoire on some of the many mistakes with the risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

And here are some of my early opinions on these regulations, some of them while being an Executive Director at the World Bank, 2002-04

Universities, like Harvard Business School, do have “Conditional Probabilities and Bayes’ rule” on the curriculum. Could it be that professors are kept too busy preparing these courses so to have time to look out at what’s happening in the world? Or could it be that their students never understood them?

PS. Here is my comment that was received by the Financial Stability Board

PS. And here is a very humble home-made youtube comment on this, from 2010