Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What’s the similitude of World Bank and IMF? That the Basel Committee has fooled them both!

World Bank has the function of development… and has ignored that risk weighted capital requirements for banks kills the risk-taking that is the oxygen of development.

IMF has the function of stability … and has ignored that bank crises are caused by excessive exposures to what’s wrongly perceived as safe, and never to what is rightly perceived as risky.

Explaining to World Bank and IMF the horrific mistakes of Basel’s bank regulations, has not been an easy journey

28:30, I am Per Kurowski, of New Rules for Global Finance

This is a question for the umpteenth time to the World Bank:

As the world’s premier development bank the World Bank must know that risk-taking is the oxygen of any development. So why is it still not speaking out against the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks that put a brake on risk-taking, like on the lending to SMEs small and medium sized enterprises…even though never ever has a major bank crisis erupted because of excessive exposures to something ex ante perceived as risky.

30:50, World Bank, Jim Yong Kim

On risk taking I am not sure I understood the question correctly, but there is, because of in many ways I think very much necessary prudential rules, the Basel process, one of the side effects of it is that it has been a systematic de-banking of many developing countries, especially in Africa. 

And so many banks Standard Chartered and others that had very strong presence in the developing world have for the most part left. And so we have a terrible time in terms of accessing capital markets in the way that they did before.

So it’s a huge concern for us, and we are continuing to engage with the Basel process and we are continuing to try to talk about some of the side effects. For example it is much more difficult and expensive to send remittances back now because these institutions don’t exist. 

And so the problem of insuring that the poorest countries have access to capital markets is very-very high on our agenda, and is really at the core of the major issue we talked about in spring meetings which is our cascade; and the cascade is essentially recognition that on the one hand it is very difficult for very good emerging markets infrastructure projects to get capital, and on the other hand there is more than 10 trillion dollars in negative interest bond, and 25 plus trillions in very low earning bonds and another 8 trillion in cash sitting in peoples safes, and they would like to get a higher return, but the perception of risk in the emerging market is so high, that the capital is just not moving.

So we are putting so much of our effort into mitigating this situation where you have great projects, great potential for building infrastructure that would lead to growth but that are not being financed; we are really focusing on filling that void on the problem I think you are pointing to.

My comment: It was not answering my real question but it was still a very valid answer. If given a chance my re-question would have been: Do you think Standard Chartered would have left those development markets had it had to hold the same capital against all its assets than what it is required to hold on loans to these markets? The answer to that is surely “No!”

35:25, IMF, Mme Christine Lagarde.

I am actually tempted to address also this question, is that okay?

Because I think it is an important point and one that has very complex ramifications. It has complex ramifications in the banking regulations business, in the banking supervision business, and in the accounting business.

And then it is at the very junction of between sort of self-established model by the banks versus models established by the supervisors. 

I think we both would agree that methods that would actually encourage the lending by banks and by insurance companies and by pension fund to SMEs, you know with the risk associated with it, should actually be very much in order.

At the moment the risk weighing methods and the models that are being used are discouraging from actually investing and taking risk to benefit the small and medium sized enterprises 

And that’s not necessarily the best avenue to support the economy and to support entrepreneurs who want to have access to financing.

My comment: Many thanks, but Mme Lagarde, it really behooves the IMF, and the World Bank, to understand why it took them about 15 years, Basel II, to see this problem.

30:50 World Bank, Jim Yong Kim

Just to add to that, we are now trying to come up with lots of different innovative approaches to de-risking those investments, taking first loss, using political risk insurance credit enhancements, lot of tools that we are using now to try to respond to the situation

My comment: That is good to hear, but beware, de-risking credits, against distorted and inadequate bank regulations, could have very bad unexpected consequences.

PS. Very much inspired by John Kenneth Galbraith’s “Money: Whence it came, where it went” (1975), I started my fight against Basel Committee’s regulations in 1997, in my very first Op-Ed “Puritanism in Banking”.

And in 2003, as an Executive Director or the World Bank, in a workshop for bank regulators I warned: “The other side of the coin of a credit that was never granted, in order to reduce the vulnerability of the financial system, could very well be the loss of a unique opportunity for growth. In this sense, I put forward the possibility that the developed countries might not have developed as fast, or even at all, had they been regulated by a Basel.”

In 2007, ten years ago, at the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Developing at the United Nations, as civil society, I presented the document: “Are the Basel bank regulations good for development?

And since then I do not know how many times, I have tried and failed to draw IMF’s and World Bank’s attention to the many very serious mistakes that are imbedded in Basel’s risk-weighted capital requirements for banks.

Have I arrived at the end of my journey? I am not 100% sure, but I do see some light J

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Did someone ever looked into the role of bank regulations causing Iceland's bank crisis?

I do not know, but I guess not.

From Wikipedia we read the following about the causes for the Iceland bank crisis:

“In 2001, banks were deregulated in Iceland. This set the stage for banks to upload debts when foreign companies were accumulated. The crisis unfolded when banks became unable to refinance their debts. It is estimated that the three major banks held foreign debt in excess of €50 billion, or about €160,000 per Icelandic resident, compared with Iceland's gross domestic product of €8.5 billion”

That seems true. But where does it say anything about why Iceland's banks were able to get so much debt? For instance from UK and Holland?

If I were an investigative reporter, which I am not, I would start by looking at how much capital UK and Dutch banks had to hold when lending to these banks of Iceland... and then compared this to how much capital they needed to hold when lending to a small or medium unrated enterprises in the UK or in Holland. 

That should give you an idea of where UK and Dutch banks would think they would earn their highest risk-adjusted returns on equity... and the rest should be easy to figure out.

Perhaps Iceland should have sued the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It behooves us to revise the purposes of our banks, as these are defined by current capital requirements

The lower a capital requirement is, the higher can a bank leverage its equity, the higher is the risk adjusted return on equity it can obtain.

Risk weights of: sovereign 0%, AAA rated 20%, residential housing 35% and unrated SMEs 100%, clearly indicate that the de facto purpose regulators have imposed on banks, is to finance sovereigns, those who already enjoy the lowest risk-premiums, and those buying houses and therefore implicitly house prices. 

Regulators have told us this is so that our banks are made safe. Silly! Our bank systems are never threatened by “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, only by that perceived ex ante as very safe and that ex post turns out to be very risky. 

I would expect much more from our banks, like financing development, sustainability and job creation; and I would assume many would agree with me.

If we want that produced by banks, by means of allocating credit as efficiently as possible to the real economy, then we should make sure every single bank asset, except for cash, generates exactly the same capital requirement.

Now if regulators absolutely insist on nudging, so to be perceived as earning their pay, then perhaps they could base their capital requirements on how the asset helps to finance development, sustainability and job creation.

And, if regulators want to be really sophisticated about it, then the could even fill each box of a purpose/credit risk matrix with individual capital requirements… always of course remembering the golden rule of the riskier it seems ex ante the safer it is ex post. 

PS. Perhaps the capital requirements could even be slightly based on gender, so as to give women some compensation for all the disadvantages we are told they suffer. (Psst some tell me that loans to women also carry less risk)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Should our nannie state tax all risk-taking at higher rates, as current bank regulators do?

Motorcycles, in terms of deaths per miles driven, are much riskier than cars. Should society therefore levy a special risk tax to compensate it for the unnecessary early death of its members? (Even though we know more people die in car than motorcycle accidents

Since sport injuries have a cost for the society should we tax sports based on their injury rates? For instance applying a 10 percent risk tax on cricket and one of only 1 percent on croquet (pesky squirrels).

If one assumes that the risks involved with any activity are not adequately perceived or considered, one could of course construe a case for those taxes. But, should we dare to assume risks are not already perceived and cleared for if we therefore could end up with a very risky too risk adverse society?

And I ask all this because taxing risk-taking is exactly what current regulators do with their risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

They now require banks to hold more capital against what is already perceived as riskier (motorcycles) than against what is perceived as safe (cars). This translates into banks having much higher possibility of maximizing their returns on equity with what is “safe” than with what is “risky”; which de facto is a tax on “the risky”.

Consequences? Banks build up dangerously large exposures to what is perceived, decreed, or concocted as safe, like sovereigns, AAArisktocracy and mortgages; and to small exposures, or even no exposure at all to what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Clearly if the risks are already perceived and considered by bankers, in the size of the exposure and the interest rates charged, to then also have the capital reflect the perceived risks, cause these risks to be excessively considered; resulting in an excessively risk-adverse banking system.

Just consider that already, partly because of the higher risk perceptions, many more people die in car than in motorcycle accidents. 

Think of a society where no one drives motorcycles or plays cricket because the risk-taxes are too high, and all keep to cars and crocket. Is that the kind of society that will be strong enough to survive? Is that what we want?

I am sorry but there is no more figurative way to express it. The Basel Committee for Banking Regulations and their affiliated regulators have effectively castrated our banking system. Will that make us safer? Of course not! 

Our banks will dangerously overpopulate safe-havens; in which they will die from lack of oxygen.

Our economies are going to dwindle into nothing, when denied the oxygen of risk-taking necessary for all development.

Friends, we must urgently get rid of these dangerously inept bank nannies.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The litmus test any aspiring central banker or bank regulator should have to pass

Fact: Banks are allowed to leverage more with assets considered safe, like loans to sovereigns, the AAArisktocracy and mortgages, than with assets considered risky, like loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs.

So ask the candidates:

Does that mean “the safe” have even more and easier access to bank credit than usual; and “the risky” have even less and on more expensive terms access to bank credit than usual?

If the answer is no, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is yes, then ask: 

Do you think that might dangerously distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy? Or impede QE stimulus flow to where it could be most productive?

If the answer is no, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is yes, then ask: 

In terms of what can pose the greatest risk to the bank system, would you agree with Basel II’s risk weights of 20% for what is rated AAA to AA and 150% for what is rated below BB-?

If the answer is yes, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is no, then ask: 

Do you agree with a 0% risk weighting of sovereigns?

If the answer is yes, the candidate should be classified as an incurable statist, not independent at all, and accordingly dismissed.

If the answer is no, then one could proceed applying any other criteria considered relevant.

The way the world looks, being a lucky person seems a quite valid one.

PS. How many of those currently in central banks, or in the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, or in the Financial Stability Board would pass this test?


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fed, during the last 15 years what were the capital requirements for a US bank when lending to Puerto Rico?

The single most important reason for which Greece’s debt levels got so out of whack was that the European bank regulators, out of misunderstood solidarity, also gave Greece, for purposes of capital requirements for banks a 0% risk weight. 

That of course allowed banks to leverage much more loans to Greece than loans let us say to an unrated European SME, which of course allowed banks to earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity lending to Greece than lending to an unrated European SME. (The Greek citizens now suffering have not held those regulators accountable for that lunacy)

Now we read: “The Puerto Rico debt, a result of generations of mismanagement, was enabled by Wall Street, which was enticed by the fact it was tax free everywhere in the U.S. and risky enough to provide rich yields.” “Trump Suggests Puerto Rico’s Debt May Need to Be ‘Wiped Out’” Justin Sink, Bloomberg, October 3.

“Mismanagement?” With respect to debt it takes as a minimum two to tango, the borrower and the creditor; and since distorting risk weighted capital requirements were introduced, the regulators also participate in that dance. 

So my immediate info request to the Fed would be: Over the last 15 years, so that we have some pre 2007-08 crisis figures too, can you show us precisely the evolution of how much capital American banks were required to hold when lending to Puerto Rico?

Who knows, Puerto Rican citizens might want to sue the Fed for stimulating an excessive lending/borrowing to Puerto Rico.

PS. It would also be interesting to know how much banks were required to hold against a loan to an unrated SME in Puerto Rico. To compare those requirements would allow us to establish whether there was some statist regulatory favoritism of the Puerto Rico government. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Paul Krugman there's huge Excel type data mistake that is bringing the Western economies down into deep depression


The regulators of the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, when designing their risk weighted capital requirements for banks made the outrageous mistake of looking at the specific risks of banks assets, and not at the risk of those assets to the banks, or to the bank system.

That is why they came to assign a whopping 150% risk weight to what is rated below BB-, something so risky that bankers wont even touch it with a ten feet pole; while only a minuscule risk weight of 20% to what is rated AAA and that because of its perceived safety, could cause banks to create such exposures that if ex post the asset turn out riskier, these could bring the whole system down.

That makes banks dangerously lend too much to what is perceived safe and for the economy equally dangerous too little to what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs. 

The Western world has thrived on risk-taking not risk aversion.

PS. The 0% risk weighing of sovereigns is just as mind-boggling.

Friday, September 29, 2017

What would have happened if, since Basel I, 1988, there had just been one 8% bank capital requirement for all assets?

The “safe” sovereigns would not have seen their borrowings subsidized by the “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs lesser access to bank credit. 

Sovereigns like Greece would never have been able to run up such large debts on such low initial interest rates.

House financing would not have been so much available at artificial low rates so house prices would be lower.

Much more financing would have gone to those “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs who could create the jobs the house owners need in order to repay mortgages and service utilities, and that so many young need in order not having to live in the basements of their parents’ houses.

Some other crisis could have resulted, but the catastrophic sized one with the AAA rated securities collateralized with mortgages to the subprime sector, would never have happened.

Central banks would not have needed to kick the crisis can down the road with trillions of QEs… that are still out there on the road menacing to run back on us.

Central banks would not have needed to kick the crisis can down the road with ultra low interest rates that are creating havoc on all pension plans.

The world would not have served up the table with so much for the populists to munch on.

The saddest part though is that now, ten years after those assets that caused the big crisis correlated completely with those assets that required banks to hold the least capital, regulators still apply risk weighted capital requirements. I guess, as Upton Sinclair Jr. said, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”