October 31, 2012

What does the Financial Times’ motto “Without fear and without favour” really signify?

Over many years I have written letters to FT mentioning for instance that the Occupy Wall Street movement, though correct in many ways, was completely wrong about the location. What they should have occupied is Basel with its Basel Committee for Banking Supervision. 

It was the Basel Committee which, with its capital requirements for banks based on ex ante perceived risk, as perceived by credit rating agencies, favored those already favored, “The Infallible”, like the AAA rated and sovereigns, and discriminated against those already being discriminated against, “The Risky”, which members include small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

I also explained to FT, in so many ways that those capital requirements, besides representing an important driver of inequality, were one of the most economic distortive factors ever, and completely impeded the banks to perform efficiently their role of allocating economic resources.

If for instance a German bank, lent to Greece, rated as one of “The semi-Infallible” Greece was just a couple of years ago then, according to Basel II, if it could make a 1 percent net after perceived risk and cost margin, then it could aspire to earn 62.5 percent on its equity. But, if instead it lent to a small German or Greek unrated business and earn the same net margin, then it was only allowed to achieve 12.5 percent return on equity. Does this nonsense makes sense to FT? I cannot believe so. Yet, what am I to think?

You can find my soon 900 letters to The Financial Times on this issue, for over soon a decade now, here:

And though I have received many letters from some of FT’s journalists and experts agreeing on my points, though I admit a couple of them have been conspicuously silent and never responded to one of my comments on their pieces, my arguments have not been allowed to fully surface. 

Now, little by little my arguments are gaining traction, although yet in an incomplete way, among others by the recent comments made by Andrew Haldane, and to which FT’s Editor refers in “Haldane occupies a strange platform”, October 31. 

I argue that if the Financial Times had given support to my arguments earlier, a lot of sufferings, and a lot of travelling on the mistaken road of Basel III, could have been avoided. 

And so I must wonder if not the Financial Times’ motto “Without fear and without favour” for more transparency should add: “Applicable to those who do suck up to us and do not hurt our egos”. 

Am I a bit upset? Yes, why not? You would be too! It is hard enough to fight the Regulatory Establishment on your own for you to also be encumbered by the uncooperativeness of a powerful media which wants to favour other arguments and other arguers. 

But, I was given a voice in the Financial Times? Yes! 15 letters published from 2003 until 2006 and only one thereafter. Whose ego did I trample on?

Then of course Martin Wolf generously permitted me in his Economist’s Forum in October 2009 to publish my “Free us from imprudent risk-aversion”. 

Do I have sufficient credentials to aspire having more voice? I truly believe so but you can judge yourself

That said, now and again I have found voice in other media… like for instance this letter in the Washington Post

But, since I am sure that I am correct in my arguments, and these will win the day, sooner or later, the Financial Times will have to acknowledge their mistake. I do not believe they will even try to hide the fact that these were my arguments… or them being capable of such un-ethical behavior as endorsing these to someone else they want to favour.