December 14, 2012

With Mario Draghi and alike, Europe with its fiscal, banking, economical and political union is, in unity, heading in the wrong direction.

Sir, so FT just named Mario Draghi the current President of the European Central Bank and the former Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, the Person of the Year. It clearly is because of his make-my-dayish “whatever it takes”. And you know I disagree.

Mario Draghi, as one of the prominent bank regulators, blithely ignored that no major bank crises have ever resulted from excessive exposure to what is perceived ex-ante as risky, and always from excessive exposures to something ex-ante erroneously perceived as absolutely safe. 

And as a consequence he felt it completely appropriate to require banks to hold immensely much more capital when lending to or investing in “The Risky”, than when lending to or investing in “The Infallible”. Just as an example, because of this, banks could lend to sovereigns like Greece, leveraging 62.5 to 1, while, when lending to the unrated or not so good rated businesses and entrepreneurs, they could only leverage 12.5 to 1… FIVE times less. 

And, consequentially, banks earned immensely higher perceived risk and cost adjusted returns on their equity doing business with “The Infallible” than with “The Risky”. 

And, consequentially, banks created dangerously obese exposures to “The Infallible”, and, for the overall economy, equally dangerous anorexic exposures to “The Risky”. 

And, consequentially, banks, after the tide has gone out, are now standing naked on the shores with little or no capital. 

And, most top regulators seemingly still do not understand what they did! 

In other words, Mario Draghi was or is one of those regulators who does not care one iota about the banks function of allocating efficiently economic resources in the rest of the economy, as long as, in their opinion, the banks are “not taking any risks”... really, not much of a “make my day” there. 

In other words, Mario Draghi was or is one of those regulators who have no understanding of that the society needs for their banks to be able to take risks, in order for the economy to grow, the new jobs created, and in general move forward so as not to stall and fall.

In other words, Mario Draghi was one of the regulators who did the eurozone in.

And before bank regulations stop discriminating against risk-taking, so as to give the real economy a chance, any "whatever it takes", will simply waste whatever scarce fiscal and monetary space that might still be available.

And so when I now hear Draghi mention that Europe, especially the eurozone, has recently made great advances with respect to a fiscal union, a banking union, an economical union, and a political union, I cannot but feel sad thinking that Europe is, in unison, heading in the wrong direction, thanks to, among other, to regulators like Mario Draghi. A Europe, going in the right direction, even if that would entail less unity, is always better.

What does it take to preserve Europe and the euro and that Mario Draghi seems incapable to deliver? The answer can be found in a psalm "God make us daring!" It is high time to abandon the risk-taking austerity that has been imposed on our banks.

Sir, Lionel Barber and Michael Steen end their interview with Draghi, December 14, commenting that dwelling on the past is not what animates him, and quoting him with “That’s not the way I function. I look forward” 

Sir, let me assure you that anyone who can come up with bank regulations that discriminate against “The Risky”, what is in the future, the young, the new, and in favor of “The Infallible”, what is safe, what we already have, the old, is definitely not looking forward, he is hanging on for his life to the past. And I am sorry if this goes for you too!

What would be my person of the year? Easy, it would be that little European entrepreneur who still found it in himself to go out and do something, and not just stay in his ultra-safe bed worrying.