January 02, 2016

The sky might not fall on America, yet, but credit-risk phobia sucks the Home of the Brave’s vitality

Sir, if bank regulators suddenly gave banks great incentives to avoid lending to those perceived as risky, like the SMEs and entrepreneurs, and to concentrate on lending to the sovereign and the AAA rated, would you still hold that all was fine and dandy in the Home of the Brave?

I ask because that is precisely what has been going on since1988 when regulators came down with a serious and dysfunctional credit risk-phobia that made them impose risk weighted capital requirements on banks.

In Basel I the risk weight of the sovereign (government) was set at zero percent, while America’s private sector was risk weighted at 100 percent. And then in 2004, with Basel II they split up the private sector in a range that went from a 20 percent risk weight for the AAAristocracy, and up to 150 percent for any borrower rated below BB-.

And that meant that banks now earn higher risk adjusted returns on what is perceived as safe than on what is perceived as risky. With such regulations that hinder the opportunities of the risky to have fair access to bank credit, it is clear that America would never have become the economic powerhouse it got to be. 

And similar things could be said about the entire Western world. Sir, it never stops to amaze me how determined you have been not to reference the distortions in the allocation of bank credit to the real economy that the Basel Committee has produced.

@PerKurowski ©