April 16, 2016

Tim Harford, what about bank regulators’ wrong use of statistics? Is it lies, bullshit or just plain stupidity?

Sir, Harford discusses statistics, lies and bullshit in “How politicians poisoned statistics” April 12.

But what would he call the use of fairly good statistics in an absolutely imperfect way? More than lies or bullshitting, it would seem to me that could be sheer stupidity.

The regulators, in order to make banks safe, they did not care about anything else, decided that their pillar would be the risk-weighted capital requirements.

And to apply it they looked at the risk of the different assets… but ignored to analyze the risk those assets could pose to banks.

And so they set the highest capital requirements against those assets that would least cause a major bank crisis, namely those perceived as risky; and the lowest capital requirements against those assets that always represent the greatest danger of excessive exposures, namely those perceived as safe.

And so banks, naturally, since they could leverage more with safe assets, and thereby earn higher expected risk adjusted returns with safe assets, created excessive exposures to for instance sovereigns like Greece or to AAA rated securities. And, when shit hit the fan, they stood there with very little capital to cover themselves up with.

And so banks, naturally, had less than ordinary exposures to the risky, like to SMEs and entrepreneurs, and so the economy started to slow down. And what poses a greater danger to the stability of banks than a bad economy?

So Harford how would you qualify that? Lies, bullshit or sheer stupidity? Or do you prefer to go undercover on this?

PS. Of course those statistics that came up with a zero risk weights for sovereigns were loony to begin with. 

@PerKurowski ©