August 22, 2017

Will Jackson Hole Conference 2017 also ignore the distortions produced by the risk-weighted bank capital requirements?

Sir, Michael O’Sullivan, when speculating on Paul Volcker’s presence during this year’s Jackson Hole conference, writes that: “he might well look askance at the actions of contemporary central bankers. Volcker was an inflation crusher, a rate-riser (to 20 per cent) and, we can suspect, someone who believed that investors and economies had to bear the consequences of their choices”, “Jackson Hole offers central banks a chance to hand over baton” August 22.

Indeed but we should not forget that the Fed’s Paul Volcker, teaming up with the Bank of England, was the one who promoted the risk weighted capital requirements for banks… those who have, and still are, horrendously distorting the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

Basel I, with its 0% risk weight, allowed banks looking to maximize returns on equity, to leverage infinitely the net risk adjusted margins, when paid by a friendly sovereign.

Basel II, for whenever an AAA to AA rating was present in the private sector, authorized a mindboggling 62.5 times leverage.

Basel I and II assigned a risk weight of 100% to risky SMEs and entrepreneurs’ allowing these borrowers’ net risk adjusted margins to be leveraged just 12.5 times.

So banks are going overboard lending and investing in what is perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, the present; while abandoning financing “the risky”, the future.

And all this because silly risk adverse regulators just can’t get their hands on the difference between ex ante and ex post risks. When you argue with them that what is perceived as very risky becomes by that fact alone safe, and that what is perceived as safe becomes risky, their eyes go blank… and they ignore you.

Bankers who are having their wet dreams of earning the highest ROEs on what is “safe”, with so little shareholder capital that it leaves much over for their bonuses, also keep an interested mum on this.

Sir, the immense stimulus offered by central banks has been wasted because the can was kicked down the wrong roads of increasing asset prices and government debts, and not down the road of those who can best help us to a better future.

Risk taking is the oxygen of development. God make us daring!

In the name of my constituency, my grandchildren, I can only say, “Damn those bank regulators”