September 08, 2017

Basel Committees’ risk weighted capital requirements for banks attempts against all dreamers’ dreams of opportunities

Sir, Xavier Rolet rightly refers to the pro-debt bias that makes it harder for small business to access the capital they need to grow. “Europe’s debt bias chokes small business and job creation” September 8.

But is so much worse than that. When it comes to bank credit there is also the pro-perceived safety bias that hinders the SMEs’ access to bank credit. That “over-leverage in the banking system” Rolet writes of, does absolutely not include loans to “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, those” best positioned to drive economic growth and create new jobs”

Basel II allowed banks to multiply their capital 62.5 times with the net risk adjusted margins obtained from the AAA rated but only 12.5 times if that same margin was obtained from unrated SMEs. Anyone who cannot understand how that must distort, has never left his desk and walked down Main Street.

And on the same page appears Gillian Tett’s “Treasury bill jitters lay bare investor angst”. Even when it relates to “the curse of living in an Alice-in-Wonderland world, a place where it is increasingly hard to price risk and uncertainty because the normal rules are being torn up”, it does not refer to that abnormal rule of bank regulators considering, ever since Basel I of 1988, the (friendly and good) sovereigns to be worthy of a zero risk weight. That weight usually defended with the argument that sovereigns can always repay since they print their own money… blithely ignoring the Weimar Republics, Zimbabwes, Venezuelas and many other experiences.

And does not a below zero interest rate on some public debt by sheer definition state that it cannot be zero risk weighted? Or will the fact that some are willing to lose in order to hold it suggest a minus 20% risk weight? What a loony world!

To allow a bank to leverage more with a sovereign than with an SME signifies, de facto, from the perspective of how the allocation of credit is distorted, believing in that government bureaucrats are more capable to use credit they are not personally liable for, than those entrepreneurs who put themselves on the line. Sir, you’ve got to be a full-fledged fool or a runaway statist to believe nonsense like that.

In November 2004 FT published a letter in which I wrote: “We also wonder how many Basel propositions it will take before they start realizing the damage they are doing by favoring so much bank lending to the public sector… access to credit for the private sector is all but gone, and the banks are up to the hilt in public credits.”

Sir, I am all for “dreamers” being allowed to remain in America, but I must remind you that, all around the world, there are many dreaming of an opportunity to access a bank credit in order to realize their dreams… and those dreams have been made unrealizable, thanks to inept regulators… and you Sir are shamefully keeping mum on this.