October 14, 2017

For the complexity of banks, regulating demagogues gave us the simple solution of risk weighted capital requirements

Sir, Martin Wolf writes that current “upheavals [2007-08 Crisis, Great Recession] have, as so often before, opened the way to demagogues, promising simple solutions to complex problems… Brexit… Trump…Catalonia”, “A political shadow looms over the world economy” October 14.

Indeed, but much of the upheavals were caused directly by the members of an exclusive mutual admiration club of populist regulators, who sold the world that monumental piece of demagoguery of risk-weighted capital requirements for banks. “You all relax… we have weighted the risks.”

And though they never defined explicitly the purpose of banks, because seemingly they do not care about that, implicitly, de facto, their risk-weights indicate what the banks should do, and what not. That is so because less capital, means higher leverage, which means higher risk adjusted returns on equity.

So now we have: thou shall lend to sovereigns, to members of the AAArisktocracy and to finance residential houses; and thou shall not lend to risky SMEs and entrepreneurs.

And when the first results of those regulations, the excessive exposures to AAA rated securities, and to sovereigns like Greece appeared and caused crises, they did not rectify, they kept their risk weighting, and their central bank brothers kicked the cans down the road with QEs and ultralow interest rates.

So look at the stock market going up while becoming riskier because of the de-capitalization that results from taking up loans to pay for dividends and buybacks.

So look at house prices being overinflated, as evidenced by the lagging of rental values; while central bankers turn a blind eye to house prices not being in the consumer price index, but that rentals are.

So look at how sovereign debt levels are growing almost everywhere.

The monstrous silence about the distortions produced by bank regulations, like by influential opiners like Martin Wolf, is only helping to generate even more nutrient ingredients to all too many populists in waiting. God help us!