July 20, 2018

Don’t help bank regulators get away from being held accountable for their mistakes by politicizing the issue.

Sir, Gillian Tett commenting on Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner comments on the 10-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse writes:“Critics on the right complain that markets have been hopelessly distorted by government meddling” “European banks still have post-crisis repairs to do” July 20.

Frankly, you do not have to be from “the right” to “complain that markets have been hopelessly distorted by government meddling”

In 1988 bank regulators, based the risk weighted capital requirements for banks they were introducing on the nonsense that what was perceived as risky was more dangerous to our bank system than what was perceived as safe. With that they dangerously distorted the allocation of credit to the economy… and caused the crisis.

Would the Lehman Brothers have suffered the same collapse had not the SEC authorized it in 2004 to follow Basel II rules, and it could therefore (just like the European banks) leverage 62.5 times with securities backed with subprime mortgages, if these counted with an AAA to AA rating issued by human fallible credit rating agencies. Of course no!

But here we are a decade later and this major flaw of current bank regulations is not even discussed. What especially excessive exposures to something perceived decreed or concocted as safe are banks in Europe, America and elsewhere building up only because of especially low capital requirements, and which will guarantee, sooner or later, especially large crises? That should be the concern.

But, come to think of it, it could be that Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and Gillian Tett, still believe in the story the Basel Committee told them, perhaps because they want so much to believe that a fairy could make banks safe and still be able to serve the economy.