April 14, 2011

The truth about the crisis that the different silos, including FT’s, does not want or cannot see.

Sir, if all sovereign and private bank clients were paying the banks exactly the same risk-premiums, then the risk-weights used in Basel II to apportion the basic capital requirements for banks according to the various categories of credit ratings could have been right. But, they don’t!

The banks and the markets already incorporates in the setting of their risk-premiums the risk information provided by the credit rating agencies, and so when the regulators also used the same credit ratings for setting their risk-weights they made these ratings count twice. It was a huge mistake that resulted in:

1. The setting of minimalistic capital requirements that served as growth hormones for the ‘too-big-to-fail’.

2. That banks overcrowded and drowned themselves in shallow waters, whether of triple-A rated securities backed with lousily awarded mortgages to the subprime sector, or of equally or slightly less well rated “rich” sovereigns, like Greece.

3. A serious shrinkage of all bank lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs as lending to these generated, in relative terms, much higher capital requirement, which made it difficult for them to deliver a competitive return on bank equity.

With Basel III, regulators might be trying to correct for this mistake, instead of correcting the mistake. In other words, the Basel Committee would be digging us deeper in the hole where they placed us.