June 11, 2011

Control the regulators, do not let them sell “Too big to fail” franchises for a meager 3 percent of additional bank equity.

John Authers writes that “Self-control is the key to an investors life” June 11. He is right but the self-control that we all need and should be able to expect is that of the regulators.

The regulator, even though one of the markets most dangerous sources of imperfection could be the banks trusting the credit rating too much, were not able to control themselves and intervened as risk managers making the capital requirements of the banks a function of the same credit ratings the banks were already looking at. And what disaster that resulted in.

And now, displaying again a total lack of self-control, they want to sell “too big to fail” franchises to (SIFIs/G-SIFIs) banks for a mere 3 percent in additional capital. Not only will 3 percent of additional bank capital end up being almost meaningless in the case of a systemic explosion or implosion of these huge banks, but it is also probable that precisely those too big to fail banks that we least should want to be too big to fail, will be those most likely to exploit the franchise for all it is worth, in order to compensate the additional equity required, in the ways we would least like to see these franchises exploited. 

Of course regulators will argue these franchises will be the subject of special supervision. Who are they fooling? Is it not hard enough for them to supervise these behemoths without labeling them as the most likely candidates for special support?