February 04, 2012

We should also strip the Financial Times of its honorable motto

Stripping someone of his honorific title does seem to be a quite civilized way to shame those who seemingly have done society wrong… and society really needs to recover, urgently, some serious shaming powers. 

That said, in order for shaming to really work, it should not be seen as singling out someone to shame, like in the case of Fred Goodwin, especially when it is well known that others should be on the list.

Independently of what regulators say, the banks and the markets consider the perceived risk of default, such as that information contained in the credit ratings, when it sets the interest rates, the amounts and the other terms of a financial exposure. 

That is why, when the regulators decided to use the same information for setting the capital requirements for banks, they guaranteed an excessive bank exposure to what is officially perceived ex-ante as not risky, like the triple-A rated securities and infallible sovereigns, and an underexposure to what is officially perceived as risky, like lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs… and that was the primary cause of this systemic financial and bank crisis.

I have written literarily hundreds of letters to the Financial Times during the last seven years about this almost unbelievable mistake committed by the bank regulators, and these have all been ignored. Now, if truth is silenced, we should not be surprised to see many pseudo-truths prosper, which is one reason that banker bashing has achieved its current levels of popularity and why regulators have not even come close to being held to any real account.

Therefore I am of course in total agreement with Martin Dickson´s “The burn-a-banker frenzy is tempting – but wrong”, February 4, when he reminds us of perhaps also burning “those meant to police the credit system”. 

But, to that, I would also add the need of stripping the Financial Times of its honorable motto “Without fear and without favour”, since obviously its silence, can only be explained in terms of journalistic or media cronyism... which is a public bad.