February 13, 2013

Happy birthday Financial Times. On this your 125th year could you please explain your motto to us?

Sir, there is little so dumb, so indefensible and so damaging to the economy, as capital requirements for banks which are much lower for whatever is perceived ex ante as “absolutely safe” than for what is perceived as “risky”

That ignores completely that the origin of all major bank crises lies entirely among those deemed “The Infallible” but which ex-post turn up to be quite fallible, and never ever among those who were ex ante correctly deemed to be “The Risky”.

And, by favoring what is already favored by the banks and markets, and discriminating against what is already discriminated against by banks and markets, that introduces distortions that makes it completely impossible for banks to perform their vital social function of an efficient economic resource allocation.

Just as an example those loony regulations, Basel II, required banks to hold 8 percent in capital, a leverage of 12.5 to 1 when lending to “The risky”, like small businesses or entrepreneurs, while allowing banks to hold only 1.6 percent in capital, a leverage of 62.5 to 1, when lending to a sovereign like Greece or investing in a security rated AAA to AA.

And among those regulators we find names like Lord Turner and Mario Draghi, names upon which heaps of praises have been poured on by FT over the years, names who have not been criticized by FT one iota for their regulatory stupidity.

That is why, in this the 125th year of FT, I would like to know when you adopted the motto of “Without favor and withour fear” and what that motto signifies.

I ask this, because I do agree with Nigel Lawson in that in this world “the FT has a unique role to play as a fount of reliable information and informed comment”, “No print rations, no clubby City – but the FT’s role endures” February 13.

And I ask this because your refusal to spell out these arguments allows the regulators to dig us even deeper into the hole when they, in Basel III, also want to introduce liquidity requirements based on the same ex ante perceived risks.

Happy birthday!