August 21, 2014

Europe is about to throw away €489m to obtain fairly insignificant new information about its banks.

Sir, Claire Jones, Sam Fleming and Alice Ross report “Consultants to reap €490m from Europe’s banking audit” August 21.

First, we should not ignore that money, if bank capital, and if leveraged at the 3% leverage ratio allowed for banks in Europe, would permit bank credits to the tune of €16.3bn.

But we should also think about what that money can buy, and in that respect I believe it will buy regulators preciously little.

And I say that because we should not have to take a too close look at the balance sheets of banks to know that, because of the risk-weighted capital requirements they have:

Too little equity as a result of being allowed to have too little equity for much of those exposures that gort into real problems, like AAA-rated securities, sovereign like Greece, and real estate in general; and

Too much dangerously large exposures to what is perceived as absolutely safe, like the “infallible sovereigns, because those are the exposures that require the banks to have the least capital of that scarce capital; and

Perhaps even more dangerous because its implications too little exposures to what being perceived as risky requires banks to hold more capital, like loans to medium and small businesses, entrepreneurs and start ups.

What could the fees for that type of consultancy analysis be? Tops €1m? If so Europe will really be throwing away €489m in order to obtain information that on the margin seems to be quite insignificant.

And that does not even consider the fact that quite often, especially in the case of banks, the bliss of ignorance, is a quite valuable commodity.