September 19, 2014

Never allow anything to be classified as unexpected or unintended consequences, unless proven beyond doubts to be such.

Sir, I refer to Gillian Tett’s “Emerging markets brace for a bumpy ride” September 19.

I agree with absolutely all she writes about the losses many emerging nations suffered with their exposure to derivatives in 2008 “when the dollar suddenly surged in value as a safe haven currency”, except for when she argues“It is a lesson in unexpected consequences in a tightly interconnected world”.

As I see it, nothing should be classified as an unexpected, or much less an unintended consequence, if it has not been proven to be beyond any reasonable doubt to be so. Otherwise it just serves as an excuse for stupid behavior.

For instance, in January 2003 in FT I wrote “Everyone knows that, sooner or later, the ratings issued by the credit agencies are just a new breed of systemic error to be propagated at modern speeds” and I was no bank regulator.

And so no one should be allowed to talk about unexpected or unintended consequences of ordering the banks to follow so much the credit ratings as Basel II did. But yet, how often have you not heard about the unexpected or unintended consequence of credit rating agencies not rating correctly?

In the real world, not the world of unaccountable regulators, anyone guilty of such a mistake, would have had two minutes to collect his personal items and hit the door, never to return. And yet there they are as if nothing happened… even expected to save the day.

Could what happened because of the exposures in derivatives Tett describes not be an unexpected consequence? Of course it could... but let them prove it to us first.