October 15, 2014

Regulators who darkened the banks in the sun, should not be allowed to shine light on those in the shadows

Sir, I refer to your “Regulators shine a light on the banking shadows” October 15. Therein your argue: “FSB’s rules on short-term securities lending are a sensible start” since “The shadow banking system was at the heart of the financial crisis” and then you refer to “the meltdowns of Lehman Brothers and AIG”

Quite a distorted view I would say… both Lehman Brothers and AIG troubles had little to do with the shadows and most to do with the regulations that applied to the banks in the sun.

On April 28, 2004, two months before Basel II was formally approved, SEC decided that " for Broker-Dealers that are Part of Consolidated Supervised Facilities and Supervised Investment Bank Holding Companies… computations of allowable capital and risk allowances (or other capital assessment) consistent with the Basel Standards" should apply.

And that meant that, for instance Lehman Brothers, would be able to leverage its equity 62.5 times to 1 when investing in AAA rated securities, such as those that detonated the disaster.

And the same Basel Standards implied that, if a company like AIG, proud bearer of an AAA rating, puts its name to a debt instrument, banks would be able to leverage these investments 62.5 times to 1… and so of course everyone wanted to hire AIG’s AAA rating… at a reasonable price.

And, if someone does not understand the temptations a 62.5 to 1 leverage implies for a financial company, he knows nothing about finance and less about regulations. As a reference, hedge funds, those animals of speculation, these can rarely leverage their equity more than 10 to 1.

Sir, I am not at all sure that current regulators, those who so much helped to darken the prospects of our banks, should even be allowed to try to shine a light on the banks in the shadows… they done enough damage as is.

May I here remind you of some minimum terms we need to lay down before we allow regulators to regulate any banks?