April 19, 2015

To begin ending the too-big-to-fail banks, start by taking away the bowl of growth hormones.

Sir, I refer to your “Misbehaving banks must have their day in court” April 21

In November 1999 in an Op-Ed I wrote: “Currently market forces favors the larger the entity is, be it banks, law firms, auditing firms, brokers, etc. Perhaps one of the things that the authorities could do, in order to diversify risks, is to create a tax on size.”

And in May 2003, in a workshop for regulators at the World Bank, while Basel II was being discussed, I opined: “A regulation that regulates less, but is more active and trigger-happy, and treats a bank failure as something normal, as it should be, could be a much more effective regulation. The avoidance of a crisis, by any means, might strangely lead us to the one and only bank, therefore setting us up for the mother of all moral hazards—just to proceed later to the mother of all bank crises. Knowing that “the larger they are, the harder they fall,” if I were regulator, I would be thinking about a progressive tax on size.

And so I guess I have been on the forefront of fighting the TBTF banks.

But, during that fight I have become convinced that the most important tool would be to take away from the banks that bowl of growth hormones that minimum equity requirement against assets perceived as safe signify.

And, talking about “a day in court”, I would also haul regulators in front of a judge in order to ask them: “Who gave you the right to discriminate against those perceived as risky, those who, precisely because of that perception, are already naturally discriminated against by banks?