November 29, 2016

Europe, Basel Committee’s risk weighted capital requirements for banks, is the kiss of death for your real economy.

Sir, Frédéric Oudéa, president of the European Banking Federation, writes: “The Basel Committee is targeting the degree of variability in how banks define the risks that ultimately determine their capital requirements. The highly technical nature of this topic should not divert attention from the fundamental question that lies behind the review: how, in the future, will European banks be able finance the economy and hence foster growth and raise employment?”, “New Basel banking rules’ impact on European economy” November 28.

But though Oudéa correctly argues that any review of current rules, “should not… disrupt the financing of the real economy”, he then does not tackle the “fundamental question”. That’s because be completely ignores, willfully or not, that the risk weighted capital requirements for banks seriously distorts the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

In 1997 when getting some strange vibes about what was going on in the world of bank regulations I ended an Op-Ed with: “If we insist in maintaining a firm defeatist attitude which definitely does not represent a vision of growth for the future, we will most likely end up with the most reserved and solid banking sector in the world, adequately dressed in very conservative business suits, presiding over the funeral of the economy. I would much prefer their putting on some blue jeans and trying to get the economy moving.”

The risk weighting has added a dangerous layer of regulatory risk aversion that causes banks to no longer to finance the “riskier” future, only to refinance the “safer” past or present. Since risk taking is the oxygen of any development, these regulations, if continued, represent a kiss of death for Europe… and others

Now, anyone should be rightly concerned with that getting rid of the risk weighting would create such bank capital shortages that it would put a serious squeeze on bank credit. As a solution I have suggested grandfathering current capital requirements for all the banks current assets, and then apply a fixed percentage, like for instance 8%, on all new assets. That should of course include the public debt, since a 0% risk weight for the Sovereign and 100% for We the People, is a pure and unabridged unbearable statism.

Now, if regulators absolutely must distort, so as to think they earn their salaries, I suggest they use job-creation and environmental-sustainability ratings, instead of credit ratings that are anyhow being cleared for by banks.