November 30, 2018

Hercules Poirot, as a bank regulator, would be much more watchful of the “safe” than of the obvious risky.

Sir, Gillian Tett reminds us that “Any fan of Agatha Christie mystery books knows that distraction is a powerful plot device: if there was a commotion in the kitchen, detective Hercule Poirot would look for a body in the library, or other clues being hidden in plain sight, amid the noise.” “Federal Reserve attack is just a distraction”, November 30.

Indeed, but she could rest assure that Poirot, if cast as a bank regulator, would laugh at his current colleagues who show so much concern with what seems obviously risky, like when they in Basel II assign a risk weight of 150% to what’s rated below BB-, and so little about what seems very safe, like giving only a 20% risk weight to what’s rated AAA and is, therefore, if wrong, truly dangerous for the bank system.

Ms. Tett argues here that President Donald Trump “uses weapons of distraction more effectively than almost any leader before him”

She could be right but also, when GDP and inflation data are fraught with may uncertainties or outright errors, to hear the Fed discussing the “neutral rate”, could also be an intent to distract from the fact that they find themselves in that “dark room” deputy Fed chair Rich Clarida is quoted to have mentioned, and so that they therefore have not the faintest idea about what’s going on, and much less about what to do. 

Sir, when not knowing the answer to a question, proceeding to with a firm voice give an answer nobody is guaranteed to fully understand, also qualifies as a high quality distraction.

PS. That 20% risk weight of the AAA to AA rated, translated to a capital requirement of only 1.6% (8%*20%) which meant the banks were allowed to leverage mindblowing 62.5 times with such assets (100/1.6) which translated in to the cause numero uno for the 2008 crisis.