mercoledì 15 settembre 2010

Basilea 3, le calende greche e il calendario maya

Sul Financial Times oggi Martin Wolf commenta l'accordo di Basilea 3, che sposta alle calende greche requisiti di capitale per le banche un pochino più stringenti, forse contando sull'avverarsi delle profezie maya sul 2012 per evitare completamente la necessità di adeguamenti del capitale e sperando che una nuova crisi finanziaria non anticipi la fine del mondo già al 2011. Secondo Wolf (ho evidenziato io l'ultima frase in rosso)

To celebrate the second anniversary of the fall of Lehman, the mountain of Basel has laboured mightily and brought forth a mouse. Needless to say, the banking industry will insist the mouse is a tiger about to gobble up the world economy. Such special pleading – of which this pampered industry is a master – should be ignored: withdrawing incentives for reckless behaviour is not a cost to society; it is costly to the beneficiaries. The latter must not be confused with the former. The world needs a smaller and safer banking industry. The defect of the new rules is that they will fail to deliver this.

Am I being too harsh? “Global banking regulators ... sealed a deal to ... triple the size of the capital reserves that the world’s banks must hold against losses,” says the FT. This sounds tough, but only if one fails to realise that tripling almost nothing does not give one very much.
The new package sets a risk-weighted capital ratio of 4.5 per cent, more than double the current 2 per cent level, plus a new buffer of 2.5 per cent. Banks whose capital falls within the buffer zone will face restrictions on paying dividends and discretionary bonuses. So the rule sets an effective floor of 7 per cent. But the new standards are also to be implemented fully by 2019, by when the world will probably have seen another financial crisis or two.

Poi Wolf entra nel merito, spiegando perchè a suo dire il nuovo accordo non mette per nulla in sicurezza il sistema bancario. Wolf è piuttosto arrabbiato, non mi pare che manchi di argomenti e di ragioni per esserlo. Vi raccomando caldamente di leggere il suo articolo. Ecco le conclusioni

The conclusion, then, is that equity requirements need to be very much higher, perhaps as high as 20 or 30 per cent, without the risk-weighting. It would then be possible to dispense with the various forms of contingent capital that are far more likely to exacerbate panic in a crisis than assuage it. It is only because we have become used to these extraordinarily fragile structures that this demand seems so outrageous.
This is not to deny two huge problems.
One is that any such transition will be like taking drugs from an addict. The simplest way to minimise the costs would be for governments to underwrite the additional capital and then, over time, sell what they take up into the market. Even so, the aggregate balance sheets of the banking system probably need to shrink. Such deleveraging almost certainly means a longer period of large fiscal deficits than almost anybody now imagines.
The other is that there is tremendous potential for regulatory arbitrage, with risks shifted elsewhere in the system. Such risks can easily collapse back on to the banking system. Thus higher capital requirements for banks will only work if regulators are able to identify the emergence of systemic risks elsewhere.
The regulators are trying to make the existing financial system less unsafe, incrementally. That is better than nothing. But it will not create a safe system. The world cannot afford another such crisis for at least a generation. By these standards what is emerging is simply insufficient. This mouse will never roar loudly enough.

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