venerdì 30 settembre 2011

Si scrive Tobin, si legge Robin ma è da Dustbin?

L'Economist appena uscito dedica un articolo abbastanza critico alle proposte di riforma dell'auditing e all'introduzione di una tassa sulle transazioni finanziarie.

Sullo stesso argomento potete anche leggere il commento di Buttonwood che allarga il discorso cercando di contestualizzare un po' le scelte che si presentano ai governi, anche se in una prospettiva abbastanza Londracentrica:

Let me start with the proposition that the financial sector has grown to dominate the Anglo-Saxon economies in ways that are unhealthy, particularly as the best and brightest have been lured to finance by high salaries. In my view, however, this outcome is the result of easy credit policies that fuelled a series of asset booms, accompanied by the gearing up of balance sheets and the willingness of central banks to rescue the markets whenever they faltered. The result for 25 years was a one-way bet on asset prices that the finance sector took advantage of. This was not a free market, but a rigged game.(...)

In the long run, moves to force banks to have higher capital will reduce the scope for leveraged returns, and thus reduce those big bonuses. Banks can go back to being rather dull utilities. But even this process is fraught with problems. The Bank of England's financial policy statement this week said that

banks should take any opportunity they had to strengthen their levels of capital and liquidity so as to increase their capacity to absorb flexibly any future shocks, without constraining lending to the wider economy. This could include raising long-term funding whenever possible and ensuring that discretionary distributions reflected any reduction in profits.

That is a tough combination to pull off, and so far lending has suffered. On the first part of the proposal, bank shares have underperformed this year, making it hard to raise new equity. The second part sounds good; cut back on bonuses rather than cut back on bank lending. But the banks are likely to say to one another; after you. If one bank cuts bonuses, and the others don't, the "good" bank will lose a lot of staff. Maybe this is something regulators have to decree, not just suggest.

So why not try a transactions tax instead? EU governments need the money, after all, and there is evidence that excessive trading can lead to volatility. Some will argue that the existence of stamp duty on UK equity transactions shows it can be done. But who pays the duty? Anyone who has ever bought shares in the UK will know that it is passed straight through to the retail investor or to pension funds, insurance companies and mutual funds (which are the aggregated savings of private investors). The duty has done nothing to slow the rapid rise in bankers' bonuses, which are generated elsewhere. Such taxes are just passed straight through to clients. Hedge funds often get round the duty, by trading in contracts for difference, a kind of leveraged bet on share prices that are exempt from the tax.

But what about all those derivative deals that are "socially useless"; wouldn't the tax catch them? It might if it were worldwide. But the bulk of European financial trading occurs in London, and the the bulk of that trading is conducted by non-UK firms. It would take little effort to switch the business to New York or Geneva or Singapore. Note that an impact assessment of the tax (which the EU commission undertook) says it willreduce GDP by 0.5%. Let Europe sign up for a financial transactions tax when the Republican party votes in favour of it (but don't hold your breath).

Indeed, this idea is so anti-London that the UK government is bound to veto it. Which makes one wonder why it was proposed; was it a smokescreen to divert the attention of EU voters from the mess that leaders are making of the debt crisis?

Qualcuno dei lettori mi sa indicare un link con una buona spiegazione di come sia aggirata la stamp duty tax dello 0.5% (!!) in vigore al LSE che gli investitori retail come me pagano ma che evidentemente non affligge i trading desk di banche, hedge funds, ecc? Davvero solo mediante i CFD? Peraltro in questo modo non si finisce con l'incoraggiare proprio quell'eccesso di leveraging che rende il sistema più instabile? Non ci sono esenzioni per chi dichiara (a torto o a ragione) di prendere posizioni sul sottostante per scopi di hedging su contratti derivati?

E' inutile e dannoso introdurre tasse sulle transazioni finanziarie se sono immediatamente e facilmente aggirabili (tranne naturalmente dal parco buoi).

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