fredag 16 januari 2009


I helgen var jag på en konferens på temat finanskrisen. Den var dock lite för pratig för min smak, lite ineffektiv. Utifrån inte minst två mycket givande analyser/policydokument tänkte jag här redovisa tre punkter för reform av finanskapitalismen.

De två dokumenten som jag verkligen vill rekommendera att läsa är:
1) Progressive Economists' Statement on Economic Recovery and Financial Reconstruction från Political Economy Research Institute vid University of Massachussetts och Schwartz Center for Economic Policy vid New School of Social Research i New York. (Pdf:en hittas här.) Det är radikala ekonomer som tillsammans har skrivit ett dokument för konjunkturpolitik och strukturella reformer för USA:s ekonomi.
2)ekonomorganisationen voxEU:s publikation What G20 leaders must do to stabilise our economy and fix the financial system, från november 2008. (Hittas här.) Detta är en antologi redigerad av Richard Baldwin och Barry Eichengreen och innehåller korta (1-3 sidor) debattinlägg av många av dagens ledande nationalekonomer, med konkreta reformförslag. Den politiska tendensen varierar väl mellan nyliberaler och socialdemokrater. I mitt tycke är framför allt LSE-ekonomen Willem Buiters inlägg oumbärligt, han ger i en kort och pedagogisk text flera konkreta reformförslag för finanssektorn.

Mina slutsatser än så länge är att tre reformsteg behövs:

1. Omregleringar. Höj kraven på bankers kapital-till-utlåning-ratio, gör kraven kontracykliska för att dämpa den nuvarande procykliska tendensen, gör så att banker inte kan etablera sig i annat land om ingen gemensam bankreglerande institution finns för ursprungslandet och värdlandet (ett förslag från Buiters artikel), osv.
2. Använd och organisera konsumentmakt i form av pensionsfonder etc: det må vara individuellt rationellt på kort sikt att investera i hedgefonder, men på sikt ger detta kriser och ett sub-optimalt system
3. Förstatliga de stora bankerna (nationell nivå) och använd de statliga bankerna för att konkurrera med privata med progressiva mål

Givetvis med reservationer för att dessa frågor är extremt komplicerade och svåra och att jag inte är någon expert..

Det kommer också givetvis nya publikationer som bör läsas, och jag räknar med att återkomma till dem. I mars äger ett Ecofin-möte rum där ekonomisk-politisk strategi i EU ska diskuteras, och i början av april möts G20-gruppen i London. Till de mötena lär diskussionens vågor svalla höga. Och dessutom lär diskussionen fortgå kontinuerligt både fram till dess och därefter. Jag såg t ex idag att IMF kommit med ett working paper med titeln "A European Mandate for Financial Sector Supervisors in the EU" (IMF WP 09/5), av Daniel C Hardy. Jag återkommer till det.

--- Uppdatering 4 februari
Economist 29 januari, "Drugstore cowboys" - om OTC (over the counter)-handel med värdepapper, och hur problematiskt det är. Vilket också det står intressant om i voxEU-publikationen som jag länkar till ovan.

Uppdatering november 2009
Chefen för Bank of England Mervyn King uttalade sig 20 oktober för en uppdelning av banker i å ena sidan enklare och säkrare "utilities"-banker och å andra sidan mer risktagande, spekulerande investmentbanker.
"Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, told businessmen in Edinburgh on October 20th that regulation is not enough to keep banks from becoming “too important to fail”. Moral hazard is endemic: bankers take big risks, pocketing the profits but counting on governments to pick up the pieces if things go wrong.

Instead, he said, banks should be split up. Taxpayers’ money should underpin only those that operate as economically-necessary “utilities”—broadly, running the payments system and converting deposits into productive investment. Racier operations, including proprietary trading and other sorts of “casino” banking, should be spun off to outfits prepared to live and die by their wits, with no state guarantee.

In arguing for an updated version of America’s now-defunct Glass-Steagall divisions, the governor diverges from many at home and abroad. Both Gordon Brown, the prime minister, and the chancellor of the exchequer, Alistair Darling, made clear on October 21st their opposition to this approach. Although Lord Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City regulator, has suggested that the financial-services sector could usefully get smaller, the FSA also rejects the notion of forcing banks to split. Like the Group of 20 big countries and the Basel Committee of bank supervisors, the Treasury and the FSA want to rely mainly on heavier capital requirements to keep the system safe."

Economist, "Splitting up banks: Too big to bail out", 24 oktober 2009, s 41

Uppdatering vår 2010
"The new regime, which could be adopted as early as 2012, has two components: a 'coverage' ratio, designed to ensure that banks have a big enough pool of high-quality, liquid assets to weather an 'acute stress scenario' lasting for one month (including such inconveniences as a sharp ratings downgrade and a wave of collateral calls); and a 'net stable funding' ratio, aimed at promoting longer-term financing of assets and thus limiting maturity mismatches. This will require a certain level of funding to be for a year or more.

It remains to be seen how closely national authorities follow the script. Some seem intent on going even further. In Switzerland, UBS and Credit Suisse face a tripling of the amount of cash and equivalents they need to hold, to 45% of deposits. Britain will require all domestic entities to have enough liquidity to stand alone, unsupported by their parent or other parts of the group. Also controversial is the composition of the proposed liquidity cushions. Some countries want to restrict these to government debt, deposits with central banks and the like. The Basel proposals allow high-grade corporate bonds too.

Banks have counter-attacked, arguing that 'trapping' liquidity in subsidiaries would reduce their room for manoeuvre in a crisis and that the buffer rules are too restrictive; some, unsurprisingly, have called for bank debt to be eligible. Under the British rules, up to 8% of banks’ assets could be tied up in cash and gilts (British government bonds) that they are forced to hold, reckons Simon Hills of the British Bankers Association, which could have 'a huge impact on business models'. That, some argue, is precisely the point of reform."
Economist, Special report on financial risk, "When the river runs dry", 13 februari, sr s 11


"The Volcker plan—named after Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman who proposed it—calls for deposit-takers to be banned from proprietary trading in capital markets and from investing in hedge funds and private equity. The Financial Stability Board (FSB), a Basel-based body that is spearheading the international reform drive, gave it a cautious welcome, stressing that such a move would need to be combined with tougher capital standards and other measures to be effective.

The Volcker rule does not seek a full separation of commercial banking and investment banking. Nor is America pushing to shrink its behemoths dramatically; for most, the plan would merely limit further growth of non-deposit liabilities (there is already a 10% cap on national market share in deposits). Officials remain queasy about dictating size limits. Citigroup’s woes suggest a firm can become too big to manage, but JPMorgan Chase and HSBC are striking counter-examples.

For all the hue and cry about the Volcker plan, America sees it as supplementing earlier proposals, not supplanting them. The most important of these is an improved “resolution” mechanism for failing giants. Standard bankruptcy arrangements do not work well for financial firms: in the time it takes for a typical case to grind through court, the company’s value will have evaporated.

America’s resolution plan would allow regulators to seize and wind down basket-cases. The challenge will be to convince markets that these measures will not turn into life-support machines. Worse, there is no international agreement on how to handle the failure of border-straddling firms, nor is one close. That was a huge problem with Lehman Brothers, which had nearly 3,000 legal entities in dozens of countries. And the struggle to retrieve $5.5 billion that a bust Icelandic bank owes creditors in Britain and the Netherlands still continues."
samma special report, "Fingers in the dike", sr s 13


"Today, the people see in the financial sector not the skilful hands of erstwhile masters of the universe, but the grabbing hands of greedy ingrates. It is little wonder, then, that a desperate President Obama, battered by the voters in Massachusetts, has turned upon a group even less popular than his party. He has duly added the axe of Paul Volcker, 82-year-old former chairman of the Federal Reserve, to the regulatory scalpel offered by his Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.

Mr Volcker is proposing a version of the distinction between commercial and investment banking brought into the US by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. In announcing his new proposals last week, Mr Obama referred to a 'Volcker Rule' that 'banks will no longer be allowed to own, invest, or sponsor hedge funds, private equity funds, or proprietary trading operations for their own profit, unrelated to serving their customers'. Furthermore, added the president: 'I’m also proposing that we prevent the further consolidation of our financial system.'"
Martin Wolf, "Volcker's axe is not enough to cut banks down to size", FT 26 januari

jfr april 2010 Robert Reich om reformförslag
"1. Require that trading of all derivatives be done on open exchanges where parties have to disclose what they’re buying and selling and have enough capital to pay up if their bets go wrong. The exception in the current bill for so-called unique derivatives opens up a loophole big enough for bankers to drive their Ferrari’s through.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act in its entirety so commercial banks are separated from investment banks. The current bill doesn’t go nearly far enough. Commercial banks should take deposits and lend money. Investment banks should be limited to the casino we call the stock market, helping companies issue new issues and making bets. Nothing good comes of mixing the two. We learned this after the Great Crash of 1929, and then forgot it in 1999 when Congress allowed financial supermarkets to do both.

3. Cap the size of big banks at $100 billion in assets. The current bill doesn’t limit the size of banks at all. It creates a process for winding down the operations of any bank that gets into trouble. But if several big banks are threatened, as they were when the housing bubble burst, their failure would pose a risk to the whole financial system, and Congress and the Fed would surely have to bail them out. The only way to ensure no bank is too big to fail is to make sure no bank is too big, period. Nobody has been able to show any scale efficiencies over $100 billion in assets, so that should be the limit.

Wall Street doesn’t want these three major reforms because they’d cut deeply into profits, and it’s using its formidable lobbying clout with both parties to prevent these reforms from even from surfacing. It’s time for Main Street — Tea Partiers, coffee partiers, and beer drinkers — to be heard."

Uppd sommar 2010
"Three principles should guide reform. First, since markets are bubble-prone, regulators must accept responsibility for preventing bubbles from growing too big. Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, and others have expressly refused that responsibility. If markets cannot recognise bubbles, they argued, neither can regulators. They were right and yet the authorities must accept the assignment, even knowing that they are bound to be wrong. They will, however, have the benefit of feedback from the markets so they can and must continually recalibrate to correct their mistakes.

Second, to control asset bubbles it is not enough to control the money supply; we must also control the availability of credit. This cannot be done with monetary tools alone – we must also use credit controls such as margin requirements and minimum capital requirements. Currently these tend to be fixed irrespective of the market’s mood. Part of the authorities’ job is to counteract these moods. Margin and minimum capital requirements should be adjusted to suit market conditions. Regulators should vary the loan-to-value ratio on commercial and residential mortgages for risk-weighting purposes to forestall real estate bubbles.

Third, we must reconceptualise the meaning of market risk. The efficient market hypothesis postulates that markets tend towards equilibrium and deviations occur in a random fashion; moreover, markets are supposed to function without any discontinuity in the sequence of prices. Under these conditions market risks can be equated with the risks affecting individual market participants. As long as they manage their risks properly, regulators ought to be happy.

But the efficient market hypothesis is unrealistic. Markets are subject to imbalances that individual participants may ignore if they think they can liquidate their positions. Regulators cannot ignore these imbalances. If too many participants are on the same side, positions cannot be liquidated without causing a discontinuity or, worse, a collapse. In that case the authorities may have to come to the rescue. That means that there is systemic risk in the market in addition to the risks most market participants perceived prior to the crisis.

The securitisation of mortgages added a new dimension of systemic risk. Financial engineers claimed they were reducing risks through geographic diversification: in fact they were increasing them by creating an agency problem. The agents were more interested in maximising fee income than in protecting the interests of bondholders. That is the verity that was ignored by regulators and market participants alike.

To avert a repetition, the agents must have “skin in the game” but the 5 per cent proposed by the administration is more symbolic than substantive. I would consider 10 per cent as the minimum requirement. To allow for possible discontinuities in markets securities held by banks should carry a higher risk rating than they do under the Basel Accords. Banks should pay for the implicit guarantee they enjoy by using less leverage and accepting restrictions on how they invest depositors’ money; they should not be allowed to speculate for their own account with other people’s money.

It is probably impractical to separate investment banking from commercial banking as the US did with the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. But there has to be an internal firewall that separates proprietary trading from commercial banking. Proprietary trading ought to be financed out of a bank’s own capital. If a bank is too big to fail, regulators must go even further to protect its capital from undue risk. They must regulate the compensation packages of proprietary traders so that risks and rewards are properly aligned. This may push proprietary trading out of banks into hedge funds. That is where it properly belongs. Hedge funds and other large investors must also be closely monitored to ensure that they do not build up dangerous imbalances.

Finally, I have strong views on the regulation of derivatives. The prevailing opinion is that they ought to be traded on regulated exchanges. That is not enough. The issuance and trading of derivatives ought to be as strictly regulated as stocks. Regulators ought to insist that derivatives be homogenous, standardised and transparent.

George Soros, "The three steps to financial reform", Financial Times 16 juni

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