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Better than Basel

ROME – The Basel Accords – meant to protect depositors and the public in general from bad banking practices – exacerbated the downward economic spiral triggered by the financial crisis of 2008. Throughout the crisis, as business confidence evaporated, banks were forced to sell assets and cut lending in order to maintain capital requirements stipulated by the Accords. This lending squeeze resulted in a sharp drop in GDP and employment, while the sharp sell-off in assets ensured further declines.

My recent study with Jacopo Carmassi, Time to Set Banking Regulation Right, shows that by permitting excessive leverage and risk-taking by large international banks – in some cases allowing banks to accumulate total liabilities up to 40, or even 50, times their equity capital – the Basel banking rules not only enabled, but, ironically, intensified the crisis.