Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Un’Unione Bancaria Europea?

MONACO DI BAVIERA – In flagrante violazione del Trattato di Maastricht, la Commissione Europea ha presentato un piano di salvataggio dopo l’altro per le economie europee in difficoltà. Ed ora, vuole socializzare non solo il debito pubblico con l’introduzione di eurobond, ma anche il debito bancario mediante la proclamazione di una “unione bancaria”.

Socializzare il debito bancario non è solo ingiusto ma si tradurrà in futuro anche in una cattiva allocazione di risorse. La socializzazione del debito bancario al di là delle frontiere implica che gli oneri finanziari privati di un paese siano artificialmente ridotti al di sotto dei tassi di mercato, poiché l’assicurazione (nella forma di credit-default swaps) viene fornita gratuitamente dagli altri paesi. In questo modo, i flussi di capitali dal centro verso la periferia continuerebbe a superare la quantità ottimale, compromettendo la crescita dell’Europa nel suo complesso.

La storia offre innumerevoli esempi di cattiva allocazione delle risorse che può derivare dalla socializzazione del debito bancario. Uno di questi è la crisi dei risparmio e dei mutui degli anni ’80 negli Stati Uniti, che è costata ai contribuenti americani più di 100 miliardi di dollari. Al riparo dell’assicurazione dei depositi comuni, le casse di risparmio statunitensi hanno fatto una “scommessa sulla resurrezione” – prendendo troppo a prestito dai depositi dei loro clienti e finanziando imprese rischiose, ben sapendo che i profitti potenziali sarebbero potuti essere versati sottoforma di dividendi agli azionisti, mentre le perdite potenziali sarebbero state socializzate.

In altre parole, i profitti privati sono stati generati da attività inutili da un punto di vista sociale. Ed in sostanza, lo stesso è accaduto, negli anni 2000, con la concessione dei mutui subprime statunitensi e con il sistema bancario spagnolo. In entrambi i casi, le banche si sono assunte rischi eccessivi con la aspettativa di essere salvate dai governi – aspettativa alla fine confermata.

Le banche spagnole hanno speculato su un continuo aumento dei prezzi immobiliari, che avrebbe portato grossi guadagni in conto capitale ai propri clienti. Infatti, spesso hanno concesso prestiti ai proprietari oltre il 100% dell’ implicito valore della proprietà. A compensazione dei danni causati dalla loro condotta sconsiderata, hanno ricevuto 303 miliardi di dollari (378 miliardi di dollari) come credito supplementare da parte della Banca Centrale Europea, e possono aspettarsi ora un ulteriore aiuto di 100 miliardi di dollari dal Fondo Europeo per la Stabilità Finanziaria. Gran parte di questi soldi non verrà mai restituita.

La capitalizzazione del debito attraverso i debt-equity swaps sarebbe un modo di gran lunga migliore per la ricapitalizzazione delle banche. Piuttosto che imporre i costi delle perdite della BCE e del FESF sui contribuenti europei, i creditori delle banche potrebbero concedere un pò dei loro crediti in cambio di azioni da parte dei banchieri. La capitalizzazione del debito soccorre le banche senza salvare gli azionisti.

Idealmente  i creditori delle banche non perdesrebbero i loro soldi, perché i loro crediti a tasso fisso sarebbero riconvertiti in azioni bancarie di pari valore. Questo si verificherebbe fino a quando le perdite delle banche si mantenessero al di sotto del loro capitale azionario, Una vera perdita verrebbe inflitta ai creditori di una banca solo se le perdite deducibili sui titoli tossici superassero il patrimonio della banca. Ma anche allora, sarebbe meglio che fossero i creditori a dover sopportare le perdite piuttosto che i contribuenti, perché questo spingerebbe verso una maggior cautela ad effettuare prestiti nel futuro.

La socializzazione del debito pubblico già presenta un rischio per i paesi della zona euro ancora stabili. Fare la stessa cosa con il debito bancario potrebbe spingere nel baratro le economie finora sane, poiché i bilanci delle banche sono molto più grandi del volume del debito pubblico. In Spagna, il debito pubblico in rapporto al PIL è del 69%, ma il debito del sistema delle banche spagnole ammonta al 305% del PIL, circa 3.3 mila miliardi di dollari – più o meno quanto la combinazione del debito pubblico di tutti e cinque i paesi dell’eurozona colpiti dalla crisi.  

Mentre l’enorme volume del debito bancario implica che i governi dovrebbero rifuggire dal socializzare i rischi bancari, suggerisce anche che si può chiedere solo ai creditori delle banche di pagare il conto senza che questi ne siano schiacciati. Infatti, se, come si crede, una frazione del patrimonio delle banche sarebbe a rischio, la potenziale capitalizzazione del debito sarebbe minuscola.

Le banche spagnole hanno un capitale azionario del 7% in media nei loro bilanci. Dunque, una capitalizzazione del debito di meno del 7.5%  degli investimenti dei creditori sarebbe sufficiente a compensare le perdite delle banche. E anche se fossero esclusi i correntisti delle banche, i cui crediti sono il 39% del bilancio complessivo, la capitalizzazione del debito necessaria a compensare una perdita fino al 100% del patrimonio sarebbe meno del 12% del volume di investimenti dei creditori.

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Interventi di capitalizzazione del debito sono stati utilizzati con successo in molti casi, e seguono procedure fallimentari normali. Oltre ad evitare gli eccessi della pressione ed dell’ingiustizia fiscale, presentano il vantaggio di indurre i banchieri ad adottare una prudente strategia di investimenti, inducendo allo stesso tempo i creditori ad esaminare e scegliere con attenzione le banche cui vogliono far credito.

La cura nel preservare ed accrescere la ricchezza che le attuali generazioni hanno ereditato dai loro antenati è la ragione ultima della crescita economica e per il successo del capitalismo. I massicci interventi pubblici nel corso della crisi hanno minato questo principio, ed hanno probabilmente già distrutto gran parte della ricchezza ereditata.

È tempo di prestare attenzione alle leggi fondamentali dell’economia e porre fine all’imprudenza per cui è stato consentito alle persone incaricate di combattere la crisi di cavarsela. L’Europa non ha bisogno di una unione bancaria al di fuori di un sistema di regolamentazione comune.

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  1. CommentedErnest Dautovic

    I am wondering if the current german sovereign rate is driven by market fundamentals or by market fears, i am also wondering that if someone is speaking about Bank Union probably the issue is much bigger than a plain debt-equity swap. I am also wondering that we have witnessing 2-3 years of appaling incompetence by all sorts of EU policy makers, at both national and pan-European level. I much agree with the need to let some banks fail restoring a tiny bit of creative destruction in our financial system, unfortunately I also believe that the issues involve too many losses and contagion effects that this is not a viabla solution. And I have a final and simple desire that would solve, i believe, most of these issues: "repeal the no bailout clause" which only contribution is to make room for the financial markets to speculate and test the limits of the ECB. Euro zone is a bunch of countries without a lending of last resort guarantee, this is anachronistic and inefficient.

  2. CommentedThomas Lesinski

    I guess you mean the GERMAN banking system, which invested abundantly in US MBS and real-estate development in the euro periphery, and was merrily bailed out by the German taxpayer.

    1. CommentedDaniel Gomes

      German tax payer my rear end!

      Germans contributed with an infinitesimal portion of the bailout of its greedy irresponsible banks who cratered the world economy (including that of southern European countries) and I bet a great deal of it was offset by the taxes those banks paid during the golden years of subprime speculation.

      This article containing information forcefully disclosed by the Fed says it all.
      Geman banks were some of the major delinquents in the U.S. subprime derivatives crisis, greatly contributing for the cratering of the world's economy and for the piling of the debt of many countries due to the then required economic stimulus, lost tax revenue, and social welfare.
      And as a reward they received the mother of all bailouts:

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703865004575649102179786756.html

      But this was not all, the Fed still rewarded these these financially disciplined Germans with plenty of cheap cash:

      http://www.bloomberg.com/data-visualization/federal-reserve-emergency-lending/#/overview/?sort=nomPeakValue&group=none&view=peak&position=244&comparelist=Deutsche_Bank_AG-Hypo_Real_Estate_Holding_AG-Commerzbank_AG-Dresdner_Bank_AG-Bayerische_Landesbank&search=

      Against worthless collateral:
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703865004575649153243730686.html

      And as obvious, guess who was cut off from the credit markets in 2008 to 2009 and was not subdued into taking high interest loans under forced austerity?

      http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/21/germany-landesbanks-subprime-markets-equity-cx_po_0821markets20.html

      Now on top of these there are still the dollar swaps and the ECB money which we do not know because the fuehrer only wants to disclose information that benefits the superior interests of the arian race like the German 15% contribution for the so called bailouts (at loan shark rates).

      Nevertheless even discarding the billions received from the ECB the picture we see here is very obvious.

      We have hypocritical financial German prostitutes who socialised a stratospheric amount of their debt and now come and claim they are virgins who do not want to socialise the debt of other countries.

      For those who prefer facts instead of German supremacist rhetoric please study these documents from the Federal Reserve website and comment:

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_mbs.htm

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_taf.htm

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_swaplines.htm

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_pdcf.htm

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_tslf.htm

      http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/reform_pdcf.htm

      Why don't German banks socialise their profits during the golden years of the subprime, a large chunk of which were given to German government in taxes on the repatriation of their profits?

      If German finances are so solid why is that Germany does not return at market value, the freebies it received?

      Also it's time to demand transparency from the ECB, I, a citizen of the Eurozone, demand to know how much money have I gave to German banks since 2008!

  3. Portrait of Asgeir B. Torfason

    CommentedAsgeir B. Torfason

    Debt-equity swaps have also been used unsuccessfully, most recently in late September 2008 by the central bank of Iceland taking 85% equity share in one of the three biggest banks. Within ten days all the three banks were bankrupt as well as the central bank technically and the whole banking system of the country had to be re-established. The cost was shared between taxpayers in Iceland, equity owners and creditors, like big German banks. In the case of Europe, the banking system is so big, and there is no big outsider that can absorb the credit losses, so I would strongly advise against testing this.

  4. Portrait of Asgeir B. Torfason

    CommentedAsgeir B. Torfason

    It is not clear that the cost of ECB's losses will be borne by European taxpayers. Of course if the central bank goes bankrupt the cost ends with taxpayers (like in the case of Iceland) but in the case of a successful ECB the losses could be absorbed by the central bank's future profits without any tax increase involved (except maybe a financial transaction tax, that I think most normal EU taxpayers are happy with).

  5. CommentedOrestis Aristides

    It is exactly this kind of thinking that got europe into the mess it is in. If these are the people behind german economic policy no wonder we are in such a state and no measures tough enough to tackle the european debt crisis are taken. A crisis that could undermine the political and social stability of europe without which any growth on paper is irrelevant.

    Having a common currency should we not have a common central bank? Yes? We do. Should this central bank not only act as regulator to banks working in the Eurozone but also be their lender of last resort? I believe it is important that incentives are brought in parallel.

    It is easy to be the regulator if you are not the one paying the cost should something go wrong.

    A complete redesign of the european banking system, where a single institution regulates, lends and bails out (with the ability seigniorage) the banks and is ultimately responsible for them while accountable democratically to the european public through (for example) the european parliament, is absolutely necessary.

    As a further note to debt equity swaps, I do believe there is a big future for these and that a great deal of de-leveraging is necessary in the banking system. But let us not forget that banks creditors are the deposits of ordinary folk. Which i am sure did not deposit their money in the bank expecting to receive stock. A major mistake that people in finance and economics make that disconnects them with reality is that everyone else is knowledgable of finance, that is not the case.

    Most people leave their money in the bank because they do not have the necessary means to invest it themselves. That is the purpose of the bank, to act as financial intermediary. And let us not forget that these depositors are usually the european middle class taxpayers, the ones that european institutions should protect.

  6. CommentedDaniel Gomes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banking_in_Germany

    1. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

      A stunning reference to the German Bank leverage by Mr. Gomes needs a careful scrutiny, as here we are dealing with some critical issues, which may not be that straight forward.

      There is no denying the fact that the German banking system takes on more leverage, led by Deutsche Bank itself with a leverage of 41 (Lehman crashed at 31).
      If one reads the treatise ‘What do we know of Capital structure?’ by Rajan and Zingales, one would see an apparent contradiction that the German non-financial sector takes on much lower leverage than the rest of the European and the U.S. system due to a plethora of reasons, higher bankruptcy costs, as the paper mentions could be one of the reasons.

      For financial firms and banks we have a complete opposite picture, with much higher leverage as a general rule, however leverage is strongly influenced by explicit (or implicit) investor insurance schemes such as deposit insurance; some observations are as follows:

      In Germany, banks are both allowed to underwrite corporate securities and to own equity
      in industrial companies. In the United States, significant limits are placed on both activities (see Kroszner
      and Rajan (1994), James (1994)). So when the German economy had been exploding and the non-financial sector had been doing well, the rise in leverage could well be balanced by this general safety net, the government however is the main backstop, in the event of any failure of any large bank. But surprisingly Deutsch Bank at the peak of the last crisis never got any direct benefit from the central bank or the government and waded through the crisis unscathed, which is no small achievement. It also improved liquidity and cash and its quality in the balance sheet right through the crisis.

      Deutsche Bank cut its net exposure to the sovereign debt of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain to 3.67 billion euros at the end of last year from 12.1 billion euros in 2010, helped by hedging, write downs and maturing bonds. Deutsche Bank increased its core Tier 1 capital ratio, a measure of financial strength that takes into account risk-weightings assigned to various assets, to 10.8 percent by the end of 2011 from 7 percent at the end of 2008. Risk-weighted assets at Deutsche Bank will rise to 499 billion euros at the beginning of 2013 from 381 billion euros at the end of 2011 as new rules from the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, Basel III, increase the value of the assets by 105 billion euros, Deutsche Bank’s ratio of common equity to risk-weighted assets using Basel III standards would be 7.4 percent by the end of this year.

      So the movement is in the right direction; do not know why such an extreme outburst against the banking system of the best performing economy of the world.

      Procyon Mukherjee

  7. CommentedDaniel Gomes

    Behold the arrogant hypocrisy of author and commentators disconnected from reality...

    Where are all of you including Mr Hans-Werner when in 2008 the FED and the ECB each in its own way pumped rivers of money into the dangerously over-leveraged banks of German and the Netherlands??

    Is your memory being clouded by your hypocrisy and stereotyping of certain periphery countries?

    Coming 2008 German banks were the most over leveraged in the Euro area and within that same euro area, they were the ones which required the ECB to SOCIALISE their debt the most, and where were all the financial responsibility virgin prostitutes back then?

    More than half of the banks accessing the 1% 3 year loan freebies from the ECB were German!

    Where were all you "property bubble" hypocrites when German banks like Commerzank went virtually bankrupt until the ECB saved them?

    Furthermore, the much discussed property bubble in Spain was not as artificial and profit driven as the property bubbles in which German banks got envolved and later rescued by the ECB.

    Spain's population grew by 10% during the so called property boom, furthermore it was also sustained by the retirees from northern countries looking for a winter home!

    The difference between German and Spanish financial system was that German economy continued to grow whereas periphery economies once viciously attacked by speculators and ratings agencies, contracted abruptly bringing the economy to a halt and with it the defaults.

    Sick and tired of reading arrogant Germans controlling the ECB as if its is their own Bundesbank and profiteering from the whole crisis while still complaining about "socializing of debt"

    The so called firewall to protect the German banking system from the periphery exposure was nothing but socializing of German bank debt and allowing them to shed the bonds of those countries sending them into a spiral which took the banking systems of periphery countries with them!

    And for once, refresh your memories, the banks of German and Netherlands were almost as responsible for the cratering of the world economy in 2008 as their US counterparts! ABN AMRO, DEXIA, Commerzbank!

    They started all this with their irresponsible behavior!
    The Greek, Spanish and Portuguese financial system was much healthier than the German and Netherlands back then!

    These over-leveraging risks were absorbed by each EU citizen through ECB which lends at 1% against any kind of collateral to save these banks but doesn't lend a dime to countries which fall victims of vicious attacks from speculators and ratings agencies!

    And the most cynical portion is that Germans know that this helps their banks but could never help periphery banks which are totally dependent of customers and credit ratings from countries in distress!

    So don't you dare now talking about debt socialisation when you're obviously another German supremacist who prefers to ignore the obvious facts to fit the theory of German financial discipline (the ones who scrapped the sanctions for countries violating the Maastricht criteria!

  8. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    A very clear statement. Professor Sinn has been providing the tools making clear the difficult situation for some years.

    The immoral and illegal actions of the bureaucrats who have conducted the management of our systems is rarely mentioned.

    The destruction of what he calls 'inherited wealth' and I would call long capital accumulation is important. It has been engineered by debt allocation. What the professor does not refer to is the question of who has benefited from this.

    In other writing he has pointed that self-regulation is nonsense but suggests that self-stewardship can work. This is not possible where losses are socialised. The current process of baying bondholders in full while wiping the shareholders is simply a discrimination within capitalism. That it is raised to a religious principle of the state is obscene. A debt for equity swap is far preferable to the common good and was implicit in the initial conditions of such bonds.

  9. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The end of the article says:
    "...It is time to heed the fundamental laws of economics and put a stop to the imprudence that those charged with fighting the crisis have been allowed to get away with. Europe needs no banking union beyond a common regulatory system..."
    With this the only problem is that those fundamental laws of economics do not apply any longer.
    Understandably it takes a long time until we realize that we are at the most fundamental change in our history, and we are facing a situation we have no historical precedence, experience for. From a linear, polarized, "angular" world and development we suddenly transferred into a global, "round" world where everything is operating as a single network.
    Those "imprudent" people charged with fighting the crisis are not criminals, and they are not stupid. They do not find a solution to the crisis because there is no solution within the same framework the crisis was created in.
    As Einstein said: “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”
    We moved on from the system the previous economic and also social laws applied to and today exist in a completely new, global, integral, interconnected system. Our previous laws which served us reasonably well have turned destructive in this new reality.
    Any further development, solution for the crisis could only come from the full understanding of our new system, its conditions and laws, and how we ourselves can adapt to it.

  10. Commentedjracforr jracforr

    The Spanish banks did the same as was done in the USA, engage in reckless real-estate speculation that eventually went bust. This cycle has been repeated so many times before that it is comical . Because of the election in the USA, the world has entered the perfect economic storm,where lies and deception are being proffered as economic solution, by those who created this problem. Instead of forcing the speculator and their creditors to make restitution for the damage done, the countries economic problems have been attributed to ,workers pension , public sector wages and medical insurance etc. While these issues need to be addressed they are not the primary cause of the worlds economic problems. Instead banks are refinanced, because they are indeed, too big to fail. However as this article suggest Debt-equity swaps would be a much better way to recapitalize the banks in Europe as well as the USA. The government currently subsidize American banks with low interest rate loans which they lend at a profit. While this is sound policy in the present economic climate, it would be frowned up as socialism by the recipients, if this facility was offered to others. A distinction must be made between the free enterprise system and the predatory capitalism that landed the world in the present disaster.

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