Vuelven los bancos grandes

CAMBRIDGE – El mes pasado, el Congreso de los Estados Unidos sucumbió a las presiones de Citigroup y revocó una disposición fundamental de la Ley Dodd-Frank de Protección del Consumidor y Reforma de Wall Street, de 2010: la norma que prohíbe a los bancos comerciar con derivados. El objetivo de la Ley Dodd-Frank era el de prevenir otra crisis financiera como la del periodo 2007-2008; la revocación reduce sus posibilidades de éxito.

Los derivados son contratos que deben su valor a los cambios en un mercado, como, por ejemplo, los de los tipos de interés, los tipos de cambio o los precios de los productos básicos. Los bancos pueden usar los derivados para cubrirse contra el riesgo: por ejemplo, velando por que los productores de petróleo a los que concedan préstamos mantengan sus precios actuales para sus productos mediante contratos de derivados, con lo que se protejan a sí mismos y al banco contra la inestabilidad de los precios. Así, es más probable que el prestatario pueda saldar su préstamo, aun cuando el precio de su producto baje. Ahora bien, se pueden utilizar también los derivados para fines especulativos, permitiendo a los bancos un riesgo excesivo.

La última crisis se originó en el mercado inmobiliario, después de un amplio e inesperado descenso de los precios de las viviendas. Después se propagó a las entidades financieras, que no pudieron afrontar las pérdidas relacionadas con la morosidad de las hipotecas, las ejecuciones de éstas y la depreciación de los valores relacionados con las viviendas. Los derivados exacerbaron la crisis, en particular después de que se liquidara la cartera de Lehman Brothers, que entonces ocupaba por su tamaño el cuarto puesto entre los bancos de inversión del mundo, tras haber quebrado. El día siguiente, el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos tuvo que conceder un rescate de 85.000 millones de dólares al American International Group (AIG), el mayor asegurador del mundo, dada su imposibilidad de respaldar su posición de deterioro en relación con los derivados. Dichas quiebras perturbaron los mercados de derivados del mundo entero, lo que provocó una paralización de los mercados.

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