L’effet citron

Munich – Après la crise de la dette de 1982, la crise des caisses d’épargne aux États-Unis à la fin des années 1980 et la crise financière asiatique de 1997, la crise des subprimes est la quatrième grande crise bancaire depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et c’est, de loin, la plus importante. Selon le FMI, la perte totale à l’échelle mondiale atteindra près de un billion de dollars, sans doute en grande partie supportée par les institutions financières américaines. Sachant que les capitaux combinés de toutes les institutions financières américaines sont d’environ 1,2 billions de dollars, cette somme a de quoi donner le tournis.

Comment expliquer les crises bancaires ? Les directeurs de banques seraient-ils à ce point ignorants ? Pourquoi prennent-ils des risques qui conduisent leurs établissements au bord de la faillite ? La réponse réside dans l’association d’un mauvais système comptable et de divers effets d’aléa moral qui n’étaient pas maîtrisés par les systèmes de régulation existant.

Par mauvais système comptable, nous entendons l’International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS, normes comptables internationales), qui est aujourd’hui utilisé par les grandes sociétés du monde entier. La faiblesse de l’IFRS est qu’il n’atténue pas les contagions systémiques résultant de mouvements des prix des actifs. Lorsque les prix des actifs bougent, les entreprises qui possèdent ces actifs sont forcées de les réévaluer trimestre par trimestre sur leur bilan. Le report hâtif de pertes et gains non réalisés de capital rend volatiles les actions de la société qui les détient, envoyant des ondes de choc à travers le système financier.

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