Les Américains vont se serrer la ceinture

MUNICH – Non sans douleur et quelques hésitations, le Congrès des Etats-Unis a sauvé Wall Street pour éviter l'écroulement du système financier américain. Mais les 700 milliards de dollars qui vont y être consacrés vont peut-être tomber dans un panier percé et il en est de même pour les milliards utilisés dans le même sens par les gouvernements du monde entier.

Les institutions financières américaines qui ont fait faillite en 2008 - ou qui auraient fait faillite sans l'intervention du gouvernement - étaient en difficulté parce qu'elles manquaient de capitaux propres. Ceci non parce qu'elles n'en avaient jamais eu, mais parce que ces dernières années elles ont versé une trop grande part de leurs revenus - de taille - aux actionnaires, finançant à l'excès leurs opérations par des capitaux d'emprunt. Si aucune mesure n'est prise pour accroitre le seuil minimum de capitaux propres exigé des banques et des institutions financières, des crises du même type pourraient se répéter.

Les institutions financières anglo-saxonnes sont connues pour leurs taux de versement des dividendes élevés. D'un point de vue européen, l'avidité pour les dividendes et l'importance accordée aux résultats à court terme qui caractérisent ces institutions sont à la fois étonnantes et effrayantes. Les banques d'investissement notamment sont connues pour leur approche minimaliste en termes de capitaux propres. Alors que la majorité des banques doivent avoir un rapport capitaux propres/actifs au moins égal à 7%, les banques d'investissement fonctionnaient avec un rapport de seulement 4%.

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