Crisis prevention and resolution: Lessons from this & previous crises Patrick Honohan Trinity College Dublin LACEA-LAMES Meetings, Rio de Janeiro 23rd November 2008 Background Big losses in this crisis are due to long-standing issues (especially incentive effects, moral hazard) but activated by (banker and regulator) overconfidence in the new formal risk management techniques Now there’s revulsion: no confidence in anyone’s risk models; little interbank lending and trading in complex securities and belief that counterparties may unknowingly be insolvent The overconfidence was widely shared UBS Winner of Euromoney magazine’s “Global Best Risk Management House” award for excellence in 2005 Northern Rock Winner of International Financing Review’s prestigious “Financial Institution Group Borrower of the Year” award for 2006 Regulators shared the same rose-tinted spectacles – indeed Basel 2 implies that they buy into bank and/or rating agency models And then… Interbank and riskfree rates (3-month) (LIBOR-OIS) Dec 2005-Nov 2008 4.4 Interbank rate (2.15) “Expected policy rate” (OIS) (0.48) Source: Bloomberg Interbank and riskfree rates (3-month) (LIBOR-OIS) Dec 2005-Nov 2008 4.4 Interbank rate (2.15) This should have been the trigger for intervention “Expected policy rate” (OIS) (0.48) Source: Bloomberg The standard prescription for containment & resolution 1. Have legal powers enabling & requiring regulators to: 2. Intervene in undercapitalized banks, • • requiring them to increase capital and to desist from unsafe practices, and if necessary take control of a failing bank and arrange for a sale, liquidation or financial restructuring with the use of public funds. 3. Limited deposit insurance to insulate small depositors from anxiety and loss. 4. Liquidity provision to stabilize monetary conditions, including LOLR, but only for solvent but illiquid banks. Legal powers: even UK & US were not ready Northern Rock EU state aid law; bank insolvency procedures Lehman Bros Briefings suggest that it was legal limitations that ultimately forced the bankruptcy Deposit insurance – did not play a constructive role Supposedly, deposit insurance is there to: “Prevent contagious runs, ensuring market stability, and protecting the assets and peace of mind of retail depositors.” In reality it may do no more than buy political acceptability for a strict liquidation. Can only have a limited role when it’s the wholesale funders that run. Deposit insurance – did not play a constructive role Northern Rock Co-insurance rule (first £2K covered in full, 90% of next £33K) encouraged run by all but the smallest; made rescue politically inevitable Indymac bank Even covered depositors ran despite prompt payment record of FDIC Cross-border issues unresolved: Irish annoy neighbours by extending blanket guarantee… …But only for Irish-controlled banks, disturbing level playing field (and leaving banks on life-support) Iceland fiasco: Branch in UK not subsid, and home authorities could not afford to meet the insured liabilities. Liquidity policy: central banks retain independence but fail to control rates Big expansion: Innovated in instruments, maturity, counterparties but maintained “high” collateral standard (esp. ECB tightened in September) Mostly stayed out of explicit rescue actions (exceptions: NR; Bear Stearns; AIG) Thus, unlike past crises, CBs are not obviously in the front line for losses, though quality of their collateral may deteriorate. And their operational independence and inflation-targeting not yet compromised. However, they have been unable to control market interest rates with precision Intervention and recapitalization • Despite the persistent alarming indications, government intervention in insolvent banks and loss allocation was slow to start, reactive on a case-by-case basis and piece-meal. • Previous banking crises around the world generated huge fiscal (taxpayer) costs • In the early stages of this crisis (i.e. until about midSeptember, 2008), despite big reported bank losses, the taxpayer had not been implicated in a big way. Systemic Crises 1970-2008: Fiscal costs and GDP per head 60 Fiscal costs % GDP 50 40 30 20 10 0 0 Honohan (2008) 5 10 15 20 GDP per head $000 PPP (1997) 25 30 Banks hit by losses fall into four failure categories 1. Ruined gamblers 2. Too opaque to survive 3. Over-leveraged mortgage lenders 4. Diversified survivors (?) Banks hit by losses fall into four failure categories 1. Ruined gamblers Sachsen, IKB, IndyMac 2. Too opaque to survive in the market Bear Stearns, Lehman, AIG, Northern Rock (?), Fortis 3. Over-leveraged mortgage lenders Fannie and Freddie, RBS, HBOS, Northern Rock (?), Bradford&Bingley 4. Diversified survivors (?) UBS, Citigroup, Barclays…. Losses: 3 waves • Over-complex seniority-tranched asset-backed securities and related derivatives – From mid-2007 • Conventional property bubble-related losses – From mid-2008 • Recession-related losses (credit cards, auto loans, etc.) – From September 2008; – Avoidable as of Dec 2007? Why it’s hard to predict ultimate mortgage losses Moral hazard: could have been worse Heavy losses incurred by: (i) bank shareholders (for example in AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, IndyMac, Fortis, and several banks that have not failed, but saw their share price tumble by 80-95 per cent…RBS, Citi, Bank of Ireland), (ii) debtholders (in Wachovia Bank and Lehman Brothers, among others), and even (iii) depositors (in the Icelandic banks) So although the current “standing recapitalization facilities” clearly entail moral hazard; the policy response on average to date may not have been so bad For the future (1) Market info and intelligence good for micro-supervision Supervisors need better ways of collecting and processing information and opinions about systemic risk FinStab reports are not doing the job FSAP stress tests fight the last war There are contrarians and some of them have a point – typically dismissed because they do not know inside details Organizational economics may help (cf. Caricano/Posner JEP 05) For the future (2) More regulation? Much more capital Over-complex and opaque instruments may be outlawed: (over-reaction likely) Find a viable and effective way of reducing reward asymmetry But easy to game and downside hard to enforce But above all, apply the textbook rules Summary (1) The recognition lag was too long despite alarming indications (from August 2007) in interbank rates that things were badly wrong. Interventions were reactive to cash crunches and dealt with on a case-by-case basis as liquidity issues. Why? Because regulators had bought into the overconfidence in risk management tools that drove the excessive expansion of capital and liquidity leverage – and they were slow to realize that revulsion had set in. Summary (2) What would have been better: textbook approach. Mandatory early intervention in undercapitalized banks, writing shareholders equity down to zero, selling the viable parts of the bank, allocating losses to other claimants and the taxpayer. This approach would have allowed the large pools of capital unaffected by the US and other housing markets to enter with confidence and to make profits. (SWF and others). It would have avoided the 3rd wave of mark-tomarket value declines and the recession.