Large banks and systematic risks
I have written several articles about the causes of the current financial crisis. But one aspect requires more attention. The argument "too large to be let to fall" often causes discussions.If the financial groups' dimension can become an overwhelming problem of the public policy, due to the great risks for the financial system that appear when the network connection is paralytic, then we must deal with "the dimension".
A long time ago, governments in the U.S. and Europe have developed an anti-trust legislation to counter the monopolistic behavior that undermine competition and attracted undeserved merits. Let us remember the division of Standard Oil Company in early 20th century; later, AT&T had a similar fate.
In finance, the waves of deregulation during the recent decades have increased the space available for the formation of large groups, with operations covering the full spectrum of financial services. The globalization of the markets and the emergence of new information and communication technologies (which have increased the volume of global transactions in real time) have provided a strong stimulus for the emergence of real global players.
Some groups of this kind have covered the markets - which can be easily seen in the fact that the share of industry profits in the world GDP in the last two decades is a few times higher. But the imprudent behavior of several financial giants, and their fantastic interconnection have become synonymous and have served as an example for the systemic risk.
The dimension of the financial groups has to be an important component of the current efforts to reform the financial industry regulation and supervision system that take place in developed economies. Because if they are too large to be left to die, one has to find effective solutions for two problems arising here: moral hazard (encouraging bad practices by eliminating the risk of removal from the market) and reducing as much as possible of the use of public money when the action involves the government.
The increase in transparency, capping indebtedness, the improvement of the capital rates adequacy and avoiding a procyclical behavior, new wage schemes, the attempts to regulate conflicts of interest, improving quantitative models to capture the complexity and the "Minsky moments" are not sufficient when the dimension of certain players controls the system. I think the division of certain financial groups is rational in such circumstances. The antitrust law should be reviewed/completed for this type of situations.
Generally, this crisis favors a consolidation in finances, a perpetuation of the "too big to fall syndrome". This situation is an additional reason to use the antitrust law or a finance regulation, if we consider the banking industry as a special "public utility" sector.
Translated by Sorin Bălan