• REMEMBER THAT NUMBERS ARE PEOPLE LOOK FOR COCK-UP BEFORE CONSPIRACY • ALWAYS CITE PRIMARY SOURCES


Saturday, 31 December 2011

BAΒU? THAT THE BEST U CAN DO?

Πρόσφατα υπέπεσε στην αντίληψή μου, μετά από RT της @_LaScapigliata, ένας καλογραμμένος πολεμικός με τίτλο O νεοφιλελευθερισμός ως αντεστραμμένος εθνικισμός’ του @LeninReloaded στον οποίο νομίζω (μάλλον από ψώνιο) ότι μου επιφυλάσσεται ένας μικρός ρόλος ως συγγραφέα «σε άλλο ιστολόγιο της τάξης των εξ επαγγέλματος «αντιεθνικιστών» νεοφιλελεύθερων» και «ιδεολογικού παιδού της Δυστυχίας του να είσαι Έλληνας [του Ν. Δήμου]» Αυτά με αφορμή το επεξηγηματικό μου κείμενο «Self Hating Greek FTW» όπου απαντώ σε όσους με κατηγορούν για δήθεν έλλειψη πατριωτισμού.

Βέβαια για να μη δημιουργώ ψευδείς εντυπώσεις καλό θα ήταν να τονίσω ότι κύριος στόχος του εν λόγω άρθρου δεν ήμουν εγώ αλλά ο ίδιος ο Δήμου, τον οποίο γνώρισα μόλις φέτος ως αγαπημένο πρωταγωνιστή  των Δίλεπτων Μίσους της ιντερνετικής αριστεράς – είναι φαντάζομαι για την εθνική συνείδηση μερικών εξ αυτών ό,τι ο Μίχας ή ο Μανδραβέλης για την οικονομική τους ενημέρωση.

Στο κείμενό μου η δήθεν υπερήφανη οικειοποίηση εκ μέρους μου του όρου Self Hating Greek διαψεύδεται από τις πρώτες κιόλας λέξεις (αυτός εξάλλου είναι ο λόγος που το έγραψα). Αυτό θα μπορούσε εύκολα να το διαπιστώσει ο αναγνώστης, αν ο επικριτής μου (;) είχε την καλοσύνη να παραθέσει ένα σύνδεσμο.

Για να ευχαριστήσω εντούτοις τον @LeninReloaded, ετοίμασα μια παράφραση του άρθρου του με λίγα μόνο επιπλέον σχόλια που ίσως να τον διασκεδάσει. Για τους σκοπούς αυτής της παράφρασης ας επινοήσουμε έναν όρο, ‘τοπικιστικός διεθνισμός’ για να περιγράψουμε την περίεργη φιλοσοφία που αναπτύσσεται στο δεύτερο μισό του άρθρου.

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Ο αφορισμός  #317 του Καρλ Κράους, αυτού του ανυπέρβλητα πικρόχολου αποστάτη της αυστριακής αστικής τάξης, έχει ως εξής: «Το απεχθές με τον σωβινισμό δεν είναι τόσο η αντιπάθεια για τα άλλα έθνη όσο η αγάπη για το δικό μας.» Αν κάποιος φιλελεύθερος τύχαινε να σκοντάψει πάνω σ' αυτή τη διατύπωση θα ένιωθε την ανάγκη να συμπληρώσει το εξής: «Το απεχθές με τον τοπικιστικό διεθνισμό δεν είναι τόσο η αντιπάθεια για τον παγκοσμιοποιημένο καπιταλισμό, όσο η  αγάπη (που παραπέμπει ευθέως στο Σύνδρομο της Στοκχόλμης) για το στρεβλό πλην οικείο σύστημα που τον καταδυναστεύει στη χώρα του.»

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 Όπως λέει και ο επικριτής μου (;),

«για μας όμως επίσης, η εργατική τάξη οργανώνεται και διεκδικεί αναγκαστικά τοπικά, στα πλαίσια συνεπώς – και αναπόφευκτα – ενός έθνους-κράτους, απευθυνόμενη σε μια εθνική νομοθεσία, εθνικές συλλογικές συμβάασεις, εθνικό Σύνταγμα, εθνική κυβέρνηση, αναδεικνύοντας φυσικά τον επικαθορισμό τους από τον υπερεθνικό χαρακτήρα των κεφαλαιοκρατικών συμφερόντων και όχι αναζητώντας μια ούτως ή άλλως ανύπαρκτη καθαρότητα.»

Συνεχίζω να παραφράζω:

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Η αλήθεια αυτής της συμπληρωματικής διατύπωσης, σύμφωνα με την οποία ο τοπικιστικός διεθνισμός ως τέτοιος, ως εδραιωμένο και αυτοτελές πολιτικό πρόταγμα, είναι στην πραγματικότητα μια συντεχνιακή ιδεολογία, πιστοποιείται εύκολα.

Οι προτάσεις των «πατριωτών» διεθνιστών --και εννοώ τόσο τον ισοπεδωτικό αντι-δυτικισμό τους όσο και την εξίσου ισοπεδωτική λατρεία τους για κάθε «κατάκτηση» των εγχώριων νταβατζήδων του συνδικαλισμού, απευθύνονται σε έναν υπόρρητο ή αδήλωτο «μεγάλο Άλλο.» Ο  «πατριώτης» διεθνιστής γράφει μεν απευθυνόμενος ως επί το πλείστον σε αστούς και τέκνα αστών που έχουν διεθνή ιδεολογικά αναγνώσματα και ερεθίσματα και τα επικαλούνται με εξαντλητική συχνότητα --όλως παραδόξως-- γράφει όμως ωσάν ο πραγματικός του αναγνώστης να είναι ο μεγάλος  Άλλος της εγχώριας εργατιάς, που θα αναγνωρίσει σ' αυτόν το οικείο πλατύ κούτελο και αιχμηρό μούσι του ινστρούχτορα, και θα του εμπιστευθεί τα πνευματικά ηνία της Επανάστασης. Εξάλλου όπως παραδέχεται και ο ίδιος ‘στοχεύει στην ενεργό παρέμβαση στην διαμόρφωση και κατεύθυνση του εργατικού κινήματος.’

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Αυτή η εμμονή στην πνευματική ηγεσία της  Επανάστασης δεν είναι ίδιον όλων των αριστερών. Δεν θα τη βρει κανείς π.χ. στους αριστερούς που μπορούν να κάνουν κι ένα διάλειμμα στα Starbucks μετά την πορεία ή να κάτσουν να δουν μια μη στρατευμένη ταινία με μη ομοϊδεάτες φίλους τους. Είναι όμως κεντρικό ζητούμενο για τους ζηλωτές της επανάστασης. Εκείνους που έχουν θυσιάσει πολλή από τη ζωή τους προσμένοντας τη στιγμή της εξέγερσης που θα τους δικαιώσει -όπως ο ζηλωτής μοναχός προσμένει την Κρίση και την ανάσταση των νεκρών. Γι’ αυτό και οι τελευταίοι καταβαραθρώνουν με τόσο μίσος τον «ψευδή ρεαλισμό και ανέξοδο διεθνισμό της "ευρω-αριστεράς".» Καλώς ή κακώς η μόνη επανάσταση της οποίας προλαβαίνει να εξελιχθεί σε ηγέτη ο μέσος ζηλωτής Έλλην Επαναστάτης, δικαιολογώντας τις θυσίες του, είναι η Ελληνική –Ελλαδάρα λοιπόν και ξερό ψωμί.

Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι ερωτηθείς, στα πλαίσια της Ευρωπαϊκής Έρευνας Αξιών του 2008 (στοιχεία από εδώ), πόσο υπερήφανοι είναι που είναι Έλληνες, το 56.5% όσων δήλωναν πρόθεση ψήφου για το ΚΚΕ απήντησε «πολύ υπερήφανος/η» και το 34% «αρκετά υπερήφανος/η» - σχεδόν τα ίδια ποσοστά που δήλωναν πρόθεση ψήφου για τον ΛΑ.Ο.Σ. Αυτό παρά το γεγονός ότι, όσο πιο αριστερός δήλωνε κανείς σε μια απλή μονοδιάστατη κλίμακα δεξιάς-αριστεράς, τόσο λιγότερο υπερήφανος δήλωνε για την ελληνικότητά του. Εννοείται ότι οι πιο «υπερήφανοι» Έλληνες με διαφορά ήταν οι ψηφοφόροι των δύο κομμάτων εξουσίας και ότι ακόμη και μεταξύ όσων θεωρούσαν εαυτούς 'τόσο αριστερούς όσο πάει' οι μισοί ένοιωθαν 'πολύ περήφανοι' που ήταν Έλληνες.' 



Η συντεχνιακή αντίληψη του τοπικιστικού διεθνισμού δεν εξαντλείται βέβαια στο ρόλο της πνευματικής ηγεσίας του. Γιατί αυτό που παρέλειψε στη διατριβή του περί babu-wannabees ο συγγραφέας είναι ότι επί δεκαετίες τώρα συνεισφέρουν  στην επιλογή νέων  συμπολιτών μας να μεταναστεύσουν προς χώρες κατ’ εξοχήν απεχθείς προς τον ίδιο και τους ομοϊδεάτες του. Η μετανάστευση των καλοβαλμένων δυτικολάγνων δεν ενοχλεί προσωπικά τον κάθε ζηλωτή Επαναστάτη (καλά ξεκουμπίδια θα μου έλεγε αν κάναμε αυτήν την κουβέντα πριν ξενιτευτώ το 2005), αλλά εντούτοις βγάζοντας από την αγορά εργασίας ένα πολύ σεβαστό αριθμό υποψήφιων ανέργων αποσυμπιέζει λίγο την Ελληνική κοινωνία και καθυστερεί, έστω και λίγο μόνο, την κοινωνική έκρηξη που φαντασιώνεται ο επίδοξος ινστρούχτορας. Αυτό είναι, εννοείται, ασυγχώρητο.

Κύριοι ζηλωτές και επίδοξοι ινστρούχτορες (γιατί ο L-R είναι ένας μεταξύ πολλών), αν αυτό σας βοηθά να κοιμάστε χωρίς να τρίζετε τα δόντια σας, μπορείτε να λέτε στους εαυτούς σας και στο ποίμνιό σας ότι εμείς η συμμορία των ‘νεοφιλελεύθερων’ διατρανώνουμε συνθηματικά το μίσος μας για τους άλλους Έλληνες μπας και μας ακούσει κανένας αρθρογράφος των FT και πει ‘Να, αυτοί οι Έλληνες μάλιστα! Να’ ταν όλοι έτσι! Ποιος είναι ο καλός μου Έλληνας; Εσύ είσαι ο καλός μου Έλληνας , γούτσου γούτσου γου.’ 

Μπορείτε να λέτε αυτά και άλλα τόσα για εμάς και τα κίνητρά μας. Αλλά μην απατάσθε προσωπικά, όσο και αν σας πιστεύουν μερικοί, ότι αυτή η ερμηνεία αποτελεί κάτι παραπάνω από έναν ελιγμό στον πόλεμο για την νοηματοδότηση της κρίσης στον οποίο όλοι μας συμμετέχουμε επί 3 χρόνια τώρα. 

Μην απατάσθε επίσης ότι αποτελεί απάντηση στις τοποθετήσεις μας. Όσες παραπομπές και να το στολίσει κανείς, ένα ad-hominem παραλήρημα  - ‘ο Χ είναι ένα δουλοπρεπές ανθρωπάκι!!!! – ο Χ ισχυρίζεται το Υ!!!! – άρα το Υ δεν ισχύει!!!!  και αν το ανέχεσαι είσαι κι εσύ ένα δουλοπρεπές ανθρωπάκι!!!!’ -  δεν μετατρέπεται σε επιχείρημα. Το μόνο που κάνετε είναι να επισημαίνετε στους αναγνώστες σας άλλον έναν ‘εχθρό του λαού.’ Με αυτούς τους ρυθμούς θα γεράσετε πρωτού καν ετοιμάσετε τέτοιου είδους αντί-αγιογραφίες για κάθε έλληνα που έχει μιλήσει ποτέ απαξιωτικά για οποιαδήποτε μεγάλη μερίδα του Ελληνικού λαού και για την νοοτροπία της.


Εξάλλου, στην προσπάθειά σας  να ανακαλύψετε εχθρούς της εργατιάς για το καθερωμένο Δίλεπτο Μίσους, ξεχνάτε ποιους ανθρώπους πραγματικά αντιμαχόμαστε οι «αντι-εθνικιστές νεοφιλελεύθεροι» και γιατί.

Δεν γνωρίζω τι σκέφτεται ο Δήμου και ο κάθε Δήμου, αλλά προσωπικά ελάχιστα χάνω τον ύπνο μου στη σκέψη του κάθε Ινστρούχτορα και των φίλων του και του τι θα μας κάνουν την επαύριο της Επανάστασης. Για κάθε ένα τακτικό αναγνώστη όμως του Lenin Reloaded υπάρχουν 10,000 τακτικοί αναγνώστες του Τρο(μα)κτικού, άλλοι τόσοι αμετανόητοι ψηφοφόροι της Αλλαγής του 81 και του 85, και άλλοι 1,000 τουλάχιστον οπαδοί /αναγνώστες του Λιακόπουλου, και όλοι αυτοί με τρομοκρατούν μέχρι θανάτου. Ομολογουμένως οι αλληλοεπικαλύψεις είναι σημαντικές, αλλά δεν παύουν οι άνθρωποι αυτοί να είναι αρκετοί σε αριθμούς για να κρίνουν κάθε εκλογικό αποτέλεσμα για τις επόμενες τρεις δεκαετίες. Μπορεί τα κόμματα που κάποτε ψήφιζαν να πεθάνουν (αμήν) αλλά οι νοοτροπίες που υποκινούσαν αυτές τις ψήφους θα επιζήσουν.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

PRIMARY DEFICIT XMAS CHEER

Readers will know that this blog is the one place where you can actually get a monthly play by play of the Greek primary deficit, and when stuck for anything else to write (after my Basel III blogasm the other day) I will dig that out for some light entertainment.

By the looks of it, the Government has started to turn things around near the end of the year, after a disastrous start in which the primary deficit seemed completely out of control. Since June, the primary deficit has flatlined and since September it has stayed below 2010 levels. September and November were particularly good months. That said, three months do not a reverse snafu make and December could well be a different story, as indeed the whole of 2012.


All of my usual caveats apply: a large proportion of savings are unsustainable, either because they are one-off tax revenues or because they are based on deep cuts to public investment. Sooner or later the potholes will need filling and the tax admin IT systems will need mercy-killing; and of course there's only so much you can tax when an increasing number of would-be taxpayers are under the poverty line.

Moreover, I'm still unable to explain why last year's deficit figures have been revised upwards by about 834m as of November. This revision accounts for about half of the gains that the government appears to have made against 2010 figures. Moving the goalposts is a time-honoured tradition but I don't expect it's fooling anyone anymore.


As for next year, much hinges on what kind of measures the government goes for. Remember, the order of preference should be:

Benefit cuts > Public consumption cuts > Direct Tax Hikes> Public Investment Cuts > Indirect Tax Hikes

I can't see how a government with no mandate (three non-mandates do not make a mandate) will manage to pull off further benefits cuts, or indeed how further taxes are going to be viable given their history of missing revenue targets. Public investment is down to virtually zero, so that's not an option. So next year is going to be the year the moist-eyed public consumption puppy really gets it.

For the more visual characters among you, the charts below show the evolution of the primary deficit during the past three years.





So to conclude, I don't know how long this is going to last, but let's cheer this latest batch of figures. Long-term, the solvency of the Greek sovereign is not in question in the same way as the half-life of a snowflake in hell is beyond dispute.

But lest we forget, PRIMARY SURPLUS = SOVEREIGNTY so the closer we get to it the better. Yay.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

THE WORST VERY DECENT COUNTRY IN THE WORLD: A LOLGREECE CHRISTMAS CAROL


UPDATE: A Greek version of this post was published on 5 Jan 2012 by protagon.gr

In my months of relative absence I’ve been reading this blog over and over again, looking for things I ought to have done better or things I used to do well but no longer do. I realised my favourite post by a wide margin was this one, because it told a story that not all commentators are well-placed to tell, and without which any discussion of the Greek debt crisis is doomed to miss the point completely. Today, as a special Xmas treat to my loyal readers, I have got a new historical post, and it’s a good one I promise.

Our story is set in Switzerland, where Greek millionaires  (and, one account tells me, Cretan goatherds) keep their money. However, our villains are not the Gnomes of Zurich, but the Grinches of Basel.

Readers will know that I’ve got a special interest in capital regulation in my professional capacity, and I’ve also had the good fortune of being allowed to write a little bit on the impact the new capital regulations (Basel III, implemented in Europe within CRD IV) are likely to have on loans to small and medium sized enterprises. You can find the global discussion paper here and the European policy paper here. However, mine is only a passing amateur interest compared to that of Patrick Slovik at the OECD, who recently sent me his latest work on what capital regulation has actually done to the banking sector globally. It is this paper that inspired our Christmas carol.

If you’re new to the concept of capital regulation, then the story goes a little like this. 

Banks are required by law to hold on to a certain amount of money against what they lend so that, if they should make losses or if depositors should rush to get their money back, they will still have enough money to meet their obligations and keep functioning. Banks would, in their own best interests, hold on to some money anyway, but in many cases they don’t appreciate how their lending decisions or other transactions affect the total system and how the troubles of other banks could affect them; so they are likely to hold on to less money than they should. Hence, the reasoning goes, regulators have to make it mandatory for banks to hold on to a certain level of capital that is higher than what banks would set aside on their own.

In 1988, a concentrated effort was made by central bankers around the world to agree on principles of capital regulation that would apply globally. The trigger was the failure of a German bank back in 1974, which today would have been a mere blip on the radar of EPIC FAILZ but was a big deal at the time. Because the Committee that was formed to prepare these standards met for the most part in Basel, this first set of standards was known as the Basel Accord and its two latter incarnations are known as Basel II and Basel III. Collectively they are known as the Basel Accords.



LORDS OF KA-CHING
(Lords of Ka-Ching, by William Banzai


The clever idea behind the Basel Accords (and one that, in principle, it is hard to argue with) is that the amount of capital banks should set aside should depend on how risky their activities are. I could tell you that one myself. If you’re a specialist bank lending to start-ups (hint: there is no such thing) it makes sense to hold on to a lot of capital, because about a quarter of start-ups (in Europe) never make it past their 2nd birthday. If on the other hand, you are a niche player lending only to large fast-moving consumer goods companies like Unilever or P&G, then you shouldn’t need to worry as much. Basel doesn't quite work like that but the principle of 'more risk, more capital' is the same. 

The problem is that there is no single way of assessing credit risk, and, in the case of loans, banks each use their own methods for doing this, the tiny variations of which are essentially industrial secrets. So the only way regulators could create any system of capital requirements that banks would not reject outright was to come up with their own assessment of how risky different types of activity actually were. Each asset (such as a loan, or a bond, or whatever) would receive its own risk ‘weight’ (determined by the regulators) and the banks would have to calculate a risk-weighted version of their balance sheet before deciding how much capital the regulator wanted them to hold. This in turn meant that assets the regulators had decided were ‘riskier’ would become more expensive for the banks to keep on their balance sheets because they would come with a higher capital requirement – and capital is expensive to raise because shareholders and other providers of capital have to be compensated for the risk they take.

Since Basel I was implemented in 1991, the assets of big banks have grown year after year, but the ratio of risk-weighted assets to total assets declined year on year (see below). Between 1991 and 2008, it fell by a full 50%. Now it’s hard to believe that the banks dropped half of the risky business they did from their balance sheets, because plainly the banks of 2008 were toxic and the banks of 1991 were, well, less toxic. So if the banks didn’t drop risky assets, what did they drop from their balance sheets? You guessed it, they dropped whatever the Basel regulations (I and then II; III is still on its way) had decided was ‘riskier’. Any guess what was ‘risky’ according to Basel? You guessed right. It was loans. Loans! You know, the stuff banks are supposed to make. By 2007, Deutsche Bank, for instance, only had 11% of its balance sheet in loans.







Which begs the question, what was the rest of the balance sheet made of? Why, the stuff Basel had decreed was ‘safe’. And what was the safest type of lending conceivable to Basel? You guessed it. Bonds. Yummy government debt. And, occasionally, short-term loans to major banks, preferably with government bonds thrown in as security. So were AAA-rated securities made out of bundles of iffy mortgages. Pretty much everything that's gone wrong in the world since 2006. But let's focus on bonds for now.

Basically, what happened was that banks took one look at their balance sheets and started dropping everything except ‘no-brainers’. So if the answer to the crucial question of ‘are we getting our money back?’ was ‘ooh, that depends, let me see’, the asset was dropped. If the answer was ‘yes unless Hell freezes over’, the asset was kept. OK, this is not exactly the way it happened but if you fast-forward the banks’ balance sheets in time, that’s kind of how it looks.

What do banks mean by ‘unless Hell freezes over?’ Well they mean cases in which their fundamental assumptions about the world turned out to be wrong. Basically, capital regulation gave banks an incentive to swap mundane risks for what is technically known as ‘tail risk’, or more popularly, as ‘Black Swans’.  I am not the only one saying this. In fact, the IMF woke up to this fact earlier this year when Perotti et al wrote their future classic on capital regulation. So what were these fundamental assumptions the banks could always count on? In the days leading up to 2007, the banks had come to count on property prices only ever going up (at least country-wide; so even though mortgages might be risky, mortgage securities weren’t. In the days leading up to 2009, they had come to count on Eurozone sovereigns not defaulting. The rest is history.

The banks’ crimes are many and heinous but probably the worst was the fact that, for the sake of a few cents to each dollar or Euro or whatever, they outsourced their risk management to the Basel regulations and anyone recognised as a competent authority by said regulations. By the way, in case people are wondering who gave the rating agencies the right to decide how risky European sovereigns are, or, more precisely, why banks and other institutions feel compelled to listen to the rating agencies, you’ll be interested to know that it was Basel wot did it. For instance, just check out the original text of the European implementation of Basel II (known as CRD III), as it was finally adopted in 2006 (of course it was years in the making so banks started adjusting to it as early as June 2004 when Basel II was agreed). You’re looking for the beginning of Article 81, on page 34 here. Yep. In your face.

Similarly, by allowing banks that hedge using CDS to reduce their capital requirements, Basel also made the CDS market so crucial that it refuses to die even after it's become clear that CDS will not protect Greek creditors.
Now although Basel I and II gave banks an incentive to dump loans and stock up on bonds, they didn’t tell them what bonds to stock up on. They just gave them a nice hint. Paragraph 64, p. 116 here tells the banks how to do it. Assentially, it says, go to your credit rating agency, look up governments’ credit ratings and derive the default probability from there. Or calculate it yourself, but why bother? In 2006, Greece’s credit rating was A1 according to Moody’s and A according to S&P and Fitch, which meant a 5-year default probability of less than 0.1%. Basically zero, and zero was the actual amount of capital a bank had to set aside when it lent money to Greece. Zero was also the amount of capital a bank had to set aside when it lent money to any other Eurozone country, except Greek debt had a slightly (veeery slightly) higher yield. The difference might have been small but when the banks are leveraged by 31x (as the major banks were in 2006) and they hold tens of billions of debt, even a small difference could make them lots of money.

Banks, in short, had a massive incentive, from 1992 onwards, to buy the debt of the Worst ‘Decent’ Country in the World. A country that would benefit from being in the Magic Circle of sovereigns no one believes will ever default, but is just at the edge of the Magic Circle so that it has to pay a little bit extra interest on its debt. That country was Greece, and our debt soon became irresistible. This pursuit of the ‘Worst Decent Country’ is the reason why, against all reason, European bond yields converged even before the Euro became a reality, starting from (you guessed it) 1992 onwards, until the spread between German and Greek bonds became almost zero. Basically, the banks arbitraged the spreads away because Basel always seemed to be telling them to buy the highest-yielding ‘safe-ish’ bond possible. This would increase the prices of such bonds, making the spreads tighter. If you don’t believe me, look at the chart below (originally from here)


The Euro, which many like to blame all of our woes on, only made us the Worst Very Decent Country in the world, but it did little to fundamentally change the dynamics. These were locked in by Basel.

So there you go, my friends. The moral of this Christmas tale is ‘Never outsource risk management to other people.’ Also I think we’ve contributed a new slogan to the ongoing efforts to rebrand Greece for tourists. I doubt ‘Worst Decent Country in the World’ will catch on but hey, it’s 3am, cut me some slack.

Good night everyone. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.


UPDATE: Since people are asking, I believe that capital regulation is horrible at dealing with tail risk and provides perverse incentives. For me the best way of dealing with tail risk is full personal liability for bank management, board members and controlling shareholders, including ca. 5 years after they've moved on. This means their properties are on the line as soon as banks go bust. I don't believe in limited liability anyway. A business is a machine for making shareholders money. It should not have rights or protections (or obligations) other than those reconcileable to the the rights, protections or obligations of its shareholders and physical persons.

If (and only if) this is in place, I believe that we should let banks decide how much capital they should hold on to, and let shareholders decide if they are happy with capitalisation. Both sides have outsourced this task for too long, and with disastrous effects.


Tuesday, 6 December 2011

SAVE THE DATE A CSFI round-table discussion on Greece. December 14, 2011, 6:30pm-8:15pm.


"Greece: The musical... "  Or not. A round- discussion on what Greece means for the eurozone, and vice-versa. With Emilios Avgouleas (University of Edinburgh), George Handjinicolaou (ISDA) and Richard Segal (Jefferies).
To be held on Wednesday, December 14, 2011, from 6:30-8:15pm.
At Watermen's hall, 16-18 St Mary-at-Hill, London, EC3R 8EF.
*Please note: This is an evening meeting*
Who knows what will have happened to Greece by December 14? Indeed, who knows what will have happened to the euro? To the eurozone? Or even to the EU? There is (I suppose) a faint chance that the problem will have gone away entirely – and a rather better chance that the can will have been kicked a bit further along the road. But the betting must be that the crisis that has been triggered by the profligacy of previous Greek governments (or, if you prefer, by German snake-oil salesmen who unloaded BMWs and Mercedes-Benzs galore on to unsuspecting Greek 'peasants') will be with us still.
Either way, the problem of Greece (and potential solutions) are well worth a look. I am, therefore, delighted that we have been able to put together a distinguished panel to kick off what I am sure will be a lively discussion:
 - Emilios Avgouleas  has just been elected to the chair of international banking law and finance at the University of Edinburgh. He is currently the professor of international financial markets at the University of Manchester and, before that he worked in the field of financial markets as a senior associate with Clifford Chance and Linklaters, and as a partner with a major Greek law firm.  - George Handjinicolaou is deputy CEO of the International Swaps & Derivatives Association, and its regional head for EMEA. He has just returned from a two-year "sabbatical" in Greece, where he was CEO of TBank and Vice-chairman of the Capital Markets Commission. Before joining ISDA (for the first time) in 2007, he ran a hedge fund, and before that, he was a managing director at Merrill Lynch, responsible for the global fixed income emerging markets business.  - Richard Segal is a European credit strategist at Jefferies International, which he joined earlier this year. Prior to that, he was a strategist at Knight Libertas and Renaissance Capital. He is one of the leading authorities on the sovereign debt market in London.

I am (literally) a paid-up philhellene – but you don't have to be a member of the Anglo-Hellenic Society to feel some sympathy for the Greeks. If you (or a colleague) would like to show a bit of empathy (and also, perhaps, find out how to make a buck out of the current unpleasantness), please let us know by emailing sophie@csfi.org or by calling the office on 020 7493 0173. As usual, wine and sandwiches will be provided.

Many thanks,
Andrew Hilton
Director
CSFI

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