Friday, March 29, 2013

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst

America's Voluntary Standards System: A 'Best Practice' Model for Asian Innovation Policies? By Dieter Ernst
East-West Center, Policy Studies, No. 66, March 2013
ISBN: 978-0-309-26204-5 (print); 978-0-86638-205-2 (electronic)
Pages: xvi, 66


Across Asia there is a keen interest in the potential advantages of America's market-led system of voluntary standards and its contribution to US innovation leadership in complex technologies.

For its proponents, the US tradition of bottom-up, decentralized, informal, market-led standardization is a "best practice" model for innovation policy. Observers in Asia are, however, concerned about possible drawbacks of a standards system largely driven by the private sector.

This study reviews the historical roots of the American system, examines its defining characteristics, and highlights its strengths and weaknesses. A tradition of decentralized local self-government has given voice to diverse stakeholders in innovation. However, a lack of effective coordination of multiple stakeholder strategies constrains effective and open standardization processes.

Asian countries seeking to improve their standards systems should study the strengths and weaknesses of the American system. Attempts to replicate the US standards system will face clear limitations--persistent differences in Asia's economic institutions, levels of development, and growth models are bound to limit convergence to a US-style market-led voluntary standards system.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Too Cold, Too Hot, Or Just Right? Assessing Financial Sector Development Across the Globe

Too Cold, Too Hot, Or Just Right? Assessing Financial Sector Development Across the Globe. By A Barajas et alii.
IMF Working Paper No. 13/81
March 28, 2013

Summary: This paper introduces the concept of the financial possibility frontier as a constrained optimum level of financial development to gauge the relative performance of financial systems across the globe. This frontier takes into account structural country characteristics, institutional, and macroeconomic factors that impact financial system deepening. We operationalize this framework using a benchmarking exercise, which relates the difference between the actual level of financial development and the level predicted by structural characteristics, to an array of policy variables. We also show that an overshooting of the financial system significantly beyond levels predicted by its structural fundamentals is associated with credit booms and busts.


Ample empirical evidence has shown a positive, albeit non-linear, relationship between financial system depth, economic growth, and macroeconomic volatility. At the same time, rapid expansion in credit has been associated with higher bank fragility and the likelihood of a systemic banking crisis.1 This seemingly conflicting evidence is actually consistent with theory. The same mechanisms through which finance helps growth also makes it susceptible to shocks and, ultimately, fragility. Specifically, the maturity and liquidity transformation from short-term savings and deposit facilities into long-term investments is at the core of the positive impact finance on the real economy, but it can also render the system susceptible to shocks. The information asymmetries and ensuing agency problems between savers and entrepreneurs that banks help to alleviate can also turn into a source of fragility given agency conflicts between depositors/creditors and banks.

The importance of the financial sector for the overall economy raises the question of the “optimal” or “Goldilocks” level of financial depth and the requisite policies to reach this optimum. Given the dual-faced nature of financial deepening, contributing to growth while often resulting in boom-bust cycles, and the identification of non-linear relationships between growth, volatility, and financial depth, it is apparent that additional deepening is not always desirable. Further, there is increasing evidence for a critical role of the financial system in defining policy space and the transmission of fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies (IMF, 2012). Both shallow as well as over-extended financial systems can severely reduce the available policy space and hamper transmission channels.

The conceptual and empirical frameworks offered in this paper are relevant for the academic and policy debate on financial sector deepening, particularly in developing countries. We introduce the concept of a financial possibility frontier as a constrained optimum level of financial development to gauge the relative performance of financial systems around the globe. Specifically, this concept allows us to assess the performance of countries’ financial systems over time relative to structural country characteristics and other state variables (e.g., macroeconomic and institutional variables). Depending on the position of country’s financial system relative to the frontier, policy options can be prioritized to address deficiencies.

Three different sets of policies can be delineated depending on a country’s standing relative to the frontier. Market-developing policies, related to macroeconomic stability, long-term institution building, and other measures to overcome constraints imposed by a small size or volatile economic structure, can help push out the frontier. Market-enabling policies, which address deficiencies such as regulatory barriers and lack of competition, can help a financial system move toward the frontier. Finally, market-harnessing policies help prevent a financial system from moving beyond the frontier (the long-term sustainable equilibrium), and include regulatory oversight and short-term macroeconomic management.

We also operationalize this conceptual framework by presenting a benchmark model that predicts countries’ level of financial development based on structural characteristics (e.g., income, size, and demographic characteristics) and other fundamental factors. The most straightforward approach for assessing a country’s progress in financial deepening is to benchmark its financial system against peers or regional averages. Such comparisons, while useful, do not allow for a systematic unbundling of structural and policy factors that have a bearing on financial deepening. Using regression analysis, we relate gaps between predicted and actual levels of financial development to an array of macroeconomic, regulatory, and institutional variables. We also provide preliminary evidence that overshooting the predicted level of financial development is associated with credit boom-bust episodes, underlining the importance of optimizing rather than maximizing financial development.

This paper is related to several literatures. First, it is directly related to an earlier exercise to derive an access possibilities frontier as a conceptual tool to assess the optimal level of sustainable outreach of the financial system (Beck, and de la Torre, 2007). While Beck, and de la Torre (2007) focus on the microeconomics of access to and use of financial services, this paper provides a macroeconomic perspective on financial sector development. Second, our paper is related to the empirical literature on benchmarking. Based on Beck et al. (2008) and Al Hussainy et al. (2011), we derive a benchmarking model that relates a country’s level of financial development over time to a statistical benchmark, obtained from a large panel regression.

In a broader sense, the paper is also related to the literature on the finance-growth nexus, financial crises, and studies identifying policies needed for sound and effective financial systems. The finance and growth literature, as surveyed by Levine (2005), among others, has found a positive relationship between financial deepening and growth. More recent work, however, has uncovered non-linearities in this relationship. There is evidence that the effect of financial development is strongest among middle-income countries (Barajas et al., 2012), whereas other work finds a declining effect of finance on growth as countries grow richer.2 More recently, Arcand et al. (2012) find that the finance-growth relationship becomes negative as private credit reaches 110 percent of GDP, while Dabla-Norris and Srivisal (2013) document a positive relationship between financial depth and macroeconomic volatility at very high levels.

Our paper is also related to a growing literature exploring the anatomy of financial crises. This literature has pointed to the role of macroeconomic, bank-level and regulatory factors in driving and exacerbating financial fragility. Finally, our paper is related to a diverse literature exploring macroeconomic and institutional determinants of sound and efficient financial deepening.

Cyprus: Some Early Lessons. By Thorsten Beck

Cyprus: Some Early Lessons. By Thorsten Beck
World Bank Blogs, Mar 28, 2013

The crisis is Cyprus is still unfolding and the final resolution might still have some way to go, but the events in Nicosia and Brussels already offer some first lessons. And these lessons look certainly familiar to those who have studied previous crises.  Bets are that Cyprus will not be the Troika’s last patient, with one South European finance minister already dreading the moment where he might be in a situation like his Cypriot colleague.  Even more important, thus to analyze the on-going Cyprus crisis resolution for insights into where the resolution of the Eurozone crisis might be headed and what needs to be done.

1. A deposit insurance scheme is only as good as the sovereign backing it

One of the main objectives of deposit insurance is to prevent bank runs. That was also the idea behind the increase of deposit insurance limits across the Eurozone to 100,000 Euro after the Global Financial Crisis. However, deposit insurance is typically designed for idiosyncratic bank failures, not for systemic crises.  In the latter case, it is important that public back stop funding is available.  Obviously, the credibility of the latter depends on a solvent sovereign. As Cyprus has shown, if the solvency of the sovereign is itself in question, this will undermine the confidence of depositors in a deposit insurance scheme.  In the case of Cyprus, this confidence has been further undermined by the initial idea of imposing a tax on insured deposits, effectively an insurance co-payment, contradicting maybe not in legal terms but definitely in spirit the promise of deposit insurance of up to 100,000 Euros. The confidence that has been destroyed with the protracted resolution process and the back-and-forth over loss distribution will be hard to re-establish. A banking system without the necessary trust, in turn, will be hard pressed to fulfill its basic functions of facilitating payment services and intermediating savings. Ultimately, this lack of confidence can only be overcome by a Eurozone wide deposit insurance scheme with public back-stop funding by ESM and a regulatory and supervisory framework that depositors can trust.

2. A large financial system is not necessarily growth enhancing

An extensive literature has documented the positive relationship between financial deepening and economic growth, even though the recent crisis has shed doubts on this relationship (Levine, 2005, Beck, 2012).  However, both theoretical and empirical literature focus on the intermediation function of the financial system, not on the size of the financial system per se. Very different from this financial facilitator view is the financial center view, which sees the financial sector as an export sector, i.e. one that seeks to build a nationally centered financial center stronghold based on relative comparative advantages such as skill base, favorable regulatory and tax policies, (financial safety net) subsidies, etc. Economic benefits of such a financial center might also include important spin-offs coming from professional services (legal, accounting, consulting, etc.) that tend to cluster around the financial sector.

In recent work with Hans Degryse and Christiane Kneer (2013) and using pre-2007 data, we have shown that a large financial system might stimulate growth in the short-term, but comes at the expense of higher volatility. It is the financial intermediation function of finance that helps improve growth prospects not a large financial center, a lesson that Cyprus could have learned from Iceland.

3. Crisis resolution as political distribution fight

Resolution processes are basically distributional fights about who has to bear losses.   The week-long negotiations about loss allocation in Cyprus are telling in this respect.  While it was initially Eurozone authorities that were blamed for imposing losses on insured depositors, there is an increasingly clear picture that it was maybe the Cypriot government itself that pushed for such a solution in order to avoid imposing losses on large, (and thus most likely) richer and more connected depositors.

While the Cypriot case might be the most egregious recent example for the entanglement of politics and crisis resolution, the recent crises offer ample examples of how politically sensitive the financial system is.  Just two more examples here:  First, even during and after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and 2009, there was still open political pressure across Europe to maintain or build up national champions in the respective banking systems, even at the risk of creating more too-big-to-fail banks.  Second, the push by the German government to exempt German small savings and cooperative banks from ECB supervision and thus the banking union can be explained only on political basis and not with economic terms, as the "too-many-to-fail" is as serious as the "too-big-to-fail" problem.

4. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

European authorities and many observers have pointed to the special character of each of the patients of the Eurozone crisis and their special circumstances. Ireland and Spain suffered from housing booms and subsequent busts, Portugal from high current account deficits stemming from lack of competitiveness and mis-allocation of capital inflows, Greece from high government deficit and debt and now Cyprus from an oversized banking system. So, seemingly different causes, which call for different solutions!
But there is one common thread across all crisis countries, and that is the close ties between government and bank solvency. In the case of Ireland, this tie was established when the ECB pushed the Irish authorities to assume the liabilities of several failed Irish banks. In the case of Greece, it was the other way around, with Greek banks having to be recapitalized once sovereign debt was restructured.  In all crisis countries, this link is deepened as their economies go into recession, worsening government’s fiscal balance, thus increasing sovereign risk, which in turn puts balance sheets of banks under pressure that hold these bonds but also depend on the same government for possible recapitalization. This tie is exacerbated by the tendency of banks to invest heavily in their home country’s sovereign bonds, a tendency even stronger in the Eurozone’s periphery (Acharya, Drechsler and Schnabl, 2012).  Zero capital requirements for government bond holdings under the Basel regime, based on the illusion that such bonds in OECD countries are safe from default, have not helped either.

5. If you kick the can down the road, you will run out of road eventually 

The multiple rounds of support packages for Greece by Troika, built on assumptions and data, often outdated by the time agreements were signed, has clearly shown that you can delay the day of reckoning only so long. By kicking the can down the road, however, you risk deteriorating the situation even further. In the case of Greece that led eventually to restructuring of sovereign debt. Delaying crisis resolution of Cyprus for months if not years has most likely also increased losses in the banking system.  A lesson familiar from many emerging market crises (World Bank. 2001)!  On a first look, the Troika seemed eager to avoid this mistake in the case of Cyprus, forcing recognition and allocation of losses in the banking system early on without overburdening the sovereign debt position. However, the recession if not depression that is sure to follow in the next few years in Cyprus will certainly increase the already high debt-to-GDP ratio and might ultimately lead to the need for sovereign debt restructuring.

6. The Eurozone crisis — a tragedy of commons

The protracted resolution process of Cyprus has shown yet again, that in addition to a banking, sovereign, macroeconomic and currency crisis, the Eurozone faces a governance crisis. Decisions are taken jointly by national authorities who each represent the interest of their respective country (and taxpayers), without taking into account the externalities of national decisions arising on the Eurozone level. It is in the interest of every member government with fragile banks to "share the burden" with the other members, be it through the ECB’s liquidity support or the Target 2 payment system. Rather than coming up with crisis resolution on the political level, the ECB and the Eurosystem are being used to apply short-term (liquidity) palliatives that deepen distributional problems and make the crisis resolution more difficult. What is ultimately missing is a democratically legitimized authority that represents Eurozone interests.

7. Learning from the Vikings

In 2008, Iceland took a very different approach from the Eurozone when faced with the failure of their oversized banking system. It allowed its banks to fail, transferred domestic deposits into good banks and left foreign deposits and other claims and bad assets in the original banks, to be resolved over time.  While the banking crisis and its resolution has been a traumatic experience for the Icelandic economy and society, with repercussions even for diplomatic relations between Iceland and several European countries, it avoided a loss and thus insolvency transfer from the banking sector to the sovereign.  Iceland's government has kept its investment rating throughout the crisis. And while mistakes might have been made in the resolution process (Danielsson, 2011), Iceland’s banking sector does not drag down Iceland’s growth any longer and might eventually even make a positive contribution.

The resolution approach in Cyprus seems to follow the Icelandic approach. While the Cypriot case might be a special one (as part of the losses fall outside the Eurozone and Cypriot banks are less connected with the rest of the Eurozone than previous crisis cases), there are suggestions that future resolution cases might impose losses not just on junior and maybe senior creditors of banks, but even on depositors to thus reduce pressure on government’s balance sheets.  A move towards market discipline, for certain; whether this is due to learning from experience, tighter government budgets across Europe or for political reasons remains to be seen.

8. Banking union with just supervision does not work

The move towards a Single Supervisory Mechanism has been hailed as major progress towards a banking union and stronger currency union.  As the case of Cyprus shows, this is certainly not enough.  The holes in the balance sheets of Cypriot banks became obvious in 2011 when Greek sovereign debt was restructured, but given political circumstances, the absence of a bank resolution framework in Cyprus and — most importantly — the absence of resources to undertake such a restructuring, the problems have not been addressed until now.  Even once the ECB has supervisory power over the Eurozone banking system, without a Eurozone-wide resolution authority with the necessary powers and resources, it will find itself forced to inject more and more liquidity and keep the zombies alive, if national authorities are unwilling to resolve a failing bank.

9. A banking union is needed for the Eurozone, but won't help for the current crisis!

While the Eurozone will not be sustainable as currency union without a banking union, a banking union cannot help solve the current crisis. First, building up the necessary structures for a Eurozone or European regulatory and bank resolution framework cannot be done overnight, while the crisis needs immediate attention. Second, the current discussion on banking union is overshadowed by distributional discussions, as the bank fragility is heavily concentrated in the peripheral countries, and using a Eurozone-wide deposit insurance and supervision mechanism to solve legacy problems is like introducing insurance after the insurance case has occurred. The current crisis has to be solved before banking union is in place. Ideally, this would be done through the establishment of an asset management company or European Recapitalization Agency, which would sort out fragile bank across Europe, and also be able to take an equity stake in restructured banks to thus benefit from possible upsides (Beck, Gros and Schoenmaker, 2012).  This would help disentangle government and bank ties, discussed above, and might make for a more expedient and less politicized resolution process than if done on the national level.

10. A currency union with capital controls?

The protracted resolution process of the Cypriot banking crisis has increased the likelihood of a systemic bank run in Cyprus once the banks open, though even if the current solution would have been arrived at in the first attempt, little confidence in Cypriot banks might have been left.  As in other crises (Argentina and Iceland) that perspective has led authorities to impose capital controls, an unprecedented step within the Eurozone. Effectively, however, this implies that a Cypriot Euro is not the same as a German or Dutch Euro, as they cannot be freely exchanged via the banking system, thus a contradiction to the idea of a common currency (Wolff, 2013).

However, these controls only formalize and legalize what has been developing over the past few years: a rapidly disintegrating Eurozone capital market.  National supervisors increasingly focus on safeguarding their home financial system, trying to keep capital and liquidity within their home country (Gros, 2012).  Anecdotal evidence suggests that this does not only affect the inter-bank market but even intra-group transaction between, let’s say, Italian parent banks and their Austrian and German subsidiaries.  Another example of the tragedy of commons, discussed above.

11. Finally, there is no free lunch

This might sound like a broken disk, but the Global Financial Crisis and subsequent Eurozone crisis has offered multiple incidences to remind us that you cannot have the cake and eat it.  This applies as much to Dutch savers attracted by high interests in Icesave and then disappointed by the failure of Iceland to assume the obligations of its banks as to Cypriot banks piling up on Greek government bonds promising high returns even in 2010 when it had become all but obvious that Greece would require sovereign debt restructuring.  On a broader level, the idea that a joint currency only brings advantages for everyone involved, but no additional responsibilities in term of reduced sovereignty and burden-sharing and insurance arrangements also resembles the free lunch idea.

On a positive note, the Cyprus bail-out has shown that Eurozone authorities have learnt from previous failures by forcing an early recognition of losses in Cyprus and by moving towards a banking union, even if very slowly. As discussed above, however, there are still considerable political constraints and barriers to overcome, so that it is ultimately left to each observer to decide whether the glass is half full or half empty.


Acharya, Viral, Itamar Drechsler and Philipp Schnabl. 2012. A tale of two overhangs: the nexus of financial sector and sovereign credit risks. Vox 15 April 2012
Beck, Thorsten. 2012. Finance and growth: lessons from the literature and the recent crisis. Paper prepared for the LSE growth commission.
Beck, Thorsten, Hans Degryse and Christiane Kneer. 2012. Is more finance better?
Disentangling intermediation and size effects of financial systems. Journal of Financial Stability, forthcoming.
Beck, Thorsten, Daniel Gros, Dirk Schoenmaker (2012): Banking union instead of Eurobonds — disentangling sovereign and banking crises, Vox 24 June 2012.
Danielsson, Jon. 2011. How not to resolve a banking crisis: Learning from Iceland’s mistakes  Vox, 26 November 2011
Gros. Daniel. 2012. The Single European Market in Banking in decline — ECB to the rescue? Vox , 16 Ocotber 2012
Levine, Ross. 2005. Finance and growth: theory and evidence. In Handbook of Economic
Growth, ed. Philippe Aghion and Steven N. Durlauf, 865–934. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Wolff, Guntram. 2013. Capital controls are a grave risk to the eurozone. Financial Times 26 March 2013.
World Bank. 2001. Finance For Growth: Policy Choices in a Volatile World. Policy Research Report

Full article:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How Effective are Macroprudential Policies in China? By Bin Wang and Tao Sun

How Effective are Macroprudential Policies in China? By Bin Wang and Tao Sun
IMF Working Paper No. 13/75
March 27, 2013

Summary: This paper investigates macroprudential policies and their role in containing systemic risk in China. It shows that China faces systemic risk in both the time (procyclicality) and cross-sectional (contagion) dimensions. The former is reflected as credit and asset price risks, while the latter is reflected as the links between the banking sector and informal financing and local government financing platforms. Empirical analysis based on 171 banks shows that some macroprudential policy tools (e.g., the reserve requirement ratio and house-related policies) are useful, but they cannot guarantee protection against systemic risk in the current economic and financial environment. Nevertheless, better-targeted macroprudential policies have greater potential to contain systemic risk pertaining to the different sizes of the banks and their location in regions with different levels of economic development. Complementing macroprudential policies with further reforms, including further commercialization of large banks, would help improve the effectiveness of those policies in containing systemic risk in China.

ISBN/ISSN: 9781484355886 / 2227-8885

Supervisory framework for measuirng and controlling large exposures

Supervisory framework for measuirng and controlling large exposures
BCBS, Mar 2013

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has today published a proposed supervisory framework for measuring and controlling large exposures.

 One of the key lessons from the financial crisis is that banks did not always consistently measure, aggregate and control exposures to single counterparties across their books and operations. And throughout history there have been instances of banks failing due to concentrated exposures to individual counterparties (eg Johnson Matthey Bankers in the UK in 1984, the Korean banking crisis in the late 1990s). Large exposures regulation has arisen as a tool for containing the maximum loss a bank could face in the event of a sudden counterparty failure to a level that does not endanger the bank's solvency.

A separate key lesson from the crisis is that material losses in one systemically important financial institution (SIFI) can trigger concerns about the solvency of other SIFIs, with potentially catastrophic consequences for global financial stability. The Committee is of the view that the large exposures framework is a tool that could be used to mitigate the risk of contagion between global systemically important banks, thus underpinning financial stability.

Finally, the consultation paper presents proposals to strengthen the oversight and regulation of the shadow banking system in relation to large exposures.  In particular, the proposals include policy measures designed to capture bank-like activities conducted by non-banks that are of concern to supervisors.

The proposed new standard aims to ensure greater consistency in the way banks and supervisors measure, aggregate and control exposures to single counterparties. Acting as a backstop to risk-based capital requirements, the standard would supplement the existing risk-based capital framework by protecting banks from substantive losses caused by the sudden default of a counterparty or group of connected counterparties. The consultative paper would replace the Basel Committee's 1991 guidance Measuring and controlling large credit exposures.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Issues with the Bayes estimator of a conjugate normal hierarchy model

Someone asks for an instability issue in R's integrate program:
Hello everyone,

I am supposed to calculate the Bayes estimator of a conjugate normal hierarchy model. However, the Bayes estimator does not have a closed form,

The book "Theory of Point Estimation" claims that the numerical evaluation of  this estimator is simple. But my two attempts below both failed.

1. I tried directly using the integration routine in R on the numerator and denominator separately. Maybe because of the infinite domain, occasionally the results are far from reasonable.

2. I tried two ways of change of variables so that the resulting domain can be finite. I let

But the estimator results are very similar to the direct integration on the original integrand. More often than it should occur, we obtain quite large evaluation of the Bayes estimator, up to 10^6 magnitude.

I wonder if there is any other numerical integration trick which can lead to a more accurate evaluation.

I appreciate any suggestion.

Some State University

Well, what happens here? Her program have a part that says:

[Bayes(nu,p,sigma,xbar) is the ratio of both integrals, "f", and "g" are the integrals, f is the numerator, g the denominator, so Bayes = f/g]

Now, executing Bayes(2,10,1,9.3) fails:

> Bayes(2,10,1,9.3)
[1] 1477.394

, which is much greater than the expected approx. 8.

I tried this with the same program, integrate, to do this simple case (dnorm is the normal distribution density):

> integrate(dnorm,0,1)
0.3413447 with absolute error < 3.8e-15
> integrate(dnorm,0,10)
0.5 with absolute error < 3.7e-05
> integrate(dnorm,0,100)
0.5 with absolute error < 1.6e-07
> integrate(dnorm,0,1000)
0.5 with absolute error < 4.4e-06
> integrate(dnorm,0,10000000000)
0 with absolute error < 0

As we can see, the last try, with a very large value, fails miserably, value is 0 (instead of 0.5) and absolute error is negative.

The program "integrate" uses code that is part of supposedly "a Subroutine Package for Automatic Integration", as it is advertised, but it cannot anticipate everything -- and we hit an instability we cannot solve.

My suggestion was to use integrate(f,0,1) and integrate(g,0,1) always until we get results outside what is reasonable. In those cases, we should try integrate(f,0,.999) and integrate(g,0,.999) with as many nines as we can (I got problems with just .9999, that's why I wrote .999 there).

Of course, you can always try a different method. Since this function is well-behaved, any simple method could be good enough.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Basel: Consultative document on recognising the cost of credit protection purchased

Basel Committee issues consultative document on recognising the cost of credit protection purchased
March 22, 2013

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has today published a proposal that would strengthen capital requirements when banks engage in certain high-cost credit protection transactions.

The Committee has previously expressed concerns about potential regulatory capital arbitrage related to certain credit protection transactions. At that time it noted that it would continue to monitor developments with respect to such transactions and would consider imposing a globally harmonised minimum capital Pillar 1 requirement if necessary. After further consideration, the Committee decided to move forward with a more comprehensive Pillar 1 proposal.

While the Committee recognises that the purchase of credit protection can be an effective risk management tool, the proposed changes are intended to ensure that the costs, and not just the benefits, of purchased credit protection are appropriately recognised in regulatory capital. It does this by requiring that banks, under certain circumstances, calculate the present value of premia paid for credit protection, which should be considered as an exposure amount of the protection-purchasing bank and be assigned a 1,250% risk weight.

Recognising the cost of credit protection purchased

The proposal set out in this consultative document would strengthen capital requirements when banks engage in certain high-cost credit protection transactions. The Committee has previously expressed concerns about potential regulatory capital arbitrage related to certain credit protection transactions. At that time it noted that it would continue to monitor developments with respect to such transactions and would consider imposing a globally harmonised minimum capital Pillar 1 requirement if necessary. After further consideration, the Committee decided to move forward with a more comprehensive Pillar 1 proposal.

While the Committee recognises that the purchase of credit protection can be an effective risk management tool, the proposed changes are intended to ensure that the costs, and not just the benefits, of purchased credit protection are appropriately recognised in regulatory capital. It does this by requiring that banks, under certain circumstances, calculate the present value of premia paid for credit protection, which should be considered as an exposure amount of the protection-purchasing bank and be assigned a 1,250% risk weight.

Full text of the consultative doc:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Basel Committee: supervisory guidance on external audits of banks (consultation)

Basel Committee publishes for consultation supervisory guidance on external audits of banks
March 21, 2013

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has today published supervisory guidance on External audits of banks for consultation along with a letter to the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB).

The consultative paper aims to enhance and supersede the existing guidance that was published by the Basel Committee in 2002 on the relationship between banking supervisors and banks' external auditors and in 2008 on external audit quality and banking supervision. The evolution of bank practices and the introduction of new standards and regulations over the last 10 years warranted a thorough revision of the Committee's supervisory guidance. In addition, the recent financial crisis has highlighted the need to improve the quality of external audits of banks. The proposed enhanced guidance sets out supervisory expectations of how:
  • external auditors can discharge their responsibilities more effectively;
  • audit committees can contribute to audit quality in their oversight of the external audit;
  • an effective relationship between external auditors and supervisors can lead to regular communication of mutually useful information; and
  • regular and effective dialogue between the banking supervisory authorities and relevant audit oversight bodies can enhance the quality of bank audits.
The Committee's letter to the IAASB calls for enhancing the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) to include more authoritative guidance relating to the audit of banks. It sets out specific areas where the Committee believes the ISAs should be improved.

Commenting on today's publications, Stefan Ingves, Chairman of the Basel Committee and Governor of Sveriges Riksbank, said, "The Committee has developed guidance that builds on recent experience and will help raise the bar with regard to what supervisors expect of banks' external auditors and audit committees. We also recognise the great importance of audit standards and are keen to support the IAASB in enhancing audit quality."

Comments on the proposals should be submitted by Friday 21 June 2013 by e-mail to: Alternatively, comments may be sent by post to: Secretariat of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, Bank for International Settlements, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland. All comments may be published on the website of the Bank for International Settlements unless a comment contributor specifically requests confidential treatment.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tracking Global Demand for Advanced Economy Sovereign Debt

Tracking Global Demand for Advanced Economy Sovereign Debt. Prepared by Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda
IMF Working Paper No. 12/284
December 2012

Recent events have shown that sovereign, just like banks, can be subject to runs, highlighting the importance of the investor base for their liabilities. This paper proposes a methodology for compiling internationally comparable estimates of investor holdings of sovereign debt. Based on this methodology, it introduces a dataset for 24 major advanced economies that can be used to track US$42 trillion of sovereign debt holdings on a quarterly basis over 2004-11. While recent outflows from euro periphery countries have received wide attention, most sovereign borrowers have continued to increase reliance on foreign investors. This may have helped reduce borrowing costs, but it can imply higher refinancing risks going forward. Meanwhile, advanced economy banks’ exposure to their own government debt has begun to increase across the board after the global financial crisis, strengthening sovereign-bank linkages. In light of these risks, the paper proposes a framework— sovereign funding shock scenarios (FSS)—to conduct forward-looking analysis to assess sovereigns’ vulnerability to sudden investor outflows, which can be used along with standard debt sustainability analyses (DSA). It also introduces two risk indices—investor base risk index (IRI) and foreign investor position index (FIPI)—to assess sovereigns’ vulnerability to shifts in investor behavior.

In service of the country: Ted van Dyk

My Unrecognizable Democratic Party. By Ted van Dyk
The stakes are too high, please get serious about governing before it's too late. 
The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2013, on page A13

As a lifelong Democrat, I have a mental picture these days of my president, smiling broadly, at the wheel of a speeding convertible. His passengers are Democratic elected officials and candidates. Ahead of them, concealed by a bend in the road, is a concrete barrier.

They didn't have to take that route. Other Democratic presidents have won bipartisan support for proposals as liberal in their time as some of Mr. Obama's are now. Why does this administration seem so determined to head toward a potential crash and burn?

Even after the embarrassing playout of the Obama-invented Great Sequester Game, after the fiasco of the president's Fiscal Cliff Game, conventional wisdom among Democrats holds that disunited Republicans will be routed in the 2014 midterm elections, leaving an open field for the president's agenda in the final two years of his term. Yet modern political history indicates that big midterm Democratic gains are unlikely, and presidential second terms are notably unproductive, most of all in their waning months. Since 2012 there has been nothing about the Obama presidency to justify the confidence that Democrats now exhibit.

Mr. Obama was elected in 2008 on the basis of his persona and his pledge to end political and ideological polarization. His apparent everyone-in-it-together idealism was exactly what the country wanted and needed. On taking office, however, the president adopted a my-way-or-the-highway style of governance. He pursued his stimulus and health-care proposals on a congressional-Democrats-only basis. He rejected proposals of his own bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission, which would have provided long-term deficit reduction and stabilized rapidly growing entitlement programs. He opted instead to demonize Republicans for their supposed hostility to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

No serious attempt—for instance, by offering tort reform or allowing the sale of health-insurance products across state lines—was made to enlist GOP congressional support for the health bill. It passed, but the constituents of moderate Democrats punished them: 63 lost their seats in 2010 and Republicans took control of the House.

Faced with a similar situation in 1995, following another GOP House takeover, President Bill Clinton shifted to bipartisan governance. Mr. Obama did not, then blamed Republicans for their "obstructionism" in not yielding to him.

Defying the odds, Mr. Obama did become the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to be re-elected with an election-year unemployment rate above 7.8%. Yet his victory wasn't based on public affirmation of his agenda. Instead, it was based on a four-year mobilization—executed with unprecedented skill—of core Democratic constituencies, and on fear campaigns in which Mitt Romney and the Republicans were painted as waging a "war on women," being servants of the wealthy, and of being hostile toward Latinos, African Americans, gays and the middle class. I couldn't have imagined any one of the Democratic presidents or presidential candidates I served from 1960-92 using such down-on-all-fours tactics.

The unifier of 2008 became the calculated divider of 2012. Yes, it worked, but only narrowly, as the president's vote total fell off sharply from 2008.

Other modern Democratic presidents have had much more success with very different governing strategies. In 1961-62, John Kennedy won Republican congressional and public support with the proposals of his Keynesian Council of Economic Advisers chairman, Walter Heller, to cut personal and business taxes "to get America moving again," and for the global free movement of goods, services, capital and people.

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson had Democratic congressional majorities sufficient to pass any legislation he wanted. But he sought and received GOP congressional support for Medicare, Medicaid, civil rights, education and other Great Society legislation. He knew that in order to last, these initiatives needed consensus support. He did not want them re-debated later, as ObamaCare is being re-debated now.

Johnson got bipartisan backing for deficit reduction in 1967, when he learned that the deficit had reached an unthinkable $28 billion. Faced with today's annual deficits of $1 trillion and federal debt between $16.7 and $31 trillion, depending on whether you count off-budget obligations, LBJ no doubt would appoint a bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission and use it to get a tax, spending and entitlements fix so that he could move on to the rest of his agenda. Bill Clinton took the same practical approach and got to a balanced federal budget as soon as he could, at the beginning of his second term.

These former Democratic presidents would also know today that no Democratic or liberal agenda can go forward if debt service is eating available resources. Nor can successful governance take place if presidential and Democratic Party rhetoric consistently portrays loyal-opposition leaders as having devious or extremist motives. We really are, as Mr. Obama pointed out in 2008, in it together.

It's not too late for the president to take a cue from his predecessors and enter good-faith budget negotiations with congressional Republicans. A few posturing meetings with GOP congressional leaders will not suffice. President Obama's hype about the horrors of fiscal-cliff and sequestration cuts, and his placing of blame on Republicans, have been correctly viewed as low politics. His approval ratings have plunged since the end of the sequestration exercise.

But time is running out for Democrats to get serious about governance. That concrete barrier—in the form of the 2014 midterm—lies just ahead on the highway, and they're joy riding straight toward it.

Mr. Van Dyk served in Democratic national administrations and campaigns over several decades. His memoir of public life, "Heroes, Hacks and Fools," was first published by University of Washington Press in 2007.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Framework for Macroprudential Bank Solvency Stress Testing: Application to S-25 and Other G-20 Country FSAPs

A Framework for Macroprudential Bank Solvency Stress Testing: Application to S-25 and Other G-20 Country FSAPs. By Andreas A Jobst, Li Ong, and Christian Schmieder

IMF Working Paper No. 13/68
March 13, 2013

Summary: The global financial crisis has placed the spotlight squarely on bank stress tests. Stress tests conducted in the lead-up to the crisis, including those by IMF staff, were not always able to identify the right risks and vulnerabilities. Since then, IMF staff has developed more robust stress testing methods and models and adopted a more coherent and consistent approach. This paper articulates the solvency stress testing framework that is being applied in the IMF’s surveillance of member countries’ banking systems, and discusses examples of its actual implementation in FSAPs to 18 countries which are in the group comprising the 25 most systemically important financial systems (“S-25”) plus other G-20 countries. In doing so, the paper also offers useful guidance for readers seeking to develop their own stress testing frameworks and country authorities preparing for FSAPs. A detailed Stress Test Matrix (STeM) comparing the stress test parameters applie in each of these major country FSAPs is provided, together with our stress test output templates.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller

The Real Women's Issue: Time. By Jody Greenstone Miller
Never mind 'leaning in.' To get more working women into senior roles, companies need to rethink the clock
The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2013, on page C3

Why aren't more women running things in America? It isn't for lack of ambition or life skills or credentials. The real barrier to getting more women to the top is the unsexy but immensely difficult issue of time commitment: Today's top jobs in major organizations demand 60-plus hours of work a week.

In her much-discussed new book, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg tells women with high aspirations that they need to "lean in" at work—that is, assert themselves more. It's fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem. It isn't any shortage of drive that leads those phalanxes of female Harvard Business School grads to opt out. It's the assumption that senior roles have to consume their every waking moment. More great women don't "lean in" because they don't like the world they're being asked to lean into.

It doesn't have to be this way. A little organizational imagination bolstered by a commitment from the C-suite can point the path to a saner, more satisfying blend of the things that ambitious women want from work and life. It's time that we put the clock at the heart of this debate.

I know this is doable because I run a growing startup company in which more than half the professionals work fewer than 40 hours a week by choice. They are alumnae of top schools and firms like General Electric GE +0.38% and McKinsey, and they are mostly women. The key is that we design jobs to enable people to contribute at varying levels of time commitment while still meeting our overall goals for the company.

This isn't advanced physics, but it does mean thinking through the math of how work in a company adds up. It's also an iterative process; we hardly get it right every time. But for businesses and reformers serious about cracking the real glass ceiling for women—and making their firms magnets for the huge swath of American talent now sitting on the sidelines—here are four ways to start going about it.

Rethink time. Break away from the arbitrary notion that high-level work can be done only by people who work 10 or more hours a day, five or more days a week, 12 months a year. Why not just three days a week, or six hours a day, or 10 months a year?

It sounds simple, but the only thing that matters is quantifying the work that needs to get done and having the right set of resources in place to do it. Senior roles should actually be easier to reimagine in this way because highly paid people have the ability and, often, the desire to give up some income in order to work less. Flexibility and working from home can soften the blow, of course, but they don't solve the overall time problem.

Break work into projects. Once work is quantified, it must be broken up into discrete parts to allow for varying time commitments. Instead of thinking in terms of broad functions like the head of marketing, finance, corporate development or sales, a firm needs to define key roles in terms of specific, measurable tasks.

Once you think of work as a series of projects, it's easy to see how people can tailor how much to take on. The growth of consulting and outsourcing came precisely when firms realized they could carve work into projects that could be done more effectively outside. The next step is to design internal roles in smaller bites, too. An experienced marketer for a pharma company could lead one major drug launch, for example, without having to oversee all drug launches. Instead of managing a portfolio with 10 products, a senior person could manage five. If a client-service executive working five days a week has a quota of 10 deals a month, then one who chooses to work three days a week has a quota of only six. Lower the quota but not the quality of the work or the executive's seniority.

One reason this doesn't happen more is managerial laziness: It's easier to find a "superwoman" to lead marketing (someone who will work as long as humanly possible) than it is to design work around discrete projects. But even superwoman has a limit, and when she hits it, organizations adjust by breaking up jobs and adding staff. Why not do this before people hit the wall?

Availability matters. It's important to differentiate between availability and absolute time commitments. Many professional women would happily agree to check email even seven days a week and jump in, if necessary, for intense project stints—so long as over the course of a year, the time devoted to work is more limited. Managers need to be clear about what's needed: 24/7 availability is not the same thing as a 24/7 workload.

Quality is the goal, not quantity. Leaders need to create a culture in which talented people are judged not by the quantity of their work, but by the quality of their contributions. This can't be hollow blather. Someone who works 20 hours a week and who delivers exceptional results on a pro rata basis should be eligible for promotions and viewed as a top performer. American corporations need to get rid of the notion that wanting to work less makes someone a "B player."

Promoting this kind of innovation, where companies start to look more like puzzles than pyramids, has to become part of feminism's new agenda. It's the only way to give millions of capable women the ability to recalibrate the time that they devote to work at different stages of their lives.

We have been putting smart women on the couch for 40 years, since psychologist Matina Horner published her famous studies on "fear of success." But the portion of top jobs that go to women is still shockingly low. That's the irony of Ms. Sandberg's cheerleading for women to stay ambitious: She fails to see that her own agenda isn't nearly ambitious enough.

"Leaning in" may help the relative handful of talented women who can live with the way that top jobs are structured today—and if that's their choice, more power to them. But only a small percentage of women will choose this route. Until the rest of us get serious about altering the way work gets done in American corporations, we're destined to howl at the moon over the injustice of it all while changing almost nothing.

—Ms. Greenstone Miller is co-founder and chief executive officer of Business Talent Group.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rules, Discretion, and Macro-Prudential Policy. By Itai Agur and Sunil Sharma

Rules, Discretion, and Macro-Prudential Policy. By Itai Agur and Sunil Sharma
March 08, 2013
IMF Working Paper No. 13/65

Summary: The paper examines the implementation of macro-prudential policy. Given the coordination, flow of information, analysis, and communication required, macro-prudential frameworks will have weaknesses that make it hard to implement policy. And dealing with the political economy is also likely to be challenging. But limiting discretion through the formulation of macro-prudential rules is complicated by the difficulties in detecting and measuring systemic risk. The paper suggests that oversight is best served by having a strong baseline regulatory regime on which a time-varying macro-prudential policy can be added as conditions warrant and permit.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reef and Relations: Is the Philippines-US Alliance Finally Maturing? By Julio S. Amador III

Reef and Relations: Is the Philippines-US Alliance Finally Maturing? By Julio S. Amador III
Washington, D.C.: East-West Center. February 26, 2013
Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 202

Julio S. Amador III, Foreign Affairs Research Specialist at the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines, explains that the recent grounding in Filipino waters of the USS Guardian, "[s]hows just how delicate managing alliances can be, and the response by the Filipino and US governments also demonstrates a level of maturity in managing the issue."


The two countries have had a long history of working together and the military aspect of the alliance is an important facet of the overall relationship, but further cooperation in other areas should be emphasized and supported. The incident in Tubbataha opens up a new opportunity to cooperate on environmental protection, which is an issue that strikes a chord among citizens of both countries. Already, there are reports that the US government is willing to provide additional assistance including radar and communications equipment to help the Philippines’ reef rangers and coast guard improve their capacity to protect Tubbataha. This would be of great value in ensuring the reef’s survival. Further collaboration should be encouraged such as scientific partnerships between marine science institutions in the United States and the Philippines, environmental tourism, and investment in coral reef conservation.

Protocols that cover US naval movements near protected areas could also be adopted so that future accidents can be avoided. As a result of this incident, such a move could allay any fears that the United States is running roughshod over the Philippines. Acknowledging local expertise and information should also be something that US naval officers take into consideration when navigating through Philippine waters. On the Philippine side, coordination among the various government agencies involved should be emphasized so that there are no conflicting messages. A
lead agency should be designated that addresses this issue on behalf of the government. A comprehensive rehabilitation plan for Tubbataha also needs to be developed to showcase how serious both two sides are in managing the aftermath of the incident.

Going forward, managing the alliance should not be too difficult for the Philippines and the United States, as both states have a long history of working and cooperating together. That does not detract from the fact that US officials should be more respectful of Philippine navigational laws and restrictions regarding its sovereign territory. Nor should it make the Philippine side complacent with regard to implementing its environmental laws. However, what this incident illustrates is the capacity of the allies to be more mature in managing a potentially serious diplomatic incident.

That the United States has already acknowledged some responsibility is an indication of its respect towards its ally. The Philippine side, meanwhile, has demonstrated a pragmatic and principled stance to an otherwise incendiary issue; thus, the government’s ability to be firm with regard to the implementation of its environmental laws and its capacity to separate this issue from the military relationship is commendable.

How the two allies will work together after this incident will be a good indication of the maturity and future direction of the alliance. Looking at the current situation, the outlook is positive.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In Defense of the CEO. By Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

In Defense of the CEO. By Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan
The Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2013, on page C1
Chauffeur-driven limousines, millions in stock options, golden parachutes. It's no wonder bosses' pay and perks can rankle. Here's why the best ones are worth it.

A $90,000 area rug, a pair of guest chairs that cost almost as much, a $35,000 commode and a $1,400 trash can—these are just a few of the expenses from a remodeling of John Thain's office when he took over as Merrill Lynch's chief executive officer in December 2007. The total bill came to an astonishing $1.2 million—about the price of five average single-family homes.

Those same remodeling expenses contributed to Mr. Thain's resignation just over a year later, after Bank of America BAC bought Merrill, and helped to define the popular image of the CEO as someone who lives a life of extreme privilege: gold-plated faucets, country club memberships and chauffeur-driven limousines, all paid for through corporate largess. Mr. Thain's limo tab included $230,000 for his driver—$85,000 in salary, the rest in overtime and a bonus. This was on top of Mr. Thain's receiving a reported $78 million in compensation for 2007.

It's easy to get upset about perks and pay packages like Mr. Thain's. But even in the face of public and investor outrage, CEO salaries are still on the rise. Progress Energy's CEO Bill Johnson received a $44 million payout when he left the company after its merger with Duke Energy DUK last year, and Abercrombie CEO Michael Jeffries took home over $48 million in 2011—while the company's stock price tanked.

Excessive, decadent? That's a hard call to make without having some idea of what a CEO does. Many CEOs are overpaid or, even worse, paid for incompetence. Still, you can only appreciate the difference between pay-for-performance and pay-for-incompetence by first understanding the CEO's job.

Let's start with the basics: how chief executives spend their time. Among the first researchers to give us a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the CEO was management guru Henry Mintzberg, who followed a handful of business leaders for his Ph.D. thesis at the MIT Sloan School of Management over four decades ago. He discovered that, first and foremost, CEOs go to meetings. Lots of them—it is where his research subjects spent over 80% of their work hours.

The astonishing thing is that the percentage of time CEOs spend in meetings has hardly shifted in four decades, despite innovations like email. A study conducted last year by Oriana Bandiera of the London School of Economics, with Columbia's Andrea Prat and Harvard's Raffaella Sadun, assembled time diaries for hundreds of Indian CEOs. (With other collaborators, they have done similar research on smaller samples of Italian and American executives.)

Unlike Dr. Mintzberg—who did the legwork himself—this group of researchers asked the CEOs' executive assistants to record in 15-minute increments how their bosses allocated their time over the course of a week. Were they working alone or in a group? If in a meeting, how many were in attendance? Was the meeting with employees or with outsiders, via telephone or in person? Despite the vastly different geographies and eras—and differences in customers, products and size of organizations—the CEOs all spent their time in much the same way: in face-to-face interaction.

That time is often marked by interruption. In the five weeks of Dr. Mintzberg's study, he recorded extraordinarily few instances of a CEO alone and without disruption for more than 15 minutes straight. Half their activities lasted fewer than nine minutes—and this was in the pre-BlackBerry age—while only 10% went on for more than an hour. Those hourlong stretches were taken up primarily with hourlong meetings. The more recent studies have found a similar pace of interruption.

Yet saying that the job of someone like Jeff Bezos consists of going to lots of meetings is a bit like saying that Shakespeare wrote words. True, but pretty thin for explaining what made, say, Steve Jobs Steve Jobs.

Meetings remain the focus of the CEO's day because such personal interactions are critical to learning the information necessary to run a company effectively. After all, one of the most important jobs of managers is to decide what information gets passed up through the chain of command. If CEOs were to rely solely on written reports and data sheets from self-serving underlings, they almost would be guaranteed to make the wrong decisions. What manager wants to pass on bad news—so much easier to do in a report than when you're being questioned in detail by your boss? This very problem was at the root of Toyota's response to its problems in 2009 with sudden, unexpected acceleration in its vehicles: Managers were all too willing to paint a rosy picture for the CEO, which hampered his ability to direct the company to respond appropriately.

Harvard Business School professors Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria argue that the skill to extract from underlings the critical details that are needed to inform top-level decisions is part of what makes the best CEOs better than their peers. It works in reverse too. The information the CEO needs to convey is just as prone to being misrepresented and misinterpreted as it works its way through a corporation, across shareholders and among customers. So, in the vast majority of meetings, CEOs are not just uncovering information but also constantly refining their message.

Consider, for instance, founder Tony Hsieh's drumbeat in referring to Zappos as a "service company that just happens to sell shoes." Meetings give him the opportunity to let his stakeholders know exactly what he means. The company hit its billion-dollar sales goal two years before schedule, in 2008, and was acquired by in 2009 for a reported $1.2 billion.

The Porter-Nohria view is backed up by the data. In their time-use study of 354 Indian CEOs—still a work-in-progress—the researchers collected detailed information on the nature of CEOs' meetings, including who attended. Two dominant management styles emerged. "Style 1" leaders, in their taxonomy, spend most of their time meeting with employees; they also tend to hold larger meetings and to include people from a wider set of departments within the organization. "Style 2" CEOs are more apt to spend their time alone, in one-on-one interaction, and outside rather than inside the firm.

Though the researchers are still putting together their findings, they have observed that the first management style, which is inclusive and cross-functional, is typical of CEOs at companies that are more efficiently run and more profitable.

Why don't all CEOs adopt Style 1? It's likely that part of the story is ability: not everyone is up to the task of dealing with the complexities of a bigger conference room filled with disparate participants. It may also reflect a CEO's decision to devote less attention to the company than to cultivating his outside image. In a 2009 study, Ulrike Malmendier of the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA's Geoff Tate found that companies performed poorly after their leaders were voted "CEO of the Year," because of the distractions that came with the fame, like writing a book and hobnobbing at Davos. A truly great CEO cannot be distracted; she must remain a great intelligence gatherer, a great communicator and ultimately a great decider, and meetings are one of her most important tools.

The existence of great CEOs does not mean, of course, that the average one deserves his millions—although CEOs, never known for their modesty, may think they do. When Dow Jones reporter Kaveri Niththyananthan questioned the CEO of U.K.-based EasyJet, Andy Harrison, about his 2009 compensation of nearly $4.5 million, Mr. Harrison smiled and replied, "I'm worth it." When a congressman suggested to Ford CEO Alan Mulally that he should take a salary of one dollar, given the near-bankrupt state of the U.S. auto industry, Mr. Mulally replied, "I think I am OK where I am"—this in a year when he took home nearly $17 million in compensation. (Mr. Mulally seems to know the value of meetings; he has listed "You learn from everybody" as one of the key attributes of great CEOs.)

What Messrs. Harrison and Mulally no doubt had in mind were their companies' profit numbers. Profits had fallen by 64% the year Mr. Harrison claimed to be worth his millions, but he could point to five straight years of profits as EasyJet CEO—a rare achievement in the airline business. Mr. Mulally's $17 million payday came on the heels of a billion-dollar turnaround that transformed a $970 million loss at Ford into profits of nearly $700 million just a year later.

But are CEOs really so much smarter (and better at running meetings) than the rest of us? Possibly, but that's not the right question to ask. To claim they're worth it, CEOs don't actually have to be all that much better than the runner-up for the job.

In "superstar economies," as in the market for CEOs, even a slight edge in ability can translate into enormous payoffs. That's why Major League Baseball pitchers earn so much more than triple-A players, despite throwing fastballs only a couple of miles an hour faster. When the stakes are in the billions, shareholders should be more than happy to sign off on a multimillion-dollar paycheck, even if the recipient is just slightly better than the next best option.

By the same token, if CEOs' decisions have such a disproportionate impact on corporate profits, you might be willing to pay a lot to motivate them to put in extra hours in the office. And this view helps to explain—if not always to justify—many of the privileges that come with a corner office: the corporate jet that gives CEOs more face time with employees in different locales; the chauffeured limo that frees up time during the morning commute.

As for another controversial perk, what could possibly be the point of paying CEOs for getting fired? The so-called golden parachute goes back to a perfectly reasonable attempt to get CEOs to create even more value for their companies. Introduced by TWA in 1961, the practice took off during the merger wave of the 1980s, when executives started pondering whether it was smarter to seek out merger opportunities to make money for shareholders or to hold on to their jobs. Mostly they opted for keeping their jobs, often to the detriment of the stock price.

As a result, shareholders gave CEOs an escape valve that, the reasoning went, would encourage them to work in the long-term interests of their companies. Even one of the fiercest critics of CEO compensation, Harvard Law School's Lucian Bebchuk, reports in recent research with Alma Cohen and Charles Wang that golden parachutes do motivate CEOs to find merger-and-acquisition opportunities and, as a result, to extract more takeover premiums for shareholders.

So maybe we should be a bit more understanding of Gillette's board, which awarded a severance package worth well over $160 million to CEO James Kilts after the company was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 2005, in what Gillette shareholder Warren Buffett called a "dream deal." (And Merrill's Mr. Thain? He oversaw the company's acquisition by Bank of America at the height of the financial meltdown, a deal that remains shrouded in controversy, in part as a result of $4 billion in 11th-hour bonuses handed out in December 2008. By the time the dust cleared, Mr. Thain walked away with a seemingly modest $1.5 million severance package.)

Yet executives whose ineptitude or laziness makes their companies ripe for takeover also get rewarded sometimes. Indeed, Prof. Bebchuk's study finds that companies where executives are protected by golden parachutes generally trade at lower levels than those where CEOs don't have them. But how should we think about such pay-for-incompetence? Instead of shaking our heads at the injustice, we can consider it an unfortunate side effect of well-motivated incentives. Designing severance packages more carefully is a worthy idea, but simply eradicating them could do real damage.

Before joining the shareholder activists calling for CEOs to be held accountable and stripped of their more obvious excesses, it's worth pausing to think about why those perks exist in the first place. Sometimes it's the result of slick managers who have co-opted their boards, but sometimes it's simply that we can't easily distinguish good CEOs from bad ones before the employment contract is signed. Seeing CEOs make millions for being fired—and even for losing money—may be hard to stomach, but it is collateral damage in the economics of motivating them to run their companies well.

—Messrs. Fisman and Sullivan are the authors of "The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office," published this month by Twelve.

Corrections & Amplifications

The remodeling of John Thain's office at Merrill Lynch in 2007 included a $35,000 commode (a piece of furniture). An earlier version of this article said the project included a $35,000 toilet.

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler

The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. By Peggy Drexler
The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2013, on page C1
Women who reached positions of power were supposed to be mentors to those who followed—but something is amiss in the professional sisterhood.

Kelly was a bright woman in her early 30s: whip-smart, well qualified, ambitious—and confused. Even a little frightened.

She worked for a female partner in a big consulting firm. Her boss was so solicitous that Kelly hoped the woman—one of just a few top female partners—might become her mentor. But she began to feel that something was wrong. In meetings, her boss would dismiss her ideas without discussion and even cut her off in mid-sentence. Kelly started to hear about meetings to which she wasn't invited but felt she should be. She was excluded from her boss's small circle of confidants.

What confused Kelly was that she was otherwise doing well at the firm. She felt respected and supported by the other senior partners. She had just one problem, but it was a big one. One of the male partners pulled her aside and confirmed Kelly's suspicions: Her boss had been suggesting to others that Kelly might be happier in a different job, one "more in line with her skills."

I met Kelly while I was conducting research on women in the workplace. She was trying to puzzle through what she had done wrong and what to do about it. (To protect the privacy of Kelly and others in the study, I refer to them here by first names only.) I wasn't sure Kelly had done anything wrong, and I said so. As I told her, "You might have met a queen bee."

Having spent decades working in psychology, a field heavily populated by highly competitive women, I had certainly seen the queen bee before: The female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to cut them off at the pass.

The term "queen bee syndrome" was coined in the 1970s, following a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan—Graham Staines, Toby Epstein Jayaratne and Carol Tavris—who examined promotion rates and the impact of the women's movement on the workplace. In a 1974 article in Psychology Today, they presented their findings, based on more than 20,000 responses to reader surveys in that magazine and Redbook. They found that women who achieved success in male-dominated environments were at times likely to oppose the rise of other women. This occurred, they argued, largely because the patriarchal culture of work encouraged the few women who rose to the top to become obsessed with maintaining their authority.

Four decades later, the syndrome still thrives, given new life by the mass ascent of women to management positions. This generation of queen bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own.

A 2007 survey of 1,000 American workers released by the San Francisco-based Employment Law Alliance found that 45% of respondents had been bullied at the office—verbal abuse, job sabotage, misuse of authority, deliberate destruction of relationships—and that 40% of the reported bullies were women. In 2010, the Workplace Bullying Institute, a national education and advocacy group, reported that female bullies directed their hostilities toward other women 80% of the time—up 9% since 2007. Male bullies, by contrast, were generally equal-opportunity tormentors.

A 2011 survey of 1,000 working women by the American Management Association found that 95% of them believed they were undermined by another woman at some point in their careers. According to a 2008 University of Toronto study of nearly 1,800 U.S. employees, women working under female supervisors reported more symptoms of physical and psychological stress than did those working under male supervisors.

Something is clearly amiss in the professional sisterhood.

Erin, another participant in my own study, was a food writer at a glossy magazine. Her supervisor, Jane, seemed out to get her from day one—though never quite to her face. Jane liked playing hot and cold: One day she would pull Erin close to gossip about another colleague; the next she would scream at her for not following through on a task Erin hadn't known she was expected to perform.

Erin eventually found out that Jane was bad-mouthing her to mutual contacts in the food and restaurant industry. Jane would casually slip barbs into business conversations, telling others, for example, that Erin had engaged in an affair with a married man (she hadn't) or was giving more favorable reviews to restaurant owners who were her friends (she wasn't).

Jane's campaign against Erin wasn't much more than mean-spirited gossiping, but Erin felt that it caused her peers to think of her differently and certainly made her professional life more difficult. But how could she lodge an official complaint? "What would it say?" Erin asked me. "Jane is talking about me behind my back?" At various points, Erin thought the only way to fight back was to play along and start trash-talking Jane. But was that really the solution?

As the old male-dominated workplace has been transformed, many have hoped that the rise of female leaders would create a softer, gentler kind of office, based on communication, team building and personal development. But instead, some women are finding their professional lives dominated by high school "mean girls" all grown up: women with something to prove and a precarious sense of security.

What makes these queen bees so effective and aggravating is that they are able to exploit female vulnerabilities that men may not see, using tactics that their male counterparts might never even notice. Like Jane's gossiping about Erin's personal life. Or when Kelly's boss would comment on her outfit: "Who are you trying to impress today?" Or not-so-gently condescend: "Did you take your smart pill today, sweetie?" Their assaults harm careers and leave no fingerprints.

That is one reason many victims never see such attacks coming—and are powerless to prevent them. In Kelly's case, she had assumed her female boss might want to help foster her growth out of some sense of female solidarity. Erin had specifically sought out working at the magazine because she admired Jane's writing and wanted to learn from her. Why wouldn't Jane be eager to teach? It is women, after all, who are hastening the table-pounding male bullies toward obsolescence.

But both Kelly and Erin's superiors seem to have viewed the women under them not as comrades in arms but as threats to be countered. In a world where there are still relatively few women in positions of power—just 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 16% of boards of directors, as noted in Deborah Rhode and Barbara Kellerman's book "Women and Leadership"—it is an understandable assumption that the rise of one would mean the ouster of another. One for one, instead of one plus one.

Though it is getting easier to be a professional woman, it is by no means easy. Some women—especially in industries that remain male-dominated—assume that their perches may be pulled from beneath them at any given moment (and many times, they are indeed encouraged to feel this way). Made to second-guess themselves, they try to ensure their own dominance by keeping others, especially women, down.

The result is a distinctive strain of negative leadership traits—less overtly confrontational than their domineering male counterparts but bullying just the same. Comments on appearance or dress are part of their repertoire—something that would be seen more obviously as harassment when coming from a man—as are higher, sometimes even unreasonable, expectations for performance. Women who have risen in male-dominated fields may want to tell themselves that their struggle and success were unique. As a result they sometimes treat the performance of females who follow as never quite good enough.

It cuts both ways, though: Women aren't always the best employees to other women either. Female subordinates can show less respect and deference to female bosses than to their male bosses.

A 2007 Syracuse University study published in the Journal of Operational and Organizational Psychology found that women are critical of female bosses who are not empathetic. They also tend to resent female bosses who adopt a brusque and assertive management style, even as they find it perfectly acceptable for male bosses. And so they question and push back, answering authority with attitude.

One woman I encountered in my research, Amanda, faced this problem when she began a new job as a vice president at a Manhattan ad agency. The role was her first in management and included overseeing three women who were her age or younger. She knew she was qualified for the position, but from the very first day, Amanda had a difficult time feeling that she had their respect, or even their attention. Though deferential and solicitous to her male colleagues, they openly questioned Amanda's decisions. They went above her head, made comments about her wardrobe and even refused to say good morning and  good night. She felt like she was back in high school, trying to break into an elite clique.

Amanda tried various tactics: being overly authoritative, being their "friend." Eventually she stopped trying to get them to respond or encouraging them to do their jobs as directed. Instead, she fired all three.

Queen bees are creatures of circumstance, encircling potential rivals in much the same way as the immune system attacks a foreign body. Female bosses are expected to be "softer" and "gentler" simply because they are women, even though such qualities are not likely the ones that got them to where they are. In the more cutthroat precincts of American achievement, women don't reach the top by bringing in doughnuts in the morning.

Men use fear as a tool of advancement. Why shouldn't women do the same? Until top leadership positions are as routinely available to women as they are to men, freezing out the competition will remain a viable survival strategy.

—Dr. Drexler is an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and the author, most recently, of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family."

Friday, March 1, 2013

Robust Biopharmaceutical Pipeline Offers New Hope for Patients

Robust Biopharmaceutical Pipeline Offers New Hope for Patients 
January 31, 2013

According to a new report by the Analysis Group, the biopharmaceutical pipeline is innovative and robust, with a high proportion of potential first-in-class medicines and therapies targeting diseases with limited treatment options. The report, “Innovation in the Biopharmaceutical Pipeline: A Multidimensional View,” uses several different measures to look at innovation in the pipeline.

The report reveals that more than 5,000 new medicines are in the pipeline globally. Of these medicines in various phases of clinical development, 70 percent are potential first-in-class medicines, which means that they have a different mechanism of action than any other existing medicine. Subsequent medicines in a class offer different profiles and benefits for patients but first-in-class medicines also provide exciting new approaches to treating disease for patients. Potential first-in-class medicines make up as much as 80% of the pipeline for disease areas such as cancer and neurology.

Many of the new medicines in the pipeline are also for diseases for which no new therapies have been approved in the last decade and significant treatment gaps exist.  For example, there are 158 potential medicines for ovarian cancer, 19 for sickle cell disease 61 for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and 41 for small cell lung cancer.

The authors also found that personalized medicines account for an increasing proportion of the pipeline, and the number of potential new medicines for rare diseases designated by the FDA each year averaged 140 per year in the last 10 years compared to 64 in the previous decade.

The record 39 new drugs approved by the FDA in 2012 – a 16 year high – and the robust pipeline of drugs in development reflect the continuing commitment of the biomedical research community, including industry, academia, government researchers, patient groups, and others to develop novel treatments that will advance our understanding of disease and improve patient outcomes.

New medicines have brought tremendous value to the U.S. health care system and the economy more broadly. But more progress is needed to address the most costly and challenging diseases facing patients in America and across the globe. As our population ages, the need will only grow. Researchers are working to deliver on the promise of unprecedented scientific advances.