Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Assessing the Cost of Financial Regulation

Assessing the Cost of Financial Regulation. By Douglas Elliott, Suzanne Salloy, and André Oliveira Santos
IMF Working Paper No. 12/233

Summary: This study assesses the overall impact on credit of the financial regulatory reforms in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Long-term cost estimates are provided for Basel III capital and liquidity requirements, derivatives reforms, and higher taxes and fees. Overall, average lending rates in the base case would rise by 18 bps in Europe, 8 bps in Japan, and 28 bps in the United States. These results are similar to the official BIS assessments of Basel III and an OECD analysis, but lower as a result of including expense cuts and reductions in the returns required by investors. As a result, they are markedly lower than those of the IIF.

Executive Summary:

Reforming the regulation of financial institutions and markets is critically important and should provide large benefits to society. The recent financial crisis underlined the huge economic costs produced by recessions associated with severe financial crises. However, adding safety margins in the financial system comes at a price. Most notably, the substantially stronger capital and liquidity requirements created under the new Basel III accord have economic costs during the good years, analogous to insurance payments.

There is serious disagreement about how much the additional safety margins will cost.  The Institute of International Finance (IIF), a group sponsored by the financial industry, estimated the proposed reforms will reduce economic output in the advanced economies by approximately 3 percent during 2011–15. Official estimates suggest a much smaller drag. 
Finding an intellectually sound consensus on the costs of reform is critical. If the true price is too high, reforms must be reassessed to improve the cost-benefit ratio. But, if reforms are economically sound, they should be pursued to increase safety and reduce the uncertainty about rules that creates inefficiencies and makes long-term planning difficult.

This study assesses the overall impact on credit of the global financial regulatory initiatives in, Europe, Japan, and the United States. It focuses on the long-term outcomes, rather than transitional costs, and does not attempt to measure the economic benefits of reforms. Academic theory is combined with empirical analyses from industry and official sources, plus financial disclosures by the major financial firms, to reach specific cost estimates. The analysis here does not address the significant adjustments triggered by the financial and Eurozone crises and the potential transitional effects of adjusting to the new regulations.

The study focuses principally on the effects of regulatory changes on banks and their lending. This is for three reasons: banks dominate finance; the reforms are heavily focused on them; and it is harder to estimate the effects on other parts of the system, such as capital markets. Loans, in particular, are a major part of overall credit provision and there is substantially greater data available on lending activities. Where possible, the study also looks at the effects of new regulations on securities holdings by banks and on securities markets.

Measuring the cost of financial reform requires careful consideration of the baselines for comparisons. They should incorporate the higher safety margins that would have been demanded by markets, customers, and managements after the financial crisis, even in the absence of new regulation. Some studies take the approach of assuming all the increases in safety margins are due to regulatory changes, exaggerating the cost of reforms.

A simple model is used to estimate the increase in lending rates required to accommodate the various reforms. The model assumes credit providers need to charge for the combination of: the cost of allocated capital; the cost of other funding; credit losses; administrative costs, and certain miscellaneous factors. The study establishes initial values for these key variables, determines how they would change under regulatory reform, and evaluates the changes in credit pricing and other variables needed to rebalance the equation.  Cost estimates are provided for capital and liquidity requirements, derivatives reforms, and the effects of higher taxes and fees. These categories were chosen after a detailed qualitative assessment of the relative impact of different reforms on credit costs.

Securitization reform was initially chosen as well, but proved impossible to quantify.  Finally, an overall, integrated cost estimate is developed. This involves examining the interactions between these categories and including the effects of mitigating actions likely to be taken by the financial institutions as a result of the reforms in totality. This includes, for example, the room for expense cuts to counteract the need for price increases, to the extent that such cuts were not already included in stand-alone impact estimates.

Lending rates in the base case rise by 18 bps in Europe, 8 bps in Japan, and 28 bps in the United States, in the long run. There is considerable uncertainty about the true cost levels, but a sensitivity analysis shows reasonable changes in assumptions do not alter the conclusions dramatically. The results are broadly in line with previous studies from the official sector, partially because similar methodologies are employed. This paper finds similar first-order effects to the official BIS assessments of Basel III (BCBS (2010) and MAG (2010)) and the analysis at the OECD by Slovik and Cournède (2010). The cost estimates here are, however, markedly lower than those of the IIF.

Three extensions of the methodologies from the official studies, though, lead to substantially lower net costs. The base case shows increases in lending rates of roughly a third to a half of those found in the BIS and OECD studies, despite important commonalities in the core modeling approaches with these studies. First, the baselines chosen here assume a greater hike in safety margins due to market forces, and therefore less of a regulatory effect, than the OECD and IIF studies. (The BIS studies do not reach firm conclusions on the additional capital needs). Industry actions through end-2010 suggest that market forces alone would have produced reactions similar to what was witnessed to that point, even if no regulatory changes were contemplated.

Second, this paper assumes that banks will also react by reducing costs and taking certain other measures that have little effect on credit prices and availability, in addition to the actions assumed in the other studies. The official studies do not do so and the IIF study assumes a fairly low level of change. This accounts for 13 bps of cost reduction in Europe, 10 bps in Japan, and 20 bps in the United States. Third, this paper assumes that equity investors will reduce their required rate of return on bank equity as a result of the safety improvements. Debt investors are assumed to follow suit, although to a much lesser extent. The official studies assume no benefit from investor reactions, for conservatism, and the IIF assumes the benefits, although real, will arise over a longer time-frame than is covered by their projections.

There are important limitations to the analysis presented here. Transition costs are not examined, a number of regulatory reforms are not modeled, judgment has been required in making many of the estimates, the overall modeling approach is relatively simple, and regulatory implementation is assumed to be appropriate, therefore not adding unnecessary costs. Despite these limitations, the results appear to be a balanced, albeit rough, assessment of the likely effects on credit. Further research would be useful to translate the credit impacts into effects on economic output.

Again, all of the analysis is based on the long-run outcome, not taking account of a transition being made in today’s troubled circumstances. To the extent that bank capital or liquidity is difficult or very expensive to raise during the transition period—as they are currently in Europe, a reduction in credit supply would be expected and any increase in lending rates would be magnified, perhaps substantially. Deleveraging is clearly occurring at European banks under today’s conditions in response to financial market, economic, regulatory, and political factors. It is impossible to tell whether any appreciable portion of this reaction is due to anticipation of the Basel III rules. Regardless of the transitional effects, it will be possible, over time, for banks to find the necessary capital and liquidity to provide credit, as long as the pricing is appropriate. Capital and liquidity will flow to banks from other sectors if the price of credit rises more than is justified by the fundamental underlying factors.

The relatively small effects found here strongly suggest that the benefits would indeed outweigh the costs of regulatory reforms in the long run. Banks have a great ability to adapt over time to the reforms without radical actions harming the wider economy.

Full text:

Dodd-Frank's 'Orderly Liquidation' Is Out of Order. By Scott Pruitt and Alan Wilson

Dodd-Frank's 'Orderly Liquidation' Is Out of Order. By Scott Pruitt and Alan Wilson
South Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan join a federal lawsuit to uphold property rights and checks and balances.The Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2012, 7:14 p.m. ET

'The tendency of the law must always be to narrow the field of uncertainty." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that more than a century ago, but the sentiment runs all the way to our nation's roots. Under our Constitution, the rule of law provides the certainty and transparency necessary to protect individual liberty and support economic growth.

But the 2010 federal financial-reform law known as Dodd-Frank continues to undermine economic growth and the rule of law by injecting immense uncertainty into our economy. As law professor David Skeel demonstrated recently in these pages, the law's Title II gives the Treasury secretary and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. unprecedented authority to "liquidate" financial companies. This grants immense power to a handful of unelected federal bureaucrats, empowering them to pick winners and losers among a liquidated company's investors. This arrangement destroys rights long protected by bankruptcy law.

For that reason and others, the attorneys general of South Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan last week joined a federal lawsuit challenging Dodd-Frank's unconstitutional "orderly liquidation" provisions. Dodd-Frank's elimination of investors' rights directly harms our states because state pension funds are partly invested in financial companies. We must raise these constitutional objections now because once a company is liquidated, it will be too late.

Title II eliminates all meaningful judicial review and due process. Once the Treasury secretary orders the liquidation of a financial company, the company has only 24 hours to convince a federal court to overturn that order. Unless the court somehow manages to decide the entire case in the company's favor before the clock expires, the government wins by default and can begin to liquidate the company even as appeals are pending. Dodd-Frank further limits the authority of the courts by prohibiting them from reviewing whether the Treasury secretary's decision was constitutional, or whether the liquidation is actually necessary to protect financial stability.

The Treasury secretary's largely unaccountable decisions in these cases will put investments at risk, and creditors won't know until it is too late. Dodd-Frank prohibits the company from disclosing the liquidation threat before the district court decides the case. Once the liquidation goes forward, the creditors' only recourse will be to plead their case before the FDIC, with minimal judicial review—meaning that creditors' recoveries are "likely to be close to zero," as bankruptcy scholars Douglas Baird and Edward Morrison have put it.

Even more disturbing is the possibility that a company might agree to be "liquidated" and rebuilt under a new banner—like "New Chrysler" replacing "Old Chrysler"—leaving its creditors no right to block the reorganization. Instead, creditors not favored by federal bureaucrats will have little choice but to accept the deal offered to them by the government in a black-box process.

When the federal government replaced "Old Chrysler" with "New Chrysler" in 2009, it told one set of Chrysler's creditors (Indiana's state pension funds) to swallow $6 million in losses. Indiana attempted to defend its employees' pensions in court, but the government shuttered "Old Chrysler" before the Supreme Court could hear Indiana State Police Pension Trust v. Chrysler. Our states face the same threat because they have invested in the debt of financial companies that can be liquidated under Dodd-Frank.

We have taken an oath to uphold the rule of law and defend the Constitution. We are determined to uphold that oath, including defending the Constitution against the overarching power of the federal government.

Our lawsuit attempts to defend the very heart of our Constitution's structure: By committing such broad power to federal bureaucrats and nullifying critical checks and balances, Dodd-Frank's "orderly liquidation" authority violates the Constitution's separation of powers, the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process, and the guarantee of "uniform" bankruptcy laws.

The president and Congress can easily repair these constitutional violations by amending Dodd-Frank, restoring the rights long protected by federal bankruptcy law and reaffirming the Constitution's checks and balances. Until then, we will vigorously defend the rule of law through this litigation. The hard-earned pension contributions and tax payments of our citizens deserve nothing less.

Mr. Pruitt is attorney general of Oklahoma. Mr. Wilson is attorney general of South Carolina.