THE CRITICAL FAILINGS IN BANKING REGULATION

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Throughout the history of financial crises, prudential regulators and central banks have been considerably involved in developing a wide spectrum of regulatory tools to ensure the smooth functioning of the banking sector and maintain financial stability. Deposit insurance, Lender of Last Resort (LLR), prudential regulation and supervision have been extensively discussed in academic and literature as the three major components of government financial safety net. In the midst of these regulatory tools, the regulation of bank capital stands out as one of the most critical in the view of fostering banking stability and preventing financial crises. Regrettably, bank capital regulation (Basel II) has turned out to be a “massive fiasco”, probably the one of the most crucial main failings in banking regulation that intensified the severity of the recent global financial turmoil. Firstly, this chapter will discuss the history and rational behind bank capital as regulatory tools, and secondly examine the extent to which Basel II contributed to both the occurrence and the severity of financial crisis 07/08. Finally, we will examine the nexus between financial innovation and systemic risk, and critically discuss how central banks and financial regulators have lost sight of systemic risk control in the light of weaknesses of the incumbent macro-prudential regulatory framework.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF BANK CAPITAL REGULATION

The Banking system performs special functions including: asset transformation, liquidity insurance, development of payment systems and transmission of monetary policy impulses, investment monitoring, and risk diversification. The nature systemic banking risk and the pivotal role of banks in promoting economic development have been culminant considerations that underpin the rationality of banking regulation, Goodhart et al (2001, p.10) and Llewellyn (1999). One important lesson policy makers have learned from historical episodes of financial crises is the intrinsic fragility of the banking sector. Asset-liability maturity mismatches, banks runs and stock market crashes or any turbulent financial shocks at macro-level can deplete banks’ capital, resulting in systemic banking failures and serious disturbances in the financial system. The interconnectedness between banks with “derivatives networks” and financial linkages intensify the gravity of banking sector problems and eventually result in a widespread of counterparty and systemic risk, leading to severe economic contractions and disruptions as we witnessed during the recent financial turmoil that followed the subprime crisis, Heffernan (2005). The main rationale behind introducing minimum capital adequacy requirement was to ensure that Banks hold sufficient capital to buffer against adverse financial shocks and unexpected losses, thus foster banks solvency and financial stability. Santos (2000, p.1) explained the importance of bank capital “from the role it plays in banks’ soundness and risk-taking incentives, and from its role in the corporate governance of banks”. He argued that bank capital help not only reduce excessive risk taking and moral problems of created by deposit insurance, and but also consolidate the stability of the banking system by reinforcing the “stand alone strength” of banks in the midst of unexpected brutal financial storms, thus containing the eruption of systemic banking failures and minimizing the cost of government bailouts.

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