Six years and countless working lunches after the financial crisis began, European regulators have at last nearly come to grips with one of its root causes. Read more »
Things in Cyprus: kinda bad. There are better places than here to read about it; I particularly recommend Joseph Cotterill here and here, pseudo-Paweł Morski here and here, Mohammed El-Erian here, the FT’s coverage here and here, the Journal’s round-up of analyst reaction here, etc.
The basic story is that Cyprus’s government and banks are both massively overindebted and need a bailout, and the EU and IMF will provide a €10bn bailout, but they demanded that Cyprus chip in some €7bn, which it has decided to do by means of a tax on deposits in Cypriot banks of 6.75% for up to €100,000 and 9.9% above €100,000. (Is that rate on bigger deposits marginal or absolute? No one knows!) Those numbers are being renegotiated and may end up not being approved by Cyprus’s parliament.
Getting caught money-laundering for the Iranians and drug cartels is pretty bad for business, as HSBC’s 2012 results demonstrate. But coming into compliance with all these new banking regulations is even worse.
Disgraced though HSBC may be, what with the $4 billion-plus it paid in fines to regulators last year, and the 17% drop in profit that entails, the old Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. managed to shrink less than its friends in Frankfurt in an unusual race backwards, thereby dethroning the Germans as Europe’s largest bank. Read more »
It’s probably good news that “European Union finance ministers reached a landmark deal early Thursday that would bring many of the continent’s banks under a single supervisor,” but of course it wouldn’t be Europe without some self-evidently bad ideas for financial regulation, so today we also get this:
Bankers’ bonuses in Europe would be capped at two times fixed salary under a tentative EU agreement that would mark the most severe crackdown on pay since the 2008 financial crisis.
The European parliament and negotiators for member states drafted a deal in Strasbourg on Thursday that imposes a 1:1 bonus to salary ratio, which can be increased to 2:1 with the backing of a supermajority of shareholders.
Still being negotiated, can change, etc. One could perhaps imagine that once there’s a single eurozone banking supervisor, the warm glow of supervision will shield eurozone banks from this sort of chaotic meddling from the European parliament. Or not, who knows.1
This is mostly bad for the usual reasons: keying bonuses to base salary, without capping base salary, increases fixed costs and thus risk, while reducing bankers’ incentives to actually do a good job at whatever they’re supposed to be doing. A first-best comp scheme would probably involve huge bonuses to reward bankers for doing the things you want them to do; smaller bonuses is perhaps a better scheme than huge bonuses to reward bankers for doing the thing you don’t want them to do, but it’s not a particularly impressive approach. Read more »