Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New legislation responding to old EU crisis

From BBC Business News on the status of Spain and a potential bail-out:
On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled proposals designed to stop taxpayers' money being used to bail out failed banks.
The aim is to ensure losses are borne by bank shareholders and creditors and minimise costs for taxpayers.
However, new legislation is unlikely to come into force before 2014 at the earliest, too late to protect taxpayers from any further immediate bank failures.
"The proposal we have today may be only useful for the future but it does not solve the current problems we face," said Sharon Bowles, chair of the European Parliament's economic and finance committee.
There would be new requirements for countries to prepare for a bank collapse, collecting money through an annual levy on banks that would be used to provide emergency loans or guarantees.
Brilliant. The European Commission will have new laws on the books to prevent a redux of the EU crisis occurring again in the future... if the EU even still exists in the future.

It seems European politicians are acting as if their policies could apply retroactively, but even if these sort of reforms could have stopped the current crisis, that's no guarantee that future crises will look anything like the current one.

There's also the chance that this new legislation - "an annual levy on banks that would be used to provide emergency loans or guarantees" - will just add to the moral hazard problem and make excessive risk-taking by banks even more likely.

Responding to the last crisis is of great temptation to politicians, who must be "doing something" in order to satisfy their constituents, but this foolhardy rush to action may do more damage than good. Post-Enron accounting reforms have been blamed for making the U.S. financial crisis worse, and Europe could be reading a parallel story five years from now if these proposals go through.

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