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This is the second part of a three-part series on the regulation of securitization before and after the crisis. This part’s topic: The states’ helping hand: finance ministries and the expansion of securitization in the EU.

As I explained in part 1 of this series, securitization required the transfer of credits from banks’ banking books into shell companies, where the cash flows from these credits would be redirected to serve debt instruments that the shell company (or Special-Purpose Entity, SPE) emitted. The banks remained linked to the revenues and risks of these assets by providing liquidity lines to these shell companies in case the market fell dry.

When the crisis in the subprime mortgage market became evident, the buyers of debt instruments emitted by SPEs which had assets on the asset side whose cash flow was seen as deteriorating. Buyers in the market refused to take up the risk, as they could not price it and feared to have to take losses. In this moment, the liquidity lines of banks were drawn, and banks bought the papers from the SPEs they had initially set-up to get rid of these assets.

Now that they ended up refinancing the assets they had sold to the SPE, they in fact became again the owner of these assets, which is why they reappeared on their balance sheets, but only in the worst of moments. The first SPEs which experienced such a buyers strike were those which did not even have a liquidity line and where the buyers were supposed to carry the entire credit risk themselves. Rather than imposing losses on their clients, many banks took the assets they had transferred into the balance sheets of these SPEs (called Structured Investment Vehicles) back on their own books for reputational reasons. Banks argued that they could better cope with the deteriorating value of these assets by holding them to maturity and that imposing losses on their clients would endanger their future financing possibilities.

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This is the first part of a three-part series on the regulation of securitization before and after the crisis. Why were the banks so affected by the run on the shadow banking sector, which was formally off-balance sheet? How can we explain the lack of regulation in the shadow banking sector? How did governments promote the expansion of the credit supply via the shadow banking system?

Securitization has had a very bad press reputation in recent years (but see “securitization is not that evil after all”), being related to overly complex re-securitizations, which became impossible to value during the financial crisis of 2007/2008. Before that crisis, securitization was en vogue, favored by most financial economists as a way to spread credit risk from banks into the financial markets, thereby increasing the resilience of the financial system as a whole (s. Bhattacharya et al 1997). The idea was to liquefy credits, to turn them into tradable assets, generating deep secondary markets in which traders could constantly readjust the amount of risk they held in their portfolio. Banks could refinance the credits they gave and thereby expand their lending. Credit would become cheaper, as the demand for securitized assets generated from credit increased, raising the available supply of credit.

Turning credits into tradable assets requires that the transfer of these assets into money is possible instantaneously and without loss of value. Otherwise, the entire idea of readjusting one’s portfolio to changing market circumstances; which is what underlies modern portfolio theory (also the Black-Scholes formula requires continuous adjustment of the traders position, which is why trading in continuous time is a necessary assumption for the pricing to work). Credits on banking books, in contrast, are held on the book of the banook  at historical cost accounting (s. Sigrids work on fair value accounting); i.e. not changing their value from the contracted valuethe moment the contract is signed. Only if banks undertake corrections in value to account for expected losses does the value of these credits in the books of the bank change.

In this blog I will look at the infrastructural preconditions of securitization (Special purpose entities, in the following SPEs) and the shifts in how they were proposed to be treated at an international level and how they were treated on a national level before the crisis and after the crisis. Before the crisis, there was pressure by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors to not force these SPEs on the balance sheet of banking groups (CEBS 2004). After the crisis, we can witness a 180° shift in the position of the financial stability board which states that it wants full prudential consolidation for sponsored SPEs. In my three blog entries I will have look at the impact these transnational recommendations had before the crisis on actions of national governments and will speculate about the fate of the current regulatory proposals in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
May 2019
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