Just a quick update on the happenings in the US on the Accord. I missed the update while on holiday (vacation for US readers). The NPRs (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) were released on December 26 (was this straight after Christmas for a reason?) on the implementation / invention / re-implementation (respectively) of these sets of rules. At least the muddle seems to have stopped or at least been swept under the carpet. The deadline for comment on the Basel II NPR has been extended to March 26 to coincide with those for the Basel IA / I NPR.

The staggering thing, though, is the errors that are in the thought process behind the whole process the Basel IA / I NPR itself. Even on a chartiable view, the background statements justifying the differing rules in the US are somewhere on (if not over) the border between simply being wrong and outright lies.

The paragraph on the bottom of column 1 of the fourth page (numbered 77448) is the big one. The statements on the complexity of the Basel II Accord are simply wrong, as a cursory glance at the table of contents of the Accord will confirm.

The NPR document writes about the Accord as if it mandates the full Advanced criteria for all, ignoring the foundation and standardised approaches to credit risk, the standardised and basic indicator approaches to operational risk, the various market risk approaches and anything else that interferes with their interpretation of the Accord as being too difficult for the poor little banks. They even mention the existence of the simpler methods at the end of the previous page (see page 77447, col 3 last paragraph) and then proceed to behave as if they do not exist less than a column later.

They then use these outright lies faulty interpretations to justify keeping Basel I for some and writing up some concessional rules for others, dubbing these Basel IA to hide their parentage as being in the halls of the US regulators and lobbyists.

This terminological inexactitude from the US regulators can easily be shown to be wrong. In Australia, every ADI (Authorised Deposit-taking Institution) must implement Basel II* in one of its forms. No options beyond those in the Accord. If an institution the size of Unicredit, with its five branches at the various universities in Perth, or any of the other building societies and credit unions in Australia can implement Basel II (with at least standardised credit risk and basic indicator operational risk) why on earth can’t a US bank?

The way to go is simple, but do not expect the US regulators to follow it. Only allow the full Basel II rules, with all the possible options and join the rest of the world. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the various lobbying groups that are behind all this deserve to be strung up (metaphorically of course – otherwise that would be a breach of federal law) for this one.

If you wanted to implement a full free banking system that would be a truly brave position to take, but this regulatory muddle does nothing more than provide even more scope for regulatory arbitrage, distract from the core business of actually providing banking services and make the whole system that much more risk prone.

*Note – the linked letter talks about possible easier credit risk standards. APRA later decided that the Accord allows sufficient flexibility and actually moved to toughen these requirements up in some cases.

[UPDATE] BobsGuide has some information on the behind-the-scenes happenings. The big banks are complaining -can anyone be surprised? This is just silly. We can expect this to rumble on for some time.[/UPDATE]

[FURTHER UPDATE]See here for a differing interpretation[/F