Ubuntus grundlægger Mark Shuttleworth er en usædvanligt begavet mand, der umiddelbart giver indtryk af at vide ret meget om penge og finanser. I hvert fald har han en del af dem (penge, altså) og har tydeligvis sat sig lidt ind i, hvad det vil sige.
Om den nuværende finanskrise mener han, at der ikke er tale om en likviditetskrise, men om en solvenskrise. Mere populært: Der er ikke mangel på likviditet som sådan, men firmaerne har gældsat sig selv i jagten på hurtige og billige penge og det i en grad, så de nu ikke kan betale deres gæld. Resultatet er den ene bankerot efter den anden.
Det siger sig selv, at hvis Shuttleworth har ret i den udlægning (som også bakkes op af seriøse økonomer som f.eks. Joseph Stiglitz) så er den igangværende økonomiske krise potentielt mere alvorlig, end mange har lyst til at gøre sig klart.
Mortgages are just the beginning.
At real rates of interest, with real expectations of a reasonable rate of return, many of the deals which have been done since 2003 just do not make economic sense. Thus far, the spotlight has been on one piece of that problem – bad mortgage loans – but I think we’ll see the problem areas expanding rapidly to include a lot of the private equity deals which were done on the basis of free money between 2003-2007. I remember a fatuous statement by some private equity genius that “everybody’s rushing to do the first $100bn deal”. Well, the chickens are coming home to roost. Expect a steady flood of announcements of setbacks, restructurings and bankruptcies as companies that were bought with borrowed money turn out to be unable to service their debt.
Lower interest rates will ease the symptoms only.
Dramatic easing of interest rates will help to slow down the pace at which we have to deal with the bankruptcies, but they won’t change the cold reality of the situation, and they run the very real risk of making things worse by encouraging another round of speculation based on free money. We are once again in a situation where the US discount rate is effectively a negative real rate of interest, as a gift to the banks, but staying there for any length of time puts us back into a state of addiction…
Depositors in regulated banks should be protected by the governments that run the regulators. Shareholders not so much.
I think the Irish and other countries who have guaranteed the deposits of individual users have done the right thing. Governments setup regulatory authorities, and banks advertise that they are regulated. The people who appoint those regulators need to stand by the approach they take – they should offer a guarantee that they will stand by their product, and when it fails, they will stand by the people who trusted in them. Depositors at banks in the UK really should not have to worry that the bank might fail – such a failure should at most affect the interest rate they receive, not the safety of their capital. Shareholders in those banks, however, should be very worried indeed…
The big question I’m asking is which sidelines don’t have landmines? My team and I are fortunate to have stepped out of many markets before the current flood of fear. We stepped right into a few problems, but in large part dodged the cannonballs. So far so good. But what does it mean to have cash in the bank, when banks themselves are failing? What does it mean to hold dollars, when the dollar is being debased in a way that would feel familiar to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe? These are very dangerous times, and nobody should think otherwise.
Shuttleworth mener ikke, at staten skal blande sig i bankdirektørers lønninger, men kommer i stedet med det provokerende forslag, at direktørerne skal have deres frit forhandlede bonuser indefrosset i en syvårsperiode, så bonus først kan udbetales i forbindelse med en samlet vurdering af hele perioden og altså ikke år for år.
Og han kan i hvert fald have ret i, at det nok ville få en lidt anden økonomisk ansvarlighed på banen.
Jeg har ikke forstand nok på de store nationaløkonomiske linjer til helt at kunne vurdere Shuttleworths analyse af situationen, men umiddelbart lyder det som noget af det mere fornuftige, man har hørt.
Link: It’s a solvency problem, not a liquidity problem