Thursday, January 1, 2015

1/1/2015: Shared Liability: Debtor and Lender

In a recent blogpost on geography of Euro area debt flows prior to the crisis, I noted the extent to which Irish (and other peripheral euro area economies') debt bubble pre-2008 has been inflated from abroad (see here: The argument, of course, is that the funding source, just as the funding user, should co-share in the liability created by the bubble.

This argument, advanced by myself and many others over the years of the crisis, has commonly been refuted by the counter-point that no such liability is implied: borrowers willingly borrowed from the banks, banks willingly borrowed from the markets (aka other banks) and that is where liability ends.

Here is a cogent paper on the subject from the Bank for International Settlements (not some lefty-leaning think tank or a libertarian hothouse of dissent): Turner, Philip, Caveat Creditor (July 2013). BIS Working Paper No. 419:

The paper asserts that "One area where international monetary cooperation has failed is in the role of surplus or creditor countries in limiting or in correcting external imbalances." In common parlance, that is the area of liability of one economic system that, having generated surpluses of savings, provides funding to another economy.

"The stock dimensions of such imbalances - net external positions, leverage in national balance sheets, currency/maturity mismatches, the structure of ownership of assets and liabilities and over-reliance on debt - can threaten financial stability in creditor as in debtor countries." In other words, net lender (e.g. Germany) co-creates the imbalance with the net borrower (e.g. Ireland).

And thus, "creditor countries ...have a responsibility both for avoiding "overlending" and for devising cooperative solutions to excessive or prolonged imbalances."

Unless responsibility does not imply liability (in which case me being responsible for driving safely should not translate into me being liable for any damages done to other parties from failing to do so), we have confirmation of my logic: net lending countries (I refer you to the chart in the blogpost linked above) bear shared liability with the borrowers. By extension, lending banks share liability with the borrowers. Per BIS. Not just per the unreasonable myself.

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