Bob Diamond shines a light on TBTF

Bob Diamond, ex–chief of Barclays writes about the TBTF problem in today’s FT, bemoaning the lack of progress in dealing with this elephant in the financial reform room. He fully supports the consensus opinion that the problem requires: a global resolution system, a level playing field with respect to capital and leverage, and international consistency and coordination. Of greater interest is the FT’s front page article about the article. It quotes Sheila Bair, Chairman of the FDIC, who makes the salient point that TBTF is as much a problem of perception as tangible reality. As long as financial institutions and their counterparties believe that they benefit from an implicit (supra?) sovereign guarantee, the problem will persist. The article quotes Jim Millstein, who led the effort to initially disentangle the AIG can of worms. Despite all the reforms of the past five years, he believes that it would take “10 to 15 years” to identify and unwind the myriad interconnections between large financial institutions.  As a legion of commentators has pointed out since 2008, the problem is not “Too Big to Fail”, it’s more akin to “Too Interconnected to Let Fail”.

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