Tag Archives: Greek language

Roubini and the Nonsens of Voluntary Bail-ins

There’s plenty of nonsense circulating on the subject of dealing with the European debt crisis. Professor Nouriel Roubini takes a shot at one of the latest genius ideas – an “induced voluntary bail-in” of the Greek bank’s creditors…  Now, don’t ask me how that is supposed to work….

“Trying to apply something that was originally designed to bail-in cross-border short-term interbank lines among banks to the bonded debt of a sovereign is a big fudge.”

Nouriel Roubini

“Now that the ECB has, for the time being, effectively vetoed any bail-in of Greece’s creditors, even a modest profiling of the debt, the official sector is running out of options for a meaningful bail-in of creditors.”

The following article is written by Professor Nouriel Roubini and syndicated by eurointelligence.com:

The latest idea — apparently deemed acceptable even by the ECB — is a “voluntary” maintenance of the exposure of Greece’s bank creditors by inducing them to hold their exposure to the sovereign once their bond claims mature by rolling over their maturing bonds into new bonds.

This option has been compared to the Vienna Initiative, which induced the cross-border exposure of foreign banks to the central and east European banking system during the 2008-09 global crisis, when a number of sovereigns and banking systems in that region were at risk of rolling off the claims of foreign creditors.

However, the idea of bailing-in cross-border exposure to the banking system of a country under financial pressure has a longer history and includes similar bail-ins of foreign banks’ cross-border exposures to local banks in 1998 in South Korea, in 1999-2000 in Brazil and in 2001-02 in Turkey.

The more successful experiences were the more coercive ones or when it was in the banks’ interest to maintain their exposures to their foreign affiliates.

A purely voluntary maintenance of exposure at current market rates would make the sovereign’s debt even more unsustainable and, in time, will ensure a default on the new bonds.

The only way to prevent the coupon/yield on the new bonds from being close to market rates and thus unsustainable would be to provide the new bonds with seniority or some collateral; but both options are undesirable as a rollover is not a case of “debtor-in-possession” financing and thus doesn’t justify such credit sweeteners.

If, instead the rollover occurs at original coupon or well below market rates, so as to provide Greece with some debt relief, the rollover option is not purely voluntary and has coercive elements; thus, it is not different in any substantial way from the orderly debt restructuring, or reprofiling, that the ECB and other official sector folks so vehemently oppose.

Also, banks alone would be bailed in — inducing massive inequality among creditors — and only maturing bonds would be sequentially rolled over as they mature, rather than a significant part of the debt being subject to a uniform debt exchange at a single point in time.

Only the latter provides meaningful debt relief for the debtor. Thus, there would be little debt relief and consequently the unsustainability of the debt burden of the sovereign would remain unresolved.

There is also significant risk of arbitrage as banks pass their exposure to Greek debt to hedge funds and other mark-to-market investors who will not be bailed in. Thus, the entire scheme risks to unravel if such arbitrage were to occur.

A debt exchange avoids this problem by roping in all creditors, not just a sub-set.

Only an orderly and market-oriented, but partially coercive, debt exchange could restore debt sustainability while avoiding contagion; a purely voluntary approach would make the debt even more unsustainable — and would risk eventually triggering a disorderly workout — if the rollover occurs at market rates that price in massive default probabilities.

An application of the Vienna Initiative to the issue of Greek public debt is also totally unrealistic.

If the rollover occurs at unchanged coupon (original yield at issuance), there is little difference between such a rollover and a more traditional and efficient debt exchange with a par bond and maintenance of the original coupon. Thus, trying to apply something that was originally designed to bail-in cross-border short-term interbank lines among banks to the bonded debt of a sovereign is a big fudge.

If it is done properly, it is no different from the sort of clean debt exchange that the ECB and others abhor; and if it is done on a “voluntary” basis, it creates an even bigger and more unsustainable debt monster for the sovereign.

As in the case of Argentina, which attempted a voluntary mega debt exchange at unsustainable market yields—it would ensure that a disorderly default will occur in 2012 or 2013. Thus, claiming that one can apply a voluntary Vienna Initiative to the case of Greece is just a continuation of the big fudge and delusional kicking of the can down the road that the ECB and the official sector has indulged in for over a year now in Greece.

The discussion of a Vienna Initiative for Greece shows the confusion of the official sector and of some market analysts when they talk of the likelihood of massive contagion and financial Armageddon in the event of an orderly restructuring.

Yet, they also claim to support for “voluntary” approaches.

The latter are highly contrived and counterproductive if not outright destructive of the debt sustainability that everyone is trying to restore in distressed sovereigns.

By Nouriel Roubini

Nouriel Roubini is chairman of Roubini Global Economics, and professor of economics at the Stern School of Business NYU.

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Greece: Just Do It!

One might certainly wonder how long the stage managers in Brussels will let the Greek tragedy run, before they finally close down the show. It seems like the top leaders of EU are afraid of the consequences of a Greek default and a restructuring of the nations debt. But the consequences of doing nothing may be far worse.

“We therefore urgently need a thorough assessment of the systemic implications of a Greek debt restructuring.“

Guntram Wolff

As Guntram Wolff points out in a syndicated column by eurointelligence.com,  the opinions are divided whether or not a Greek debt restructuring would undermine the financial stability of the euro area . But, as Wolff also indicates, the current strategy of doing nothing may cause far worse problems.

In fact, no one can say for sure what will be the result of a Greek default and a restructuring of the nations debt.

But one thing is for sure; the longer the EU and IMF wait to come up with a solution, the longer we have to wait for our economy to recover.

And most important of all: we have to get all the facts regarding Greek debt on the table.

As this blogger has stressed a thousand times, market confidence will not return before a transparent financial system is in place.

Mr. Wolff makes an additional good point about this being a natural task for the  newly established European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) to take on.

Here’s the full article:

Among the most vocal opponents of a restructuring, ECB’s board member Bini Smaghi has argued that a restructuring would severely undermine the stability of the Greek banking system and euro area financial stability as a whole.

He may be right.

Others, however, argue that a sovereign restructuring is manageable, pointing out to the low exposure of German and French banks to Greek debt.

The Greek banking system could even be restructured and taken over by foreign banks.

Moreover, they dismiss the idea that a restructuring would lead to contagion beyond the countries that are already under EU/IMF assistance. Hence they argue that this would not be comparable to a second “Lehman Brothers”.

Given this uncertainty in the assessment of what a restructuring of debt with private sector involvement means, European decision makers have so far erred on the side of caution, preferring to commit significant amounts of tax payers’ money instead.

However, the election success of the True Finns has shown that such a policy has limits.

We therefore urgently need a thorough assessment of the systemic implications of a Greek debt restructuring.

The ESRB is the institution uniquely placed to make such an assessment.

First, it has probably the best access to the kind of data needed to make such an assessment.

The ECB – providing a large part of the infrastructure of the ESRB – knows which banks use Greek bonds as collateral for the open market operations and should therefore have a good picture of exposure to Greek bonds.

The ECB should also have fairly detailed information on the interbank market, from which contagion across banks can be assessed.

Last but not least, the ESRB has the legal authority to request data from the national and European supervisors needed for such an assessment.

The assessment would obviously have to take into account the possible contagion effects.

Second, the ESRB is the European institution with the legal mandate to warn about systemic risk..”

A warning from the ESRB that a Greek debt restructuring undermines the stability of the financial system of the EU would enjoy great credibility since its General Board includes among its members central bank governors, national supervisors and the chairs of the European Supervisory Authorities.

To further increase the credibility of the warning, the ESRB could choose to publish its warning.

Publication would also help convincing voters that a bail-out is in their own best interest if, indeed, a systemic risk exists.

Conversely, in the absence of a warning from the ESRB, EU decision makers as well as voters should rightly assume that a restructuring would not constitute a systemic risk and would not undermine the financial stability of the euro area.

They could then confidently move to the task of involving the private sector in the restructuring.

Could the ESRB have a different opinion than the ECB’s current opposition against restructuring?

The ESRB is of course dominated by central bankers and might therefore be similarly risk averse as the ECB.

However, in the ESRB central bank governors of all 27 member states are present.

Already now, one can see substantial differences in the assessment of some of the central banks of the euro zone.

As regards the central banks outside the euro area, little is known to date as regards their opinion on the issue.

Moreover, one should not underestimate the importance of the other members of the board, including the non-voting members, who will voice their opinion.


At the end of the day, the decision will crucially depend on how convincing the analysis prepared by the ESRB staff will be.

Different degrees of risk aversion will only play a role if the analysis does not allow for a clear decision. In that case, the ESRB may opt to be risk averse, not least because it will fear to lose its reputation.

Whith respect to timing, the second half of 2011 would be the right time for the ESRB to undertake such an assessment.

This is important in particular for Greece.

Greece will have to return to the market on a large-scale in 2012.

If the market refuses to provide finance, Greece will either need a new program or it will need to reduce its debt burden through a restructuring.

Clearly, a decision will have to be made earlier to avoid further risks.

Guntram Wolff

A clear communication strategy would help mitigate short-term risks.

In the absence of a contagion warning, EU decision makers should move ahead with restructuring not to strain the financial stability of the euro area any further.

It is time to act for the ESRB.


By Guntram Wolff

Mr. Wolff is a scholar at Bruegel in Brussels.


Article syndicated by www.eurointelligence.com


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Hyperventilating, Or Just Taking a Breather?

After yesterday’s panic – mostly due to the negative S&P action on US  debt – the markets returned to something resembling “normality,” Tuesday. But the fear is still out there. And one can not say for sure if the market participants are just taking a breather or if they’re hyperventilating.

“The talk of a Greek restructuring hasn’t gone away; indeed there were further reports of a German government official saying that a haircut was inevitable.”

Gavan Nolan


It was quite a busy day in credit markets Tuesday, as the US earnings season was billed as the main event. A strong performance from two prominent names helped spreads rally in the afternoon. But there’s still a ticking bomb beneath the surface.

Greece’s fiscal fate, the other driver behind recent volatility, was also bubbling under the surface.

“But investors appeared to take a breather today in what was probably another session affected by the upcoming Easter holiday,” credit analyst Gavan Nolan at Markit writes in his daily comment.

Well, there’s also the possibility that the market participants are hyperventilating as another anxiety attack is building up inside.

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Roasting A Pig?

“It sound contradictory to say that it’s a disappointment if Goldman Sachs’ earnings don’t beat expectations but that’s how the market treats the company’s results,” Nolan points out.

Now, that is interesting; why?

The bank that sees itself as some kinda God, but are seen by others at the manifestation of the devil,  performed about what could be expected in the first quarter of 2011.

Goldman’s profits, however, came in well ahead of the  consensus estimates.

The bank’s earnings per share was $1.56, significantly down on last year, but still almost double analyst estimates.

“It’s all-important FICC division’s revenues jumped 164% from a disappointing fourth-quarter, defying forecasts of a difficult start to the year,” Gavan Nolan highlights.

Goldman’s spreads have underperformed its larger banking rivals over the last six months, with many predicting that its reliance on trading revenues would suffer disproportionately.

“That didn’t happen, but it will interesting to see on Thursday how Morgan Stanley fared,” Nolan notes.

Johnson & Johnson, one of the few AAA-rated corporates left in the credit universe, also surprised on the upside.

The company’s sales rose 3.5%, beating expectations, and it raised its full-year earnings guidance.

“A rebound in housing starts and permits completed the positive picture from the US,” the Markit analyst writes.

The Slaughter House

The widening in European sovereigns was curtailed Tuesday, with profit taking probably making some contributions.

“The talk of a Greek restructuring hasn’t gone away; indeed there were further reports of a German government official saying that a haircut was inevitable,” Gavan Nolan writes as a final remark.

Peripheral banks rallied in tandem with the sovereigns.

  • Markit iTraxx Europe S15 100.75bp (-1.5), Markit iTraxx Crossover S15 373.75bp (-9.5)
  • Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe S5 187bp (-2)
  • Markit iTraxx Senior Financials S15 133.5bp (-6), Markit iTraxx Subordinated Financials S15 235bp (-10)
  • Sovereigns – Greece 1240bp (+4), Spain 241bp (-12), Portugal 608bp (-12), Italy 151bp (-8), Ireland 600bp (0)
  • Japan 86bp (+1)

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