Economist Anat Admati discusses the banking crisis with Bill Moyers, pointing out that real reform has not yet occurred.
BILL MOYERS: But as you surely know, the bankers tell us, not only do we have a safer system, but it’s getting even better as reforms are put into place. You look skeptical.
ANAT ADMATI: Well, they are truly trying to confuse people with their narratives. They just– either speaking a language that nobody can understand, or they say things, sometimes, that are completely wrong. And sometimes they’re just misleading.
But if you step back and look at the system, it’s very fragile. It’s one of those systems that’s like a big house of cards. You touch it, stuff can happen fast. And it’s far from any system that we would think of as reasonably stable, able to support the economy, all of that.
BILL MOYERS: You made that point in your TEDx talk. That the average US corporation relies on 70 percent equity and earnings. A company like Google, however, maintains 94 percent equity and borrows little. Banks, on the other hand, live on borrowed money and maintain very little equity— five percent. So when banks are over leveraged, and interconnected, and loans go bad, everything can topple, and there is poor old Uncle Sam trying to keep whole system from collapsing. And are they still taking these risks?
ANAT ADMATI: Oh, enormous. And by any measure of exposures to derivatives and the amount of debt versus their own money that they have, by most of these measures, it’s incredibly distorted and dangerous.
BILL MOYERS: I learned from you that two years before the financial crisis, the average size of the top 28 banks was $1.35 trillion five years ago. The average size last year, $1.7 trillion. And you say these too big to fail banks are particularly reckless and dangerous.
ANAT ADMATI: Look at them. They’ve basically become above the law. The people in them are able to do things that most other corporations would worry more about them doing because they can benefit from upsides all through the chain. And their creditors don’t worry enough, as much as other creditors would worry. And the downside eventually is everybody. So, by just taking the risk, they’re able to pass on some of their costs to other people. That’s kind of how it works for them.