Too big to fail is about to get tested once again.
Deutsche Bank – Germany’s largest, and in many ways the embodiment of the global financial system – as you may have heard, is in a spot of bother.
The U. S. government is considering imposing a fine of around $14 billion on the bank for selling faulty mortgage-backed securities in the run up to the financial crisis. That’s on top of the fact that Deutsche and other European banks have been struggling with negative interest rates, which are squeezing profits. In all, Deutsche Bank’s DB 6.79% market cap has now shrunk to nearly its proposed fine, provoking fears that the bank might have to be helped out the German government, or be wiped out. So far, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that there will be no bailouts for Deutsche Bank.
But while Germany says it won’t stop a Deutsche bank failure, how worried should the U. S., and investors, be about it? Ultimately, the new regulations put in place since 2008 to contain Too-Big-To-Fail banks should mean that there will be no direct impact on the average American. But here are a few reasons why you should still keep an eye on it.
Too Big to Fail was always a bit of a misnomer. What really makes a bank a risk to the financial system as a whole is the degree to which it is interconnected with other institutions, i.e., its ability to spark chain reactions of non-payment if it should ever default. By this measure, Deutsche is frighteningly indispensable. It’s a counterparty to virtually every major bank in the world, in virtually all asset classes. This illustration from an IMF report in June gives you some idea. This is why I argued yesterday that the German government, which together with the European Central Bank is responsible for supervising Deutsche, would be highly unlikely to let it fail in a disorderly manner la Lehman Brothers.
This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 30, 2016.