Confusion, Tunneling, and Looting
Interesting post from the blog Baseline Scenario.
Emerging market crises are marked by an increase in tunneling—i.e., borderline legal/illegal smuggling of value out of businesses. As time horizons become shorter, employees have less incentive to protect shareholder value and are more inclined to help out friends or prepare a soft exit for themselves.
Boris Fyodorov, the late Russian Minister of Finance who struggled for many years against corruption and the abuse of authority, could be blunt. Confusion helps the powerful, he argued. When there are complicated government bailout schemes, multiple exchange rates, or high inflation, it is very hard to keep track of market prices and to protect the value of firms. The result, if taken to an extreme, is looting: the collapse of banks, industrial firms, and other entities because the insiders take the money (or other valuables) and run.
This is the prospect now faced by the United States.
Treasury has made it clear that they will proceed with a “mix-and-match” strategy, as advertized. And people close to the Administration tell me things along the lines of “it will be messy” and “there is no alternative.” The people involved are convinced—and hold this almost as an unshakeable ideology—that this is the only way to bring private capital into banks.
Read the rest of the post.