Indeed, there is broad agreement among regulators, market participants, and academics that the accord’s risk classification scheme has made the international financial system less stable, not more, while failing to level the playing field. The accord has encouraged banks to assume greater economic risk without a commensurate increase in capital. It has also encouraged banks to make short-term loans to other banks, which contributed to the Asian crisis in 1997-98.
The Basel Committee has attempted to fine-tune the accord over the years. Since 1999, the committee has been working on a major revision of the accord in an effort to “align capital regulatory requirements more closely with the underlying risks.” The result, Basel II, is a work in progress that is expected to be finalized by the end of 2003 and fully implemented by the end of 2006.
Basel II is based on three mutually reinforcing pillars: capital requirements, supervisory review, and market discipline. Risk-based capital requirements are the major focus of the accord. The accord will allow some banks to use their internal risk-management models to determine capital costs, but that option could turn into a regulatory nightmare, even in industrialized countries. Worse yet, the accord’s overly prescriptive and complex approach could end up stifling market-based innovation in risk management practices.
The Cato Institute
October 15, 2002