What is the difference between LOLR to banks and LOLR to governments?

Draghi says yes to loans to banks, for a three-year period and with weak collateral, and no to loans to sovereigns, in accord with current EU law.  (Admittedly his remarks require further parsing and so this interpretation is subject to revision.)  What does the Modigliani-Miller theorem say?

A cash-strapped government will start a bank.  A cash-strapped government will induce a domestic bank to lend more to it.  A cash-strapped government will force a domestic bank to lend more to it.  Remember the era of “financial repression”?

To some extent governments will internalize the value of this guarantee to banks.  If you don’t think this guarantee to banks somehow transfers to governments, won’t ECB-guaranteed claims on the bank become the new safe domestic security, knocking out the market for the riskier sovereign stuff and thus mandating some kind of risk equalization to keep the whole show up and running?

Is this transfer of the subsidy to the sovereign a bug or a feature of the plan?  Perhaps this is how the EU/ECB, viewed for a moment as a consolidated entity, will circumvent EU law to finance troubled governments.  Is it possible that by changing collateral requirements they can alter the flow of funds to governments in a discretionary, ever-changing, and relatively non-politicized fashion?  Does this satisfy the “too complicated for people to complain about” provision?

Three years.  Given recent events, that feels like a very long time horizon.  So as long as the available supply of collateral allows, banks would seem not so unwilling to advance funds to their governments, directly or indirectly, and that’s assuming they have a choice in the matter.  The new game will be to generate lots of usable collateral, because the overall credit demands are going to be very high.

Will the “not very tough cops,” namely the ECB-backstopped domestic banks, help the national governments avoid reforms and avoid IMF-enforced toughness?

What does the endgame look like when the three years is up?

All of this is subject to revision, but it is my preliminary take on what happened today.  The market doesn’t seem to have liked the announcement.  Here are other reactions.

I thank Garett Jones for a useful conversation related to this post.


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