Last week I commented on the debate over ending “too big to fail,” the de facto policy that allows systemically important banks (SIBs) to receive implicit government subsidies in the form of reduced borrowing costs. How valuable are the subsidies? Estimates vary depending on methodology. According to an International Monetary Fund analysis, as of last year the implicit subsidies for SIBs in the United States amounted to “at least 15 or so basis points.”
Now, on the one hand, those subsidies were significantly smaller in 2013 than they were at their peak in 2009. They were also smaller than the equivalent 2013 subsidies in Japan (25–60 basis points), the United Kingdom (20–60 basis points), and the euro area (60–90 basis points). “In dollar terms,” the IMF noted, “if applied to banks’ total liabilities (net of equity), the implicit subsidies given just to [SIBs active at the global level] in 2011–12 represent around $15–$70 billion in the United States, $25–$110 billion in Japan, $20–$110 billion in the United Kingdom, and up to $90–$300 billion in the euro area.”
On the other hand, in the United States, “the expected value of government guarantees for a distressed SIB appears higher than its precrisis level.” In other words, overall U.S. bailout expectations are still greater than they were in the years prior to the 2007–09 financial meltdown.