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Viewing cable 08LONDON797, BANKING CRISIS NOW ONE OF SOLVENCY NOT LIQUIDITY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08LONDON797 2008-03-17 18:06 2010-12-13 23:11 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy London
VZCZCXYZ0049
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLO #0797/01 0771827
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171827Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7863
INFO RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
Monday, 17 March 2008, 18:27
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 000797 
SIPDIS 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
EO 12958 DECL: 03/17/2018 
TAGS ECON, EFIN, UK 
SUBJECT: BANKING CRISIS NOW ONE OF SOLVENCY NOT LIQUIDITY 
SAYS BANK OF ENGLAND GOVERNOR
Classified By: AMB RTUTTLE, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
Summary
------- 
1. (C/NF) Since last summer, the nature of the crisis in financial markets has changed. The problem is now not liquidity in the system but rather a question of systemic solvency, Bank of England (BOE) Governor Mervyn King said at a lunch meeting with Treasury Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt and Ambassador Tuttle. King said there are two imperatives. First to find ways for banks to avoid the stigma of selling unwanted paper at distressed prices or going to a central bank for assistance. Second to ensure there’s a coordinated effort to possibly recapitalize the global banking system. For the first imperative, King suggested developing a pooling and auction process to unblock the large volume of financial investments for which there is currently no market. For the second imperative, King suggested that the U.S., UK, Switzerland, and perhaps Japan might form a temporary new group to jointly develop an effort to bring together sources of capital to recapitalize all major banks. END SUMMARY
Systemic Insolvency Is Now The Problem
-------------------------------------- 
2. (C/NF) King said that liquidity is necessary but not sufficient in the current market crisis because the global banking system is undercapitalized due to being over leveraged. He said it is hard to look at the big four UK banks (Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, and Lloyds TSB) and not think they need more capital. A coordinated effort among central banks and finance ministers may be needed to develop a plan to recapitalize the banking system.
Unblocking Illiquid Mortgage-Backed Securities
--------------------------------------------- - 
3. (C/NF) King said it is also imperative to find a way for banks to sell off unwanted illiquid securities, including mortgage backed securities, without resorting to sales at distressed valuations. He said sales at distressed values only serve to lower the floor to which banks must mark down their assets (mark to market), thereby forcing unwarranted additional write downs. He said we need to find an auction system where banks could move paper they want to sell without fear of stigma that the market views selling at a low price as a sign that a bank is in trouble. King said, however, he did not yet know how to structure such an auction and that further dialogue was needed. Kimmitt acknowledged the need to find ways to unblock these markets and said we should remain in touch bilaterally as well as in the G-7, the Financial Stability Forum, and the central banks.
A Possible Approach To Recapitalization
--------------------------------------- 
4. (C/NF) The G-7 is almost dysfunctional on an economic level, said King. Key economies are not included, especially those that have large and growing pools of capital. King said that a new international group was needed to address the issue. It could be a temporary group, and he suggested that perhaps the central banks and finance ministers of the U.S., the UK, and Switzerland could coordinate discussions with other countries that have large pools of capital, including sovereign wealth funds, about recycling dollars to recapitalize banks. King said Japan might not be included because it has little to offer. King noted, though that including the Japanese might force their hand in finally marking to market impaired assets. Kimmitt said that he was cautious about starting new groups in the international financial community because of the inevitable debate around whom to include.
Comment
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5. (C) The King proposals were not casual ideas developed in the course of luncheon conversation. It was clear that his principal objective in the meeting was to outline his outside-the-box thinking for Kimmitt. King included very few details about his proposals and was content to present broad concepts, thereby planting the seeds for future discussion. END COMMENT.
6. (U) Participants: USG: Ambassador Robert Tuttle; Deputy Secretary Kimmitt; Eric Meyer, Office Director for Europe;
SIPDIS Robert Saliterman, Spokesman, International Affairs, U.S. Treasury; Warren Chane, ECONOFF. UK: Mervyn King, Governor, Bank of England; Chris Salmon, Private Secretary.
7. (U) Deputy Secretary Kimmitt has cleared this message.
Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/london/index. cfm TUTTLE
Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/london/index. cfm TUTTLE