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Supervisors against regulation? The Basel Committee and country risk before the International Debt Crisis (1976–1982)

  • Alexis Drach (a1)

Abstract

While the International Debt Crisis of the early 1980s was the most severe financial crisis since World War II and while national and international banking supervision was developing at that time, little is known about the response of supervisors to the deteriorating financial environment in the years preceding the crisis. Complementing the political and business history of the international debt situation, this article aims to unravel the international banking supervision side of the question. Based on archival material from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and various central banks, the article examines how the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS), then emerging as the leading forum on international banking supervision, anticipated the International Debt Crisis through the prism of ‘country risk’. The article shows that the Committee refused to recommend strict regulations in this area. It argues that members adopted this position because of the lack of good information and the difficult position of banking supervision between macroeconomic issues and individual banks’ own responsibilities, but also because of somewhat excessive faith in market mechanisms. Their discussions on country risk shed light on critical challenges of banking supervision and, thereby, on the history of banking regulation and prudential thinking.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Alexis Drach, University Avenue, GlasgowG12 8QQ, UK, email: alexis.drach@glasgow.ac.uk.

Footnotes

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I would like to thank Youssef Cassis, Neil Rollings, Valerio Cerretano and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments.

Footnotes

References

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Supervisors against regulation? The Basel Committee and country risk before the International Debt Crisis (1976–1982)

  • Alexis Drach (a1)

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