I suspect this is more than just an oversight. In general, banks reduce their ratio of risk-weighted assets to total assets in one of three ways. They can be heavily involved in investment banking, where loans tend to be taken out in the repo market and are fully collateralized; they can be heavily invested in structured products with triple-A credit ratings; or they can be heavily exposed to OECD sovereign credits. Ireland’s banks, by contrast, were more old-fashioned than that: they just loaded up on property loans, which tend to carry a full risk weighting. There are clearly lots of things wrong with Ireland’s banks, but I doubt that artificially reduced risk weighting was one of them. Certainly Nixon adduces no evidence that it was.
Is Ireland’s problem a Basel problem, then? I don’t think so—or if it is, then we’d need to see a lot more numbers first before Nixon came close to making his case. I understand that the Heard column has space constraints and specializes in short, punchy analysis, but this piece is so short as to be pretty much useless. This is a problem The Audit has noted before. At the very least, Heard should allow its writers to put extra material online, showing their work, as it were, to back up the conclusions in the printed paper.
(Updated to add the last paragraph, which got cut off in the publishing process.)