By: Eric Sprott & Shree Kargutkar
“If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be: ‘Ok, what are you the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?’ If the bank can’t do it, then we’ll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders. We’ll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank. And if necessary the uninsured deposit holders: ‘What can you do in order to save your own banks?’” – Jeroen Dijsselbloem, March 26, 2013
A deal has just been struck with Cyprus. However, it was not the deal that Cyprus saw other countries receive. This was not the deal received by Greece, Italy and Spain. There were no bailed out banks in the aftermath. There was no transfer of risk from over-levered banks to the taxpayers. The risk was pushed back onto the banks. Their equity was wiped out. Their bondholders were wiped out. Their uninsured depositors saw their accounts raided for additional liquidity. It wasn’t just that the rules of the game had changed, the game itself changed. By raiding the depositors’ accounts, a major central bank has gone where they would not previously have dared. The Rubicon has been crossed. Going forward, this is expected to be the “template” for dealing with risky, over-levered banks and the countries which support them.
For the first time since the crisis began, we are faced with a new paradigm, or a “template”, for how a major central bank will address weakness in the financial sector. While the old template involved “bailing out” through transfer of risk from the corporate sector to the taxpayer, the new template calls for “bailing in”, whereby the risk is contained within the affected institution at the expense of equity holders, bond holders and finally the depositor.
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