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.
Markets At A Glance
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
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.
How does the new template affect you?
This “template” is already being applied to the “too big to bail” banks in other developed countries around the world. A statement in the joint paper published by the FDIC and the Bank of England in December 2012 reads:
“An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company into equity. In the U.S., the new equity would become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. In the U.K., the same approach could be used, or the equity could be used to recapitalize the failing financial company itself—thus, the highest layer of surviving bailedin creditors would become the owners of the resolved firm…. Such a resolution strategy would ensure market discipline and maintain financial stability without cost to taxpayers”.2
Note the lack of the phrase “uninsured depositors” in this context, which opens the doors for both insured and uninsured depositors to be affected. In a similar vein, Canada’s recently released budget addresses the same problem. Page 144 of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 reads: