Banks: Bail Outs or Bail Ins?

Nicolas Veron has a good account of the time-varying attitudes of European policymakers to troubled banks in this FT article  here.

34 replies on “Banks: Bail Outs or Bail Ins?”

The author seems a little unclear – to put it mildly – as to what was agreed in relation to depositor insurance i.e. nothing new.

From the Eurogroup statement;

“The Eurogroup welcomes the plans for restructuring the financial sector as specified in the annex. These measures will form the basis for restoring the viability of the financial sector. In particular, they safeguard all deposits below EUR 100.000 in accordance with EU principles.”

and in the Annex;

“7. All insured depositors in all banks will be fully protected in accordance with the relevant EU legislation.”

Breaking an extended silence … some of what was agreed in relation to depositor insurance was new.

Before this, insured depositors ranked equally with uninsured depositors and holders of senior bonds, and were to be compensated for losses arising from this equal ranking at the expense of the sovereign. Precedent suggested that the EU and associated institutions would always provide banks, directly or via the sovereign, with sufficient liquidity to avoid losses to guaranteed depositors that would need to be compensated.

The big rule change that occured on this occasion was that guaranteed depositors were effectively re-ranked as senior to uninsured depositors and holders of senior bonds. As a general policy principle, this ranking is superior to the legally established one in that it makes deposit insurance much more credible, and should make it somewhat more expensive for banks to inflate their balance sheets with wholesale funding. At the same time, changing the effective rules only when the crisis goes critical is the economic equivalent of stealing from the unguaranteed to meet the sovereign’s liabilities to the guaranteed.

I don’t actually have much sympathy for the stupid unguaranteed money that stayed in obviously insolvent Cypriot banks, given the Troika’s record of finding work-arounds to re-rank liabilities whenever it is convenient. However, the idea that there is nothing new on depositor insurance in the bailout finally agreed is far off the mark.

I should add that I think it’s time to re-write EU-mandated rules on deposit insurance to codify the senior ranking of guaranteed deposits over unguaranteed deposits and senior bonds. Deposit insurance that can only be honoured when it is not needed, and can only be side-stepped through assuming vast bailout debts, has been extraordinarly destructive of the creditworthiness of EU sovereigns over the last few years.

@DOCM, the statement approves of changes to Cypriot legislation that side-step the intent of EU legislation, which is that the sovereign is responsible for funding deposit insurance. It may not change EU legislation de jure, but it sure as hell changes it de facto.


“and in the Annex;

“7. All insured depositors in all banks will be fully protected in accordance with the relevant EU legislation.”

Who is underwriting this policy of insurance?

“Merkel said: “On the one hand, the banks must take responsibility for themselves. That’s what we have always said. We don’t want taxpayers having to save banks but that banks save themselves.”

There is a clear conflict between the Eurogroup statement and the statements fro Merkel/Schaeuble.

In a bust bank, who is pay for deposits under 100,000. That is the question. In Cyprus it was a matter of fraught negotiation and finally, depositors over 100,000 will pay. But many others will also pay.

Schaeuble, made the very duplicitous comment that:
“German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview “if possible we want to avoid seeing Cyprus sliding into insolvency”. But he cautioned that he is “known for not giving in to blackmail, by nobody and nothing”

But the deal worked out, will within a short time see Cyprus not only slip, but collapse into insolvency.

The bottom line is that the protection of depositors, however aspirational the Eurogroup statement, is in no way guaranteed.
The free movement of capital towards core banks/bunds etc, is a major obstacle in arriving at any kind of guarantee.

Anyone up for bashing out a quick op-ed for the man in the street on how the pathway to Eurobonds is nice and clear?

There must be lots of pundits actually willing the banking system to slide towards collapse at the moment given that senior creditors have been absolutely hosed in Cyprus – either that or it’s eggs on face time all round.

@ BeeCeeTee

You might care to explain how the statement “sidesteps the intent of EU legislation”. In fact, it attempts to copperfasten it (no doubt on Schaeuble’s insistence).

I made the point on another thread that the perception of the citizenry across Europe with regard to the sacrosanct nature of the €100,000 deposit limit will have been copper-fastened by what happened with regard to Cyprus. They neither know nor care how it is to be funded. That is what has changed de facto.

Your point in relation to the behaviour of banks, for all I know, may well be correct.

It copperfastens one part of the intent of the EU legislation, which is that depositors get paid. It knocks a large hole in the another part of the intent, which is that it is the sovereign that pays, and not equally ranked depositors and bondholders.

@ BeeCeeTee

I do not disagree! Indeed, it is for this reason I think that the only outcome of the Cyprus “experiment”, as the country’s president has described it, will be that of the “standardisation” of the ordinary EU punter’s view in relation to depositor insurance. This, in itself, is a positive given the weight of such deposits and given that the idea of the insurance is to prevent generalised bank runs in the first place.

Otherwise, Cyprus marks a defeat for the latest episode in the Merkel/Schaeuble/(and now Dijsselbloem) slow retreat from the June 2012 commitments. Indeed, unless this is made clear, there will be a plethora of accounts containing €99,999 all over banks in Europe.

cf Isabella Kaminska on why the original idea of a graduated levy was probably the best one in terms of a democratic outcome.

The people have spoken!

I hope to see a standard whereby guaranteed depositors rank senior to unguaranteed depositors and bondholders. That would standardise the “ordinary EU punter’s view in relation to depositor insurance”. However, until it is enacted, and until the EU and associated institutions cease to turn the hierarchy of seniority upside down whenever it suits them, there will be no such standard and no such standardisation.

I think the message most obvious to punters from the Cyprus debacle is that no rules are sacrosanct in such events. It’s not a comforting message.


Get out your envelope. Turn it over, employ biro thus:

Imagine a bank goes bust and in liquidation, the senior creditors would loose 20%.

The state would then (supposedly) compensate the sub 100k accounts up to 100k.


a) There are 100,000 small (easily sub 100k) accounts and 10 large ones of, say 1,000,000 each.

Each large depositor receives 800,000 under the supposed scheme ante.

If instead of liquidation, funds are ‘levied’ or ‘up front stability taxed’ from uninsured deposits to bail out the insured deposits, each of the large depositors receives 100,000 (unless they are excluded from the insurance scheme in which case they get zero) – ie they are effectively wiped out.

b) If there are 10 small deposits and 1000 large deposits, under the scheme depositors thought was in existence, the large depositors would receive 800,000. Under the ‘new’ arrangement (if we can believe it), they would receive quite close to 800,000, but slightly less.

It seems to me therefore, that the depositor profile now has a more direct relevance to which banks large depositors should consider using. This is a substantive difference.

Deposit profile will certainly be a factor post Cyprus.
From a comment I made in another thread re removal of ELG. The DOF claimed it would remove €73 bn in contingent liabilities:

” If this removes €73 billion in contingent liabilities, it indicates that about 50% of all customer deposits are in excess of €100,000 euros.
BOI / AIB customer deposits last June were €72 and €63 billion respectively, a total of €133bn. One would have thought that the deposit structure would be more pyramid shaped. This kind of deposit structure is not exactly conducive to the removing of the ELG guarantee. Watch that space.”
Cyprus has hardly helped the stability of large deposits in peripheries or indeed anywhere else.

Re Spiegal article
“Societal and political acceptance is ending for the model of bank rescues in which the state protects bond holders and major investors,” said Schneider”.

Did society ever accept the policy of paying senior unsecured bondholders in full? I think not.
I see today that Diesels buddy on the ECB council supports his stance of depositors bail-in as the latest “policy”.
But it appears that there is no policy…just a series of ad hoc measures which are deemed convenient at particular times.
The signs are is that moves are afoot to lighten exposure to euros and euro denominated securities in favour of dollar ones.
This cannot but end badly.

Here is what is going on with the banks’ customers.

Die Welt
Exporters fear disintegration of Europe, North and South
Fear of the euro crisis: The Federation Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA) advises its members to prepare for all scenarios – even a quick change system. By Carsten Dierig

Photo: Infographics World
division of the euro zone? Exporters want to adapt to all scenarios
BRICS countries: emerging plan counterweight to the West
Customs Restrictions: EU is now negotiating with Japan on free trade
Export: France blocked free trade area with the United States
Economy: economy halved its growth forecast
Anton Börner
Germany’s foreign traders are not satisfied with the start to the year. “The first quarter was quiet, too quiet,” said Anton Börner, president of the Federation of Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA), the “world”.

The industry, as analyzed by the first three months under the budgeted figures. Instead of the hoped-for turnaround after a weak final quarter of 2012 there was only a very slight growth. Especially because of the continuing uncertainty and caution in Europe

Börner therefore loses his optimism but not for the entire year: “We continue to see the opportunity to increase exports by four to five percent.”

This optimistic forecast is subject to the reservation that the euro crisisdoes not continue to worsen. Accordingly facilitates Börner shows that for the beleaguered Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a solution was found, and without the involvement of small savers. “The rescue is an important signal of confidence,” said the entrepreneur.

That court, however, the question of how long the constant wear out fires yet. “This type of life is not eternal.” Especially since large economies such as Italy were struck. Börner therefore already the worst fears: “If Italy is not in the next twelve months creates visible reforms, the euro is no longer tenable.”

And that there is the necessary reforms, the BGA chief considers at least questionable. “There, they rely too much on that fall, the Germans can not Italy.”

Investor protection
Final agreement
Cyprus banks
Who loses?

Cloven-Euro Europe – North against South?
Foreign traders should be prepared for an emergency

German foreign merchants who exported last year goods worth around 1.1 trillion euros, Börner advises to prepare for the worst. “Companies need to act now and set seriously to all scenarios. There may be a rapid change in the system, such as a division of Europe into North and South.”

A way for exporters Börner sees greater diversification. “No one has to go away from Europe. One should rather use the opportunities in the global markets.” In Asia, and now again in America there is great growth potential for products and services from Germany. From these two regions in the first quarter were the – come impulses – albeit few.

To facilitate trade with countries outside Europe, the BGA requires additional free trade zones. “There are too many barriers to business,” the federation boss says with reference to tariffs, licensing procedures and bureaucracy or different technical standards and legal philosophies.

But now something is happening. With Japan, for example, the European Commission, which is responsible for the trade policy of the 27 EU Member States recently agreed to launch negotiations. Already in April, the first round of talks take place.

Fear of car glut from Japan

However, there are concerns among car manufacturers in Germany, France, Italy and Eastern Europe. They fear that they are not in spite of an agreement due to the foreclosure can take root in Japan, but vice versa, using a veritable glut of Japanese cars in Europe, if the import duty of ten per cent currently to be phased.

Brussels will therefore negotiate hard with Tokyo. The EU last year was Japan’s third largest trading partner after China and the United States.

Of an agreement with Japan or the United States, with which the EU is currently negotiating also expects the BGA momentum for further free trade agreements with countries in Asia, such as with India. Even though this is only the second best solution for Börner.

“Free trade agreements are auxiliary crutches,” said the association chairman. Far more useful than all the bilateral agreements would bring in his view, a multilateral agreement through the World Trade Organization (WTO), in the form of a successful conclusion of the Doha Round. This, however, recently been put off indefinitely.

Here is the slightly to the left of centre viewpoint. Well worth considering.

Future of Europe
Long live the European Republic!
28.03.2013 · Listen to the dreamer finally, they are the true realists. You save Europe and democracy. No nation-state can still solve problems alone.
Product Images (1) Readers opinions (393)

Europe must decide courageously what it wants to be.
The European leaders negotiate in a burning building on what sum would be provided for water damage if you put out the fire. The accusation that they had lost contact with the citizens is not true. She never had. It is the system that provides a legitimate representative of the European population nor permits. Whoever gets claimed today in the crucial instance of the EU, the European Council, the leadership role or attributed to: He or she is not in twenty-six of the twenty-seven Member States elected.

Whoever “democratic legitimacy”, ie selected European policy making, has come only through national elections in this position and in order to survive politically defend the fiction of “national interests”. So are just those that should further develop the nachnationale European project, in contradiction to the idea of ​​the project: the overcoming nationalism. Whoever today in summits of the European Council for Disabled community interests to get the consent of his national electorate harms everyone else – and because of the economic linkages of the European single market and the euro area and, ultimately, their own country.

Voters are stupid from damage
And the voters cheering him are stupid from damage. No European nation state can today more solve a problem alone. Yet the institutional structure of the EU hinders collaborative solutions. What we call today’s crisis, this contradiction, and what we discuss are only the symptoms.

More Articles
Gesine Schwan, the future of Europe: How do we want political union in Europe?
Guest Post: Get rid of the nation-state
Bernard-Henri Levy in conversation: reforms are not enough to save Europe
It rips Europe. Between the political representatives see themselves as pragmatists, citizens and some dreamers to do on precipices. Pragmatists we owe the crisis. Or they were not pragmatists, who have always taken only the “possible”? For example, a trans-national currency that can not possibly work, but only undermines their idea because of national concerns have prevented the instruments that would be needed to manage the currency.

Instead, problems arising from this contradiction renationalised, debt be declared a debt of nations and forced them to national Efforts which go against the human right to the street. How will this pragmatist resolve the crisis? By political pressure from below? Citizens we owe only the legitimacy of the crisis producer. They force their representatives to the mimicry of national defense interest turn away from Europe and ask if they do not content themselves with resentment, a renationalisation of their political involvement, strengthening of plebiscitary democracy. That would indeed close to the European idea of ​​subsidiarity, if it were not charged as anti-European.

Hallstein: “The abolition of the nation is the European idea”
And the dreamer? Ah, the dreamers! They were and they are the true realists, we owe the best ideas and the foundations of modern Europe, the real political enforcement of reasonable, at the time utopian seeming consequences that had to be drawn from the experience of nationalism and European real politicians in the continent ashes were placed. The first President of the European Commission, Walter Hallstein, a German, said: “The abolition of the nation is the European idea” – a phrase that neither the President nor the present current German chancellor would dare utter. And yet, this sentence is the truth.

Today we might dreamers owe the solution to the crisis. ‘s dream, the solution: the European Republic. The idea of a European Republic, rise in the regions without losing their individuality in a free association, in the framework of a common law state , instead of being organized in nations that compete against each other – this idea would be the target state to which we could measure each European political decision reasonable. There are no national interests, there are human interests, and these are no different from those in the Alentejo in Hesse.

The competition of nation states which need not apply – it produces
For the creation of a European republic needed a reconstruction of the idea, with the European project began. Currently is so locked into an unproductive discussion. As it goes by, more Europe ‘, a meaningless phrase, because it is not, more Europe’ can be without calling the (remaining) sovereignty of nation states in question.

The Europe in which we live is, in its political economy is not sustainable and will implode because national democracy and transnational economy fall apart. We live in a currency area, and do it as if the national economies would be that necessary in competition with each other. But this need not apply the competition, it produces misery

Why you need a transnational Euro zone democracy: a European Republic, with equal political, economic and social rights and rules for all. The European political system can not be long away from this question, if it is to remain democratic and social. President Gauck In his State of Europe twice uses the term a European res publica, instead of the phrase of the “United States of Europe “warm up. “United States” – that is the old European project. Europeans in America territory conquered by force, it united by a bloody civil war, and finally formed a nation is to advance its interests at any time militarily ready. The EU, however, is the new European project, at every point the opposite: their territory organized by voluntary accession, it agrees with contracts on the basis of ensuring sustainable peace, overcomes the idea of the nation and build the first nachnationalen continent in history on. United States – that’s retro. EU – this is the avant-garde.

National sovereignty is an illusion
The idea after. But the nation-states are still the problem, they stand between the citizen and the European democracy. The European Council and ensure that the nation-states claim authority over European integration – that there can be but not if both the public, the national Elektoraten, the melodrama mendacious defense of national sovereignty is played. The sovereignty of nation states is the illusion that is plagued by Europe.

Gauck by the notions of European res publica brought into the discussion, he felt his way closer to that break, which can lead to European merger into a new political state in which the European citizen and the nation-state would not constitutive of the European polity.

Euro zone Euro zone needs a Parliament
If Europe is to further develop the Union Bank and the Fund to repay debt liability union, then the joint decision on spending will have to be organized differently, so that the principle of no taxation without participation works’ at the European level. Euro zone as the nucleus of a European Republic needs a euro zone Parliament with initiative and a liberated from national lists for election; an output coupled to the Legislature budget cycle and at least a share of European taxation; perspective must euro bonds solve the shortcomings of the euro.

In the logic of a European res publica also need the profits of the pan-European supply chain distributed transnationally while an economic balance between the center and periphery are found. In this logic, a European unemployment in the recession would make the turn into a European welfare system experienced. Such insurance would affect identity and move away from the public discourse of the fixation on “net transfers” between donor and recipient countries.

Economy, monetary policy, and belong together, and only a pan, legitimized by a supranational democracy politics can reclaim the primacy of the economy. National export statistics are not a strategy! They are a European accounting fraud when 80 percent of export earnings are achieved in the internal market.

Res publica is what defines Europe’s core
The concept of res publica is the most valuable thing that the history of political ideas has produced since Plato in Europe. He is Europe’s unique selling point on a European sense of “us” can be substantiated. Because res publica includes a commitment to the political organization of the community, of social justice and the general welfare can be derived as a normative goals. This is not found in the United States, not autocratic, oligarchic Russia, let alone in the pre-democratic China. Res publica is, what defines Europe’s core!

Nobody knows today how the avant-garde project, namely the nachnationale European democracy will be written at the end of concrete institutional. To discuss this with all the creativity to which this continent is capable of the task that confronts us today. Otherwise, the European peace project is only a ghost of himself around in Europe. Long live the European Republic!

Robert Menasse is a writer. He receives 27 March the Heinrich Mann Prize in the Berlin Academy of Arts. Ulrike Guérot is a political scientist. She heads the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Headlines in the German press “Bundesbank Provides Cyprus Cash”. As described in the few responsible business newspapers it was on store in the Bundesbank for the ECB.

The ECB has to be moved out of Frankfurt to Luxembourg. As it stands now every Euro flowing out of the ECB is perceived as one less Euro for the Germans.

Handelsblatt broke this story which quickly became distorted.

@Mickey Hickey

While the translated texts are difficult to make sense of, one gets the impression that there is concern in Germany that the situation is spiralling out of control, which imho it is.
Is this a fair assessment that German thinking outside of official circles?

”nearly all euros are, in fact, the liabilities of banks.”

Martin Wolf, Irish Times, 27th March 2013

This is a very important point. Indeed 97% of euro exist as the liabilities of banks. In both a bail-out and a bail-in the banks reduce their liabilities and hence the amount of money in the economy drops at a time when it’s needed most.

If we recorded the balance of current accounts ‘off the balance’ sheet of banks our monetary system would better recognise this money as money, as opposed to an agreement to pay money.

The situation as Germans see it is that everything is under control as long as the German government makes sure that one country after another fails alone. Any rescue has to be structured so as German banks and senior debt holders are repaid. The people of the failed states and their governments are solely to blame and deserve their fate. The ECB is a German bank as is every Euro it contains.

This is the attitude that saddles the failed states with ruinous interest rate charges. The 17 members (except Cyprus) of the Eurogroup were notably not upset that Cyprus was penalising small depositors until the Cypriots came on to the streets and put the kibosh on that deal.

This is a slow motion collapse of each state in the EZ and absolutely nothing is being done to short circuit it. Ireland blew the mother and father of all property bubbles fully supported by the Irish government. They then botched the collapse and are still going deeper into debt. Greece knowingly defrauded the EZ and was punished accordingly. Unfortunately little thought was given to the repercussions of the punishment. Spain then Portugal then Italy failed. Now Cyprus, soon Slovenia followed by France. The EZ economy is stagnating and the collapse will continue until the EZ economy rebounds.

But the ECB has its hands tied by the Bundesbank because of the dreaded spectre of inflation. We cannot wait until Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank default to provide stimulus to the EZ.

Double digit unemployment for adults and over 50% for youth is of less concern than the German inflation phobia.

The Federation of Wholesale and Export Trade are advising their members to prepare for a split between the North and South EZ. In German eyes this would mean all countries with a Mediterranean coast plus Portugal and Ireland would constitute the South EZ. France would be in the North EZ for strategic reasons related to centuries of hostilities.

The FAZ article is quite civilised and represents the mindset of a sizable minority in Germany. There is still a chance that the EZ will adapt and survive. Ireland should be preparing for a split by forming alliances with similarly afflicted countries. Sitting back fingering the Rosary beads while praying for intercession by St. Brigid will not cut it.

@Grumpy caught it yesterday,Sigma TV had it.Keep in mind in your above brain teaser,most creditors over 1mil should have been able to at least leverage 65% off it.
Reporting yesterday,that loans will naturally offset and net will get clipped.One wonders if btw the cup and the lip all unused lines,cc’s weren’t drawn down as a hedge.Regarding,the above question one would have smacked up the cc’s to max,drawn down any unused lines,thus limiting exposure.

@ grumpy

Interesting examples of the new rules. As to that letter who was it said “put not your faith in princes”?

As far as I am concerned ANYTHING can happen, the solemn vows of politicians, central bankers, nay even of Constitutions or the letter of the law can be overturned if needs be.

So one has to be watchful. I don’t think Irish deposits are in any immediate danger of expropriation or freeze but that could change. Anybody that leaves their money on deposit over the next Patrick’s Day bank holiday is a bungee jumper.

Announcement due,latest speculation on terms.

@BW2 as its brain teaser time with grumpy,would one have been better off investing/risking 1million at 5% in bank of cyprus,drawing/utilising down a line of 655,000 at say 1-2% investing that in bank of mattress and accepting the trim.Should have been relatively easy too have gotten a cc with say 100,000 limit for rainy day too-depends on the level of financial sophistication here but…

@ JG

That’s a bit much for my brain, is the 655K not still owed?

Back to the supposed new rules. Optimal strategy, as has been popular for some time, is to spread your deposits around. Let’s say there are 300 banks in the EZ. That’s 30bn can be acomodated per individual or 60bn per couple, enough for all but a handful of Russian oligarchs.

The problem is that if that happens they will change the rules again to be say 100K per individual.

What we now have, and I suppose it was always so; Rules is made to be broken.

@BW2 bit early for me too,but course not they can only clip net.
From the mil utilized above-655 owed now offset
100 “guaranteed” -getting that back
100 credit card written off
They can only grab whats left over.
And you have enjoyed positive arbitrage.
Spreading it around can done via one bank,some wits have suggested its all part of the plan.
Get the cash off deposit,buy new cars upgrade the gaff…invest in bonds/gilts/stocks …..QE w/o printing !

@BW2 if you were a bit sporty and did not want too many questions asked…yeah you could wash 1 mil quite easily and he quite happy with the outcome.

“They do have one hope of avoiding a levy. Bankers have told Al Jazeera that they will only penalise depositors once all their liabilities have been offset against their assets.”

An interesting aspect of the Cyprus situation is the reaction of the “man in the street”. Judging by the interviews this varies from a shrug of resignedness to actually “glad” it has happened. We see here the rather nasty side of the populace, in general they find it morale boosting to hear that people with over 100K are getting torched.

Do reports that 100k plus depositors may lose 60% of their money indicate I) there are not as many such depositors as previously estimated by the German intelligence services (surprised!) II) Russian oligarchs may be more sophisticated than given credit for and someone else may bear the hair cut.

Who might that be?

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