Ecuador’s back, just six years after deciding its bills were illegal and illegitimate. Read more »

Now that things have settled down, the Russians who unwillingly helped pay for Cyprus’ bailout last year are ready to forgive and forget. Read more »

  • 11 Feb 2014 at 10:10 AM

The Bitcoin Bugle: Sent To Siberia

If you were hoping to book one of Sochi’s fabulous hotel rooms with the bitcoins in your newly-unfrozen Mt. Gox account, be prepared for an unpleasant encounter with one of Vladimir Putin’s security services. Read more »

  • 28 Mar 2013 at 3:08 PM

Luxembourg, Malta Thrilled By Cyprus Comparison

Cyprus may have banks once again—if no stock exchange—but no one’s quite ready to be deemed “just like Cyprus,” least of all Luxembourg and Malta. Which is true: Both have banking sectors that are, compared to their GDPs, waaaaay bigger than Cyprus’. Read more »

There is a widespread perception that some banks are so systemically important that they are “too big to fail,” and that this status gives them a funding advantage because if they do run into trouble the government will bail them out and protect the investments of those who fund them,1 and that this is an implicit subsidy, and is Bad.

Because the subsidy lives entirely in expectation, there is essentially one way to get rid of it, which is to say: no, these banks aren’t too big to fail. This is a very politically appealing approach, because saying things without regard to their truth is pretty much the job of a politician, so the idea that you could fix a problem solely by doing that seems like magic. Is magic.2

But seeing through bullshit is pretty much the job of financial markets, so that approach only goes so far. Saying “we’ll let banks fail” and obviously not meaning it – say, by passing a unanimous symbolic Senate measure “direct[ing] the government to eliminate the advantages in federal subsidies and funding that banks larger than $500 billion in assets derive from the perception that the government won’t let them fail” – works a certain magic, I suppose, but not the magic of eliminating the subsidy provided to too-big-to-fail banks.

Letting nationally important banks fail, whacking creditors, and then giving press statements to the effect of “that’s right, screw your banks and their creditors,” might work though: Read more »

And you don’t want that on your conscience. Read more »

Things in Cyprus: kinda bad. There are better places than here to read about it; I particularly recommend Joseph Cotterill here and here, pseudo-Paweł Morski here and here, Mohammed El-Erian here, the FT’s coverage here and here, the Journal’s round-up of analyst reaction here, etc.

The basic story is that Cyprus’s government and banks are both massively overindebted and need a bailout, and the EU and IMF will provide a €10bn bailout, but they demanded that Cyprus chip in some €7bn, which it has decided to do by means of a tax on deposits in Cypriot banks of 6.75% for up to €100,000 and 9.9% above €100,000. (Is that rate on bigger deposits marginal or absolute? No one knows!) Those numbers are being renegotiated and may end up not being approved by Cyprus’s parliament.

The various reasons to object to this boil down to its violations of absolute priority; the way things are supposed to work is more or less: Read more »