05 July 2010

The Trashing of Iceland By Private Banks, and Its Efforts at an Economic Renaissance

Iceland represents an interesting situation. Most people are not very familiar with it. With only 300,000 inhabitants, Iceland certainly fits the description of a 'microcosm.' The story of the privatization of the Icelandic banks, and the ensuing orgy of credit expansion and fraud, is well worth some attention.

Banks that are private sometimes should be allowed to fail. One might consider saving the depositors, especially if it is a fraud, and certainly if the accounts are explicitly insured, but the creditors and investors should be wiped out, utterly and completely. This is the only way to wring moral hazard out of the system. This of course should be accompanied by vigorous and aggressive investigations for fraud, and prosecutions if the evidence indicates for indictment. I would follow those perpetrators to the ends of the earth, seeking their extradition, to insure that justice was done. These people are little better than traitors to their country and their people.

We tend to treat these sorts of banking frauds far too lightly. They are like poison to the system, because they not only involve the theft of funds, but the destruction of the confidence and integrity which permits the social system to function.

Their reform movement and new approaches to banking in Iceland are hopeful signs. They should not even think about joining the EU, or taking any loans for their banks.

They might also consider relieving the Social Democrats of power, because it sounds as if they are not interested in serving the people. The only question I would have is, "Why are they still in office, and not out on the street looking for employment?"

Iceland Jails Bankers and Sues Accounting Firms - AFP

The IceSave Dispute - Wikipedia

UK Slowly Strangled Iceland Says Ex-Central Banker - Bloomberg

h/t to Anonymous

While not mentioned in the video, the implications of the recent Icelandic Supreme Court's decision on the illegality of loans indexed to foreign currency baskets may be significant.

Under the provisions of the IMF Articles of Agreement, courts of other member states, including the US, UK and the Netherlands, are presumably/arguably barred from reaching a different conclusion. See, Article VIII, Section 2(b):

(b) Exchange contracts which involve the currency of any member and which are contrary to the exchange control regulations of that member maintained or imposed consistently with this Agreement shall be unenforceable in the territories of any member. In addition, members may, by mutual accord, cooperate in measures for the purpose of making the exchange control regulations of either member more effective, provided that such measures and regulations are consistent with this Agreement.
This issue is dealt with at length in Joseph Gold’s excellent series, The Fund Agreement and the Courts, available from IMF Staff Papers. The Articles may be found here. The Icelandic court decision is discussed here. It is still a bit early to know how any of this will work out, but it could get more interesting.