Friday 15 December 2017

How one bank's fall from grace triggered our economic crisis

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

SHARES in Lehman Brothers fell 46pc in a single day five years ago tomorrow, marking the beginning of what would become the global financial crisis.

It came after the bank, at the time little known outside the financial markets, had reported a record $3.9bn (€2.8bn) loss for the previous three months.

The panic that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, would become the worst seen in developed markets since the great crash of the 1930s.

The shock effectively ended the ability of Irish banks to access cheap credit on the international money markets.

By the end of September 2008 the then Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition government had introduced a "blanket guarantee" to reassure investors and savers that the State would honour any debts of the Irish banks.

The decision has been criticised for "socialising" bank debts. It was introduced as a temporary measure explicitly to counter the fallout from the Lehman collapse. However, the guarantee, subsequently modified and extended, remained in place until earlier this year.

The effect of the post-Lehman Brothers guarantee was to shift the ultimate cost of losses and failures among the Irish banks on to taxpayers.

Between 2009 and late 2010 estimates of that cost continued to rise, but as the global economy faltered, bank losses would ultimately leave taxpayers with a €64bn bill for bailing out the banks. That helped force the Government into accepting the €67bn troika bailout in November 2010. Ireland is due to exit the bailout at the end of this year.

Irish Independent

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