Following on from this article, as I argued on The Last Word last night, the question is not if, but when, the big banks are bailed out by the State. The operative question is where the money comes from, how long it is lent for, what conditions are attached to the money, and what practices the banks currently operate will change in response to this bailout.
Will anyone's head roll? I highly doubt it. Will the government appoint a soft form of oversight to represent taxpayers' interest on the board? Most likely, in the form of retired or senior civil servants. Will the government purchase equity in the banks, diluting the shares already held by shareholders, or will there be a straight transfer of funds? And where is this money coming from? The National Pension Reserve?
These details matter. The devil is in the dynamic though. We are talking about the partial nationalisation of the State's major banks, which implies the State will have to take over some of the toxic debt on the banks' balance sheets. The taxpayer is exposed to further risk. What will be the return on this investment?
All of these questions and more must be answered by the banks, and their new owners, before moving forward in a coherent and credible manner.