Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Saturday, October 4, 2008

And You Thought Things Were Tough in the US

Telegraph: It took a weekend to shatter the complacency of German finance minister Peer Steinbrück. Last Thursday he told us that the financial crisis was an "American problem", the fruit of Anglo-Saxon greed and inept regulation that would cost the United States its "superpower status". Pleas from US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson for a joint US-European rescue plan to halt the downward spiral were rebuffed as unnecessary.
By Monday, Mr Steinbrück was having to orchestrate Germany's biggest bank bail-out, putting together a €35 billion loan package to save Hypo Real Estate. By then Europe was "staring into the abyss," he admitted. Belgium faced worse. It had to nationalise Fortis (with Dutch help), a 300-year-old bastion of Flemish finance, followed a day later by a bail-out for Dexia (with French help).
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It turns out that European regulators have allowed even greater use of "off-books" chicanery than the Americans. Mr Paulson may have saved Europe.
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