Greek Metaphors Converge on Creditanstalt

Greece finally begged for a bailout. “Greece Declares Unilateral Withdrawal from Reality” was the faux headline of ZH, worthy of the best of The Onion.

The metaphors have moved from Bear Stearns to Lehman to now the grandaddy of all defaults, Creditanstalt, the Austrian default in May 1931 that led to a series of other defaults in Europe and the second wave down after the 1929 crash.

What is perhaps overlooked by many is that Creditanstalt was rescued by capital from the Austrian government, the National Bank and the Rothschild’s, but the announcement of the rescue caused a run which took the bank down. This run drained the government, and by mid-June its credit had run out and it fell.

The rescue caused the ruin.

Why the run? The creditors to the bank seized a chance to get out and dump their bad debt on the government. Could that happen this time? Mish provides this chart of the exposure of various banks by country. What if the French and Swiss banks, who are particularly over-exposed, decide to get out and dump their debt onto the IMF?

Curiously, then, the lesson is that the very rescue of Greece may cause its demise. Or, that the private banks will stick the hot potato into the taxpayer’s lap.

About Duncan Davidson 228 Articles

Affiliation: NetService Ventures

Duncan is an advisor to NetService Ventures, where he focuses on digital media and the mobile Internet.

Previously he was at four start-ups: Xumii, a mobile social service based on a Social Addressbook; SkyPilot Networks, the performance leader of wireless mesh systems for last-mile access, where he was the founding CEO; Covad Communications (Amex: DVW, $9B market cap at the peak), the leading independent DSL access provider, where he was the founding Chairman; InterTrust Technologies ($9B market cap at the peak), the pioneer in digital rights management technologies, now owned by Sony and Philips, where he was SVP Business Development and the pitchman for the IPO.

Before these ventures, Duncan was a partner at Cambridge Venture Partners, an early-stage venture firm, and managing partner of Gemini McKenna, a joint venture between Regis McKenna's marketing firm and Gemini Consulting, the global management consulting arm of Cap Gemini.

He serves on the board or is an adviser to Aggregate Knowledge (content discovery), Livescribe (digital pen), AllVoices (citizen journalism), Xumii (mobile social addressbook), Verismo (Internet settop box), and Widevine (DRM for IPTV).

Visit: Duncan Davidson's Blogs

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