BANKS sicken slowly but die fast. For years Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, in the prosperous Veneto, in north-east Italy, had been plagued by mismanagement. Even criminal investigations are under way. For months the Italian government had been wrangling with European authorities over the terms of a bail-out. For weeks it had seemed improbable that private investors would put in money alongside the state, as the European Commission insisted.
On June 23rd the European Central Bank (ECB) declared that the banks were “failing or likely to fail”. Two days later, after a frantic weekend, the Italian government pronounced them dead: their good assets were sold to Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s second-biggest lender, for a token €1 ($1.14), and their dud ones put into a “bad bank”. The operation may cost Italian taxpayers €17bn. This is the second call on Italy’s public purse this month. On June 1st the commission approved, in principle, the rescue of long-troubled Monte dei…Continue reading