Andrew Rosenfield: How to Clean a Dirty Bank

How to Clean a Dirty Bank
Andrew Rosenfield
The New York Times
April 6, 2009

Commercial banks in the United States are not subject to the bankruptcy statute — when they become insolvent they are simply acquired by the government. This is what banks sign on for in return for a charter, deposit insurance and direct access to the Federal Reserve lending window, which generally allow banks to prosper as long as they control risk.

Now Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wants to apply this same swift acquisition process to large insolvent “shadow banks” that risk doing damage to the financial system — big hedge funds, investment banks, insurance holding companies and the like — because bankruptcy proceedings move too slowly to allow these institutions to be quickly refinanced or restructured.