Socialist Economic Bulletin has pointed out that although a number of people are claiming the bank rescue package proposed by the government is based on the experience of Sweden in the early 1990s it in fact has nothing to do with it.
In Sweden the principle was that the shareholders equity was first used to cover debt - that is it was eliminated and the rest of the economy thereby safeguarded to the maximum degree possible. In the UK proposal, on the contrary shareholders, are to be propped up by injections of government finance and debt and risk passed to taxpayers.
It may be thought, however, that Socialist Economic Bulletin, an explicitly left wing publication, might be misleading its readers as to what actually occurred in Sweden. Therefore they may be interested to read the account in an impeccably capitalist publication - the New York Times. This will show that Socialist Economic Bulletin's account is entirely accurate. Under the title 'Stopping a Financial Crisis, the Swedish Way' it notes:
'A banking system in crisis after the collapse of a housing bubble. An economy hemorrhaging jobs. A market-oriented government struggling to stem the panic. Sound familiar?
'It does to Sweden. The country was so far in the hole in 1992 — after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom — that its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent.
'But Sweden took a different course than the one now being proposed by the United States Treasury. And Swedish officials say there are lessons from their own nightmare that Washington may be missing.
'Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.
That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner... Urban Backstrom, a senior Swedish finance ministry official at the time [said]. “The public will not support a plan if you leave the former shareholders with anything,” he said... By the end of the crisis, the Swedish government had seized a vast portion of the banking sector, and the agency had mostly fulfilled its hard-nosed mandate to drain share capital before injecting cash. '