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March 29, 2013

There's a Reason for Deposit Insurance

FOR all the criticism of bailouts since the financial crisis struck, virtually no one has suggested that depositors in banks be made to suffer along with their investors, employees and customers. Until this week, when the euro zone proposed that, in return for a bailout of the failing banking system in Cyprus, depositors pay a “tax” of 6.75 percent of their deposits — 9.9 percent for deposits above 100,000 euros.

Because bank deposits in Cyprus, and virtually everywhere, are insured, the plan shocked many people who figured that this insurance was the one financial safety net that was still truly “safe.”

The Cypriot Parliament shot down the plan, though a smaller hit to depositors — many of whom are wealthy foreigners — was still in the offing late last week. Yet the tempest in the eastern Mediterranean is a reminder that depositors, in fact, are also creditors of banks and are potentially at risk.

In the United States, deposit insurance is viewed as sacrosanct. But even here, such plans haven’t always worked, and at least until recent times they have been contentious.”


Read full New York Times article here

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