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Who’s the Systemic Risk Now? 

September 29, 2016

The Wall Street Journal

Regulators like to bray about the dangers of systemic financial risk, but they seem not to care when they’re the source of the risk. Consider the U.S. assault on Deutsche Bank that has tanked European bank shares this week.

The German bank’s share price has fallen as much as 20% since a Sept. 15 Journal report that the U.S. Justice Department is seeking a fine of up to $14 billion for selling mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2007. That is well beyond Deutsche Bank’s ability to pay, given its $18 billion market capitalization before the story broke.

Deutsche Bank says it “has no intent to settle these potential civil claims anywhere near the number cited.” Markets are spooked anyway. A fine much above $3 billion would strain an institution that faces potential payouts in other regulatory cases, and the bank has already settled claims for billions of dollars for the likes of alleged interest-rate rigging. That includes Deutsche’s Bank’s $1.9 billion share of the 2013 settlement of the bizarre U.S. claim that numerous banks somehow deceived the sharks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

So it’s not crazy to think this fiasco could become a systemic crisis. With a €1.8 trillion ($2.022 trillion) balance sheet often criticized for its opacity, Deutsche Bank would struggle to replenish capital at today’s share price. Trouble at one of the European Union’s largest banks could trigger a new round of market fears over counterparty risk and political uncertainty. Read more

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