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Global banks, local crises: bad news from Argentina

  • Marco Del Negro
  • Stephen J. Kay

Banking crises have been a recurrent phenomenon in Latin America over the past few decades. Some have argued that the internationalization of the banking sector has ushered in a new era: what used to be systemic risk from the perspective of local banks with undiversified portfolios might no longer be systemic from the standpoint of large international banks. ; Argentina's experience shows that the presence of international banks was not enough to prevent local banking crises and sizable losses to depositors. The "bad news" from Argentina, this article argues, is that depositors in emerging markets may not reap the full benefits of international portfolio diversification because international banks have limited liability, at least under some circumstances-for instance, when the local government heavily intervenes in the banking system. The authors emphasize that while the limited-liability feature of international banks may seem bad ex post-and, of course, it is from the perspective of Argentine depositors-this feature may well be desirable, perhaps even necessary, ex ante. ; The article first presents evidence of the globalization of the banking sector in Latin America and the dramatic increase of the phenomenon in the late nineties. After reviewing the literature on the pros and cons of international banks in emerging markets, the authors focus on the legal issues behind the limited-liability feature. The authors examine the new evidence that Argentina's recent experiences provide and conclude by analyzing the pros and cons of the limited-liability feature.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in its journal Economic Review.

Volume (Year): (2002)
Issue (Month): Q3 ()
Pages: 89-106

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2002:i:q3:p:89-106:n:v.87no.3
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