CAN YOU TRUST YOUR BANK? by Richard & Norris Willatt Heller


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An episodic review of Western banking's brushes with disaster during the 1970s. American contributions to the rambling narrative include such billion-dollar busts as New York's Franklin National Bank and San Diego's US National Bank, plus lesser lights like Beverly Hills Bancorp. While the names on the European and Mediterranean casualty list may be less than familiar here, they are well known across the Atlantic: West Germany's Bankhaus I.D. Herstatt, England's Slater Walker, the Israel-British Bank, and the Swiss Credit Bank (of Chiasso infamy), to mention a few. The authors, both established financial writers, attribute the visible and invisible strains on the world's banking system to a variety of causes. Outright skullduggery, of course, is one. But they suggest that managerial ineptitude and lax regulation were the problems that tested the industry's survival capabilities. As evidence, Heller and Willatt cite mindless speculation in currencies and commodities as well as bankers' unfortunate propensity for borrowing short to lend long to, frequently, less than creditworthy clients. Penn Central, W. T. Grant, New York City, and scores of real estate investment trusts are among the indigent debtors. The authors' breezy account is longer on facts than analysis of events or conclusions as to possible remedies; its appeal thus will be limited for professionals. Likewise, retail bank customers seeking personal-finance guidelines could be disappointed by the unfilled promise of the cautionary title. But for banking buffs, casual students of the global economy, and devotees of what-if theories, Heller and Willatt have provided an engaging instant replay of what might have been a very bad scene.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Scribners