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Europe’s regulatory treatment of banks’ sovereign exposures – how a flawed framework was put to use in the Irish financial crisis

Shortly after the default of Lehman Brothers in 2008 several Irish banks faced acute funding problems. In order to avoid a systemic crisis the Irish government extended a wide-ranging guarantee to its banks. As credit losses mounted in tandem with deteriorating economic conditions, the solvency of the Irish State itself became threatened and eventually compelled Ireland to enter an EU-IMF Programme of Assistance. This paper discusses the alternatives available to European policymakers regarding the regulatory treatment of banks’ sovereign exposures in light of the Irish crisis. Of the various reform options, strict exposure limits seems to be the only regulation that would have materially affected Ireland’s crisis management. However, it is doubtful whether consensus on reform can be achieved.[...]