William M. Isaac
The Wall Street Journal
People who should know better have been speculating publicly that the government might need to nationalize our largest banks. This irresponsible chatter is causing tremendous turmoil in financial markets. The Obama administration needs to make clear immediately that nationalization - government seizing control of ownership and operations of a company - is not a viable option.
Unlike the talking heads, I have actually nationalized a large bank. When I headed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the banking crisis of the 1980s, the FDIC recapitalized and took control of Continental Illinois Bank, which was then the country's seventh largest bank.
The FDIC purchased Continental's problem loans at a big discount and hired the bank to manage and collect the loans under an incentive arrangement. We received 80% ownership of the company, which increased to 100% based on the losses suffered by the FDIC on the bad loans.
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