Kommunespekulanter

Vi har jo hatt Terrasaken her hjemme hvor naive kraftkommuner og sleipe meglere spilte bort kommunenes kraftpenger på tvilsomme hedgefond fra Citibank. I kjølvannet av finanskrisen kommer det frem flere og flere lignende saker fra rundt omkring. Den siste fra Latvia med min tidligere arbeidsgiver Deutsche Bank i hovedrollen:

Riga itself is blunt about how it chose Deutsche Bank’s financing approach. “The city was looking at raising finance directly from banks, as well as covering a significant part of the costs from EU infrastructure funds,” says a spokesman for Riga’s city council “Regrettably, for different reasons, the central government did not approve Riga borrowing an adequate amount from banks and we could not access EU funds. In 2004, the city announced a tender to find a financing solution for the project.”

Deutsche’s solution was to lend the money to the construction company, rather than to the city – and for the construction company to pay Deutsche back, starting in 2010, using money from Riga. At a glance, it might have appeared that the construction company was arranging the financing for the bridge and Riga was simply paying for the completed bridge in instalments – and that’s what Deutsche Bank apparently argued.

But Riga had also sold Deutsche credit protection on the construction company, ensuring that if the company defaulted for any reason, the city will be on the hook for the full sum. It was this credit default swap which later made clear to Eurostat – the European Union’s statistics watchdog – and to Latvia’s state auditor, that Deutsche’s credit exposure was ultimately to Riga rather than the construction company.

Lignende historier har vi sett for eksempel fra Italia og fra kommuner i USA.

Som Felix Salmon sier, det skal bli interessant å følge med om den neste gjeldskrisen blir kommuner som velger å gå konkurs i stedet for å prøve å gjøre opp for seg. Og om kommuner velger konkurs er det ofte lite kreditorene kan gjøre. En kommunes eiendeler består stort sett av noen plenklippere, et rådhus og noen andre bygg samt fremtidige skatteinntekter. Og det siste er det vanskelig for kreditorer å få fatt i. Om holdningen endres slik at konkurs blir mer akseptabelt kan det fort bli dyrt for investorene.

(Jeg var ansatt i Deutsche Bank fra 1999-2002)

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