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Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks and Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy


"Yalman Onaran unravels the common thread that runs through most of our recent financial debacles—big banks with a great deal of leverage that take on crazy risks. And when these banks fail, politicians and regulators consistently prefer to find ways to keep them going as "zombies" that slow recovery and create further crisis waves around the world. Read this book if you would like to understand why the road back to full employment will be so long and difficult. A brilliant and timely contribution; disturbing in every detail."—SIMON JOHNSON, Author, 13 Bankers, and professor, MIT Sloan School of Management

"If you don't believe that zombie banks-big banks that should have been left for dead, but instead escaped the grim financial reaper through extensive world-wide government backing-can't cause further global economic destruction, you need the truth. Read Yalman Onaran's razor-sharp, bone-chilling, exceedingly well-documented book, and be afraid. Be very afraid."—NOMI PRINS, Author of It Takes a Pillage

"Zombie Banks is a good read, and that's hard to do when you are explaining what we must do to save our largest banks from themselves. I wish Zombie Banks had been in print during the debate on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. It is an essential tool for regulators and policymakers engaged in avoiding another financial crisis."—TED KAUFMAN, former U.S. Senator

"Good banking was one of the reasons the West was able to grow faster than the rest of the world in the past two centuries. This book shows how bad banking has helped put all that at risk."—JOHN BRUTON, former Taoiseach (Irish prime minister)

Yalman Onaran is a veteran financial reporter at Bloomberg News and has studied bank insolvency for decades. One of the first reporters to break the news of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, he also opened the Istanbul bureau of Bloomberg News and exposed thirteen insolvent Turkish banks which the government was allowing to continue to operate. Onaran's work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Businessweek, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and numerous other news outlets around the world.

Foreword ix

Preface xi

Cast of Characters xv

Chapter 1 Zombies in Our Midst 1

Chapter 2 Lessons Not Learned 15

Chapter 3 Europe’s Sovereign Blues 23

Chapter 4 Germany’s Untouchable Zombies 35

Chapter 5 Ireland’s Zombies Bring the House Down 51

Chapter 6 The Reincarnation of Iceland’s Banks 67

Chapter 7 U.S. Zombies on IV Drip 81

Chapter 8 The Fight to Rein in the Banks 97

Chapter 9 To Foreclose or Not to Foreclose? 113

Chapter 10 Bigger Banks, More Derivatives, Higher Risk 125

Chapter 11 Killing Zombies and Preventing Their Return 137

Epilogue 149

Notes 157

About the Author 175

Index 177