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Europe’s Dying Bank Model

LONDON – The good news for Europe is that it will not reenact the dramatic collapse of Lehman Brothers. The European Central Bank’s unlimited ability to provide liquidity ensures that. But European leaders have yet to recognize that old bank business models are obsolete, and that reliance on private-sector leverage for balance-sheet repair of both sovereigns and banks is doomed to failure.

Two years into the crisis, the authorities have correctly identified four crucial problems – sovereign debt, bank capital, the risk of a Greek default, and deficient growth. But they have yet to agree on cause and effect. Understanding the obsolescence of most European banks’ business models is absolutely crucial to sorting that out.