Lehman Bros Michael Nagle/Stringer

El sistema financiero global tiene las defensas bajas

ZÚRICH – Un mes de mayo, pero hace ochenta y cinco años, se produjo el derrumbe del que era por entonces el mayor banco austríaco, Credit-Anstalt. Ese mismo año, llegado julio, bancos de Alemania, Egipto, Hungría, Letonia, Polonia, Rumania y Turquía habían experimentado corridas. En agosto se desató un pánico bancario en Estados Unidos (aunque es posible que se originara por causas internas). En septiembre, bancos del Reino Unido enfrentaron grandes retiradas de dinero. Los paralelismos con el derrumbe del banco de inversiones estadounidense Lehman Brothers en 2008 son claros, y cruciales para comprender los riesgos a los que hoy está expuesto el sistema financiero.

Para empezar, ni el colapso de Credit-Anstalt ni el de Lehman Brothers fueron causa de todo el caos financiero global que siguió. Tanto la caída de los bancos como los problemas posteriores fueron síntomas de una misma enfermedad: un sistema bancario débil.

En la Austria de 1931, el problema se originó en la disolución del Imperio Austrohúngaro tras la Primera Guerra Mundial, la hiperinflación de principios de los años veinte y la excesiva exposición de los bancos al sector industrial. Cuando Credit-Anstalt se derrumbó, el mundo llevaba dos años de recesión profunda, los sistemas bancarios de varios países se habían vuelto frágiles y las tensiones se transmitían fácilmente a través de las fronteras nacionales, mientras el patrón oro agravaba la vulnerabilidad financiera al limitar la capacidad de acción de los bancos centrales.

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