Iceland's financial crisis 2008-2011
Iceland financial crisis in the years 2008-2011 is a major economic and political crisis in the Nordic country, which was associated with the collapse of all three major commercial banks after these difficulties were given their short-term debt when refinancing and account holders in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom had withdrawn their money. In relation to the size of its economy, Iceland's banking collapse is the largest of any country in economic history.
On September 15, 2008, the US investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy; this received worldwide attention. At the end of September 2008, the nationalization of the third largest bank in Iceland, Glitnir Bank, was announced. The following week, October 7, 2008, the FME appointed the future administrators of Landsbanki and Glitnir. Two days later, the same organization took control of Iceland's largest credit institution, Kaupthing Bank. On October 6th, Prime Minister Geir Haarde said about the need for emergency aid : There is "a very real risk ... that in the worst case scenario the Icelandic economy will be dragged down by the banks, the possible result of which would have been national bankruptcy." [Translation by the authors] He also stated that government measures had prevented the Icelandic state from going bankrupt.
At the end of the second quarter of 2008, Iceland's external debt was 9553 billion Icelandic kronor (about 50 billion euros); more than 80% of this originated in the banking sector. This was a multiple of Iceland's gross domestic product in 2007 of 1,293 billion crowns (8.5 billion euros). The assets of the three banks under the control of the FME amounted to 14437 billion kroner (about 95 billion euros) at the end of the second quarter of 2008 - a sum that was more than 11 times Iceland's GDP. As a result, the Icelandic central bank was forced to become the lender of last resort when they got into financial trouble and began to write off assets. Part of the emergency laws hastily passed on October 6th was a comprehensive restructuring of the state-administered banks. The domestic assets flowed into newly created domestic and public banks, while the remnants of the banks abroad were released for liquidation as bankruptcy assets. This move acted like a protective hand for the Icelandic economy as it meant that the island's citizens did not suffer losses from the systemic bank failure. Nonetheless, the financial crisis had a serious negative impact on the Icelandic economy. The national currency ( krona ) suffered a significant loss in value, foreign exchange transactions were practically blocked for weeks, and the market capitalization of the Icelandic stock exchange fell by more than 90%. As a result of the crisis, Iceland experienced a severe recession; its gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 5.5% in real terms in the first six months of 2010. As the foreign operations of the three Icelandic banks went bankrupt, the bank accounts of more than half a million depositors abroad (far more than the entire population of Iceland) were frozen. This led to a diplomatic dispute (called the Icesave dispute) over the repayment of the deposit insurance between Iceland on the one hand and Great Britain or the Netherlands on the other.
The main countermeasures to combat the crisis were:
- Enforcement of strict capital controls (including a temporary suspension of all official currency transactions) on October 6, 2008 - to protect the Icelandic krona
- A $ 5.1 billion national rescue package (of which $ 2.1 billion came from the IMF and the remaining $ 3.0 billion from a group of Nordic countries) was passed on November 17, 2008 to finance budget deficits and create domestic banks
- Implementation of austerity measures as part of the required budget consolidation
- Adoption of a “loan to repay the minimum deposit protection” (1.2 billion euros from Germany, while the 4.0 billion euros of the Icesave loan offered from Great Britain and the Netherlands were never accepted) to finance the repayment of the minimum deposit to foreign account holders who had lost their savings to the bankruptcy of Icelandic banks.
Support actions for the Icelandic state officially ended on August 31, 2011 without being expanded by new additional loans or “Precautionary Conditioned Credit Lines” (PCCL). As planned by the IMF, Iceland managed to regain full access to financial markets to cover its future funding. In the first half of 2012, Iceland began to repay part of the debt created by the rescue package. In January 2013, however, the enforced capital controls are still necessary to protect the currency, although it is recommended by the IMF to encourage foreign investment. As long as the balance of payments is not completely stable and the central bank has failed to build up significant foreign capital reserves (or to pull the excess money supply of the ISK out of circulation). The depositors' minimum deposit guarantee was also repaid through the liquidation of assets from the three bankrupt banks; this was possible because Icelandic law gives priority to the repayment of these guarantees before addressing the remaining priority and general claims of creditors.
A new period of positive GDP growth began in 2011 and reinforced the downward trend in the unemployment rate. After the budget deficit grew to 10% of GDP in 2009 and 2010, it was brought to an acceptable level of 3.4% of GDP in 2012; this created the basis to bring the debt to GDP ratio down from 101% (2011) to 97% (2012). The lowering of the relatively high HICP inflation rate (6.0% in 2012) and the devaluation pressure on the local currency are considered to be important challenges for 2013. The Icelandic financial crisis was officially ended with the end of the international bailout on August 31, 2011 explained. First, however, the capital controls would have to be lifted before one can speak of a complete overcoming of the Icelandic financial crisis.
In 2001 the banks in Iceland were deregulated. This created the conditions for banks to pile up debts in order to buy up foreign companies. The crisis began when the banks were no longer able to refinance their debts as part of the 2008 financial crisis. It is estimated that the three big banks have external debts of over € 50 billion, or over € 160,000 per Icelandic resident. (For comparison: Iceland's gross domestic product was € 8.5 billion). As early as March 2008, the costs for private deposit insurance for deposits at Landsbanki and Kaupthing were already far higher (6–8½% of the deposited amount) than at other European banks. The króna, which The Economist named the world's most overvalued currency (based on the Big Mac Index) in spring 2007 , has continued to suffer from the effects of carry trading.
Starting from a small domestic market, Icelandic banks have funded their expansion with loans in the interbank market and later with deposits outside Iceland (which is also a form of external debt) . Households also became over-indebted, equivalent to 213% of disposable income, which led to inflation. This inflation was exacerbated by the IZB's practice of lending to banks on the basis of newly issued unsecured bonds; Ultimately, it was a question of printing money on demand.
In response to the rise in prices - 14% in the twelve months to September 2008, against a target of 2.5% - the Central Bank of Iceland kept rates high (15.5%). Such high interest rates, compared to 5.5% in the UK or 4% in the Eurozone, for example, encouraged foreign investors to keep their deposits in Icelandic kronor, which led to monetary inflation. Iceland's money supply (M3) grew 56.5% in the twelve months to September 2008, compared to 5.0% GDP growth. An economic bubble had actually developed here in which investors overestimated the true value of the krona.
As for many banks around the world, it has also become increasingly difficult or impossible for Icelandic banks to extend their loans on the interbank market ; their creditors insisted on repayment, while no other banks were ready to make new loans. In such a situation, a bank would normally seek a loan from the central bank, the lender of last resort . However, the banks in Iceland were so much larger than the economy that the Central Bank of Iceland and the Icelandic government could not guarantee the repayment of bank debts. This led to the collapse of the banks. The official reserves of the Central Bank of Iceland stood at 374.8 billion krónur at the end of September 2008, compared to 350.3 billion krónur of the Icelandic banking sector's short-term external debt and at least £ 6.5 billion (1,250 billion krónur) in UK retail deposits.
The situation was made worse by the fact that Icesave operated as a branch of Landsbanki rather than as a legally independent group company. As such, it was totally dependent on the IZB for emergency loans for liquidity and could not seek help from the Bank of England . The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) was aware of the risk and in the weeks leading up to the crisis was considering introducing special liquidity requirements for Icelandic banks in the deposit business. However, the plan, which was never implemented, would have forced Icelandic banks to cut interest rates or refrain from accepting any further deposits, and perhaps even sparked a bank run that the measure was designed to prevent. The Guernsey authorities also planned to impose restrictions on foreign banks operating as branches and on transfers of funds between subsidiaries in Guernsey and the parent companies ("parental upstreaming"). Landsbanki worked on Guernsey as a legally independent group company.
The existence of a bank run on Landsbanki accounts in Great Britain in the period up to October 7th appears certain by a statement by the bank on October 10th; Landsbanki declared the transfer of substantial funds to its UK branch during this period in order to meet its Icesave obligations. The transfer of funds from Landsbanki in Guernsey to Heritable Bank, a UK subsidiary of Landsbanki, supports this hypothesis. A transfer of “substantial funds” from Iceland to Great Britain would have pushed the value of the krona down significantly before speculation had any effect.
Course and measures
Due to the limited domestic market, the Icelandic banks had financed their expansion with loans in the market for interbank loans and additionally through the accounts of foreign customers, which were lured with high interest rates. Iceland's households took on debt averaging 213% of annual disposable income. By comparison, British and US indebtedness are 169% and 140%, respectively. The associated increase in money circulation led to inflation.
From January to September 2008, the Icelandic krona lost more than 35% of its value against the euro.
On September 26, 2008, internal documents from Kaupthing Bank , then the largest bank in Iceland, were leaked to the Wikileaks disclosure platform . The confidential document contains 210 pages of loans in the range of between 45 million and 1.25 billion euros. Accordingly, the bank had lent several billion euros to its major shareholders, including a total of 1.43 billion euros to Exista and subsidiaries, which owned 23% of the bank's shares.
After Glitnir , the third largest bank in Iceland, got into financial difficulties in the wake of the financial crisis from 2007 , the Icelandic central bank took over 75 percent of the shares on behalf of the Icelandic state for the equivalent of EUR 600 million.
On October 7, 2008, Landsbanki , the second largest bank in Iceland, was taken over by the Icelandic financial regulator in the course of measures to avert national bankruptcy . On October 9, 2008, Kaupthing Bank was placed under state control on the basis of the recently issued Emergency Act and no more payments were made to its customers or branches abroad.
Due to the blatant mismanagement in the management floors of the major Icelandic banks, the management of the four Icelandic banks (Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir and Icelandic Central Bank ) was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics of 2009 “for their demonstration that small financial institutions very quickly become large Financial institutions can be converted so that this process is reversible and the same applies to entire economies ”.
excluding ships and planes. Data from the Statistical Office and the Central Bank: conversion using the monthly average exchange rates.
For comparison, the monthly average exports (imports) of services amounted to € 139.3M (€ 185.4M) in Q2 / 2007; € 125.6M (€ 151.9M) in Q2 / 2008.
Outside Iceland, more than half a million savers - far more than the entire population of Iceland - had their Icelandic bank accounts frozen while a diplomatic dispute arose over deposit insurance . The British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announced measures to freeze the assets of the Landsbanki in Great Britain (active there as Icesave ). The Landsbanki Freezing Order 2008 was decided on October 8, 2008 at 10 a.m. and came into effect 10 minutes later. This has prevented the sale or movement of Landsbanki assets within the UK, even if ordered by the Central Bank of Iceland or the Government of Iceland. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also announced that the UK government would take legal action against Iceland to compensate the estimated 300,000 UK savers. British cities and towns that had accounts with Icelandic banks were also affected.
The Icelandic krona (krónur) lost more than 35% of its value against the euro from January to September 2008. Consumer price inflation has been 14% and Iceland's interest rates have been raised to 15.5% to control inflation.
On the night of Wednesday October 8, 2008, the Central Bank of Iceland (IZB) abandoned its attempt to peg the Icelandic krona to the euro at 131 krónur after that exchange rate began to operate on October 6. By October 9, the Icelandic krona was trading at 340 to one euro. Then trade in the currency collapsed due to the nationalization of the last major Icelandic bank, which ultimately meant the failure of all clearing houses for trading in the kroon. The next day, the central bank introduced restrictions on the acquisition of foreign currency ( capital controls ) in Iceland. From October 9th to November 5th, the European Central Bank quoted a reference rate of 305 krónur for one euro.
The central bank installed a temporary system with daily currency auctions on October 15 to facilitate international trade. The value of the krona is determined in these auctions through supply and demand. The first auction sold € 25 million at a rate of 150 krónur to one euro. Commercial trade in the kroon outside Iceland resumed on October 28 at an exchange rate of 240 kronur for one euro after the Icelandic interest rate was raised to 18%. The Central Bank of Iceland's foreign exchange reserves decreased by US $ 289 million in October 2008.
In November, the real exchange rate (ie minus inflation) of the Icelandic krona was about a third lower than the average rate from 1980 to 2008 and 20% lower than the historical lows of that period, according to the IZB. According to the European Central Bank, the external exchange rate was even lower. On the last trading day of the month, November 28, the price was 182.5 krónur for one euro according to the IZB and 280 krónur for one euro according to the European Central Bank.
On November 28, the IZB agreed with the Minister of Commerce on a series of new currency regulations, which replaced the restrictions imposed by the IZB at the beginning of the crisis. Movements of capital to and from Iceland without approval from the central bank were prohibited. It is estimated that foreign investors held Krónur securities, popularly known as “glacier bonds”, worth around € 2.9 billion.
The rules of foreign exchange trading oblige Icelandic citizens to deposit foreign currency amounts only with Icelandic banks. There are isolated indications that some Icelandic exporters were trading pounds and euros for krónur on an informal offshore foreign exchange market outside the control of the regulatory authority, thereby draining the corresponding onshore market. Therefore, in November 2008, the IZB itself had to sell currency reserves worth € 124 million as compensation (for comparison: the estimated trade surplus is € 13.9 million)
The last currency auction took place on December 3rd. The domestic interbank foreign exchange market opened the next day with three market keepers - all of them state-owned. On the first two days of domestic trading, the krone rose to 153.3 against the euro, up 22% from the last currency auction.
In January 2009 the exchange rate of the Icelandic krona to the euro was more stable compared to the situation in October 2008; the lowest rate was 177.5 krónur per euro on January 1, 3 and 4, 2009 and the highest was 146.8 on January 30, 2009. In the meantime, however, Iceland's 12-month inflation rate rose in January 2009 a record high of 18.6%.
The massive currency devaluation has made exports cheaper and imports more expensive. The sharp increase in exports helped to dampen the economic crisis somewhat.
In September 2008, internal documents from Kaupthing Bank, Iceland's largest credit institution, were leaked to WikiLeaks. On September 29, 2008, a plan to nationalize Glitnir Bank was announced. According to this, the Icelandic government should make a 75% stake for € 600 million. acquire. The government stated that this acquisition will not last long and that the bank should continue its operations as before. However, without this intervention, the government said the bank would have gone bankrupt within a few weeks. It was later revealed that the Glitnir owed US $ 750 million due on October 15. However, the nationalization of Glitnir was never implemented due to a receivership by the FME before the Icelandic government's original plan to purchase a 75% stake was approved by shareholders.
The nationalization of Glitnir was announced just as the UK government was forced to nationalize Bradford & Bingley and sell its retail business and branch network to Grupo Santander . During the weekend of October 4th and 5th, British newspapers reported in many articles in detail about the nationalization of Glitnir Bank and debt financing of the other banks in Iceland. Influential BBC Business Editor Robert Peston issued a statement stating that Kaupthing Debt Insurance would need a premium of £ 625,000 to guarantee repayment of £ 1,000,000. The British newspaper The Observer reported on October 5, 2008 that Iceland was on the verge of collapse, inflation and interest rates were racing upwards and the Icelandic krona was in free fall. These articles alarmed investors who began to discuss Icesave (the Landsbanki brand name in the UK and the Netherlands) on online forums. Many tried to withdraw their savings from the Internet bank. Problems accessing the website indicated a bank run.
On October 6, a number of private interbank credit lines were blocked for Icelandic banks. In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister Geir Haarde announced a package of new regulatory measures that should be introduced in the Althing , the Icelandic parliament, immediately and in cooperation with the opposition. These included the FME's power to take control of Icelandic banks without nationalizing them, and preferential treatment of depositors in the event of liquidation . In a separate measure, private customer deposits in the Icelandic branches of Icelandic banks were guaranteed in full. These emergency measures were deemed unnecessary by the Icelandic government less than 24 hours earlier.
That evening, the Landsbanki subsidiary in Guernsey went into voluntary bankruptcy administration with the approval of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission. The administrators later said that “ The main reason for the Bank's difficulties has been the placing of funds with its UK fellow subsidiary, Heritable Bank. "The Prime Minister of Guernsey said the directors of Landsbanki in Guernsey have taken appropriate action by placing the bank under insolvency administration.
On October 7, the FME ordered the same for the parent company in Iceland. A press release from the FME stated that all of Landsbanki's domestic branches, call centers, ATMs and Internet activities will remain open for normal business operations and that all “domestic deposits” are fully secured. The UK Government used the Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008 first to transfer private customer deposits from Heritable Bank to a Treasury Holding, then to sell those deposits to the Dutch bank ING Direct for £ 1,000,000. On the same day, the FME also took control of the Glitnir Bank.
In the afternoon there was a telephone conversation between Icelandic Finance Minister Árni Mathiesen and the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling . That evening, the then central bank governor of Iceland, Davíð Oddsson , made it clear on the public radio RÚV , “ we [the Icelandic State] do not intend to pay the debts of the banks that have been a little heedless ”. He compared the government's actions with the US government's intervention in Washington Mutual , suggesting that foreign creditors "unfortunately only receive 5–10–15% of their claims."
Darling announced that he would take steps to freeze Landsbanki's assets in the UK. The “Landsbanki Freezing Order 2008” was passed on October 8, 2008 at 10 am and came into effect ten minutes later. In doing so, the UK Treasury Department frozen the Landsbanki's assets in the UK to prevent the sale or movement of the Landsbanki's assets in the UK, even if they were owned by the IZB or the Icelandic government. This regulation, using provisions in Sections 4 and 14 and Appendix 3 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, was passed because the Treasury Department feared the Icelandic action would work to the detriment of England.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he would take legal action against Iceland over the compensation of an estimated 300,000 British savers. At a press conference the following day, Geir Haarde expressed his outrage that the UK government was applying anti-terror law provisions to Iceland, which he described as an "unfriendly act". The Chancellor of the Exchequer also said the UK government would pay the entire UK retail investor bill, which was estimated at £ 4 billion. It is reported that over £ 4 billion of Icelandic assets in the UK have been frozen by the UK government. The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) also ruled that Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, the UK subsidiary of Kaupthing Bank, would sell Kaupthing Edge, its internet bank, to ING Direct because of its overdue debts, and placed Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander in bankruptcy administration. Over £ 2.5 billion in deposits from 160,000 customers were sold to ING Direct. The extent of the run on the Kaupthing Edge deposits was so great that many deals were not closed by October 17th. Although Geir Haarde described the UK government's action on Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander as an "abuse of power" and "unprecedented", it was the third such action under the Banking (Special Provisions) Act 2008 in less than ten days after Interventions at Bradford & Bingley and the Heritable Bank.
On the same day, Sveriges Riksbank , the Swedish central bank, made a credit line of 5 billion Swedish kronor (€ 520 million) available to Kaupthing Bank Sverige AB, the Swedish subsidiary of Kaupthing. The loan was intended to pay off "depositors and other creditors".
On October 9, Kaupthing was placed under administrative administration by the FME after the resignation of the entire Supervisory Board. The bank stated that it was technically default on loan agreements due to the handover of its UK subsidiary. Kaupthings subsidiary in Luxembourg requested and received a suspension of payments (similar to Chapter 11 ) at the Luxembourg district court. The Swiss Federal Banking Commission banned Kaupthing's Geneva office, which was a branch of the subsidiary in Luxembourg, from making payments of more than 5,000 Swiss francs . The directors of the Kaupthing subsidiary on the Isle of Man decided after consulting the Manx authorities to liquidate the company. The Finnish financial supervisory authority, Rahoitustarkastus, announced on the 6th that it had taken control of the Helsinki branch of Kaupthing in order to prevent money transfers to Iceland.
On the same day, the UK Treasury announced that it would issue a license to Landsbanki's London branch under the Landsbanki Freezing Order 2008 so that some business could continue. A second license was issued on October 13th when the Bank of England provided a secured loan of £ 100,000,000 to enable Landsbanki to "Maximize Repayments to UK Creditors".
On October 12th, the Norwegian government took control of Kaupthing's Norwegian activities. This also included all of the bank's assets and liabilities in Norway.
On October 21, the Central Bank of Iceland asked the remaining independent financial institutions to back up their loans with new collateral . This was intended to replace the shares in Glitnir, Landsbanki and Kaupthing, which until then had acted as collateral and were now worth much less, if not worthless. The value of the collateral was estimated at 300 billion crowns (€ 2 billion). One of the banks, Sparisjóðabanki (SPB, also known as Icebank), said the next day that it could not buy new collateral for its 68 billion kroner (€ 451 million) loan and would therefore have to ask the government for help. There is no other solution to this problem, says CEO Agnar Hansson.
On October 24, it emerged that a Norwegian export credit company (Eksportfinans ASA) had lodged a complaint with the Norwegian police about alleged embezzlement of 415 million Norwegian kroner r (€ 47 million) by Glitnir since 2006. The Icelandic bank had acted on behalf of Eksportfinans and managed their loans to several companies: Eksportfinans claimed that if the loan was repaid in advance, Glitnir kept the money and only continued to transfer regular payments to Eksportfinans, which amounts to illegal borrowing.
Trading in shares of six financial companies on the OMX Nordic Exchange-Island was suspended on October 6th on behalf of the FME. On Thursday, October 9th, all trading on the stock exchange was halted for two days by the government "in an attempt to prevent further panic in financial markets across the country." This decision was made because of "unusual market conditions" been. Share prices have fallen by 30% since the beginning of the month. The closure was also maintained on Monday October 13th due to ongoing "unusual market conditions".
The exchange opened the following day, October 14th, trading the main index, the OMX Iceland 15 , at 678.4 points, a drop of around 77% compared to 3004.6 points before the last close. This reflects the fact that the value of the three major banks, which made up 73.2% of the value of OMX Iceland 15, has been set to zero. The values of the other stocks varied between +8% and −15%. Trading in shares of Exista, Spron and Straumur-Burdaras (13.66% of OMX Iceland 15) remained suspended. After a week of few transactions, the OMX Iceland 15 closed at 643.1 on October 17th, a loss of 93% in kroner and 96% in euros compared to its all-time high (July 18, 2007) of 9016 points .
Trading in the shares of the two financial services companies, Straumur-Burdaras and Exista, resumed on December 9th: together these companies account for 12.04% of OMX Iceland 15. The values of the stocks of both companies fell sharply and the index closed at 394.88, which corresponds to a price loss of 40.17% in one day. Trading in shares of Spron and Kaupthing continued to be interrupted, at prices of 1.90 krónur and 694.00 krónur, respectively.
In September 2008 (shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers ) the large Icelandic banks Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbanki could no longer maintain their business operations due to a lack of liquidity. A state rescue of the banks was not possible due to the size of the bank balance sheets relative to Iceland's GDP. You have been taken into bankruptcy administration. The banks were each divided into a new bank, which was owned by the state, and an old bank. The new bank took over the domestic business, especially the lending and deposit business, which is important for the real economy , while the old bank continued to handle foreign business. The new banks were provided with equity capital by the state, so that a core capital ratio of more than 16% was achieved in each case .
NBI (originally known as Nýi Landsbanki ) was founded on October 9th with 200 billion krónur in equity and 2,300 billion krónur in assets. Nýi Glitnir was founded on October 15th with 110 billion krónur in equity and 1200 billion krónur in assets. Nýja Kaupthing was founded on October 22nd with 75 billion krónur in equity and 700 billion krónur in assets. The equity of all three new banks was provided by the Icelandic government and amounted to 30% of Iceland's GDP. The new banks will also be liable for their predecessors for the amount of the net value of the transferred assets, as determined by "approved appraisers". As of November 14, 2008 these net values were estimated: NBI ISK 558.1 billion (€ 3.87 billion), NYI Glitnir ISK 442.4 billion (€ 2.95 billion); Nýja Kaupthing ISK 172.3 billion (€ 1.14 billion). The total debt of 1173 billion krónur corresponds to more than 90% of the Icelandic gross domestic product in 2007.
The "old" Glitnir and "old" Kaupthing were issued by the Reykjavík District Court on November 24th payment moratoriums (similar to "Chapter 11 protection"). In April 2009, Gylfi Magnússon, Iceland's trade minister, stated that there were similarities between the country's banking system and the failed US energy company Enron .
The restructuring of the banking sector resulted in an increase in national debt by 20% of GDP. The Icelandic bank restructuring was thus cheaper for the public sector than z. B. the bank bailout in Ireland ( financial crisis from 2007 / regional history # Ireland ), which led to an increase in Irish national debt by 40% of Irish GDP. However, Iceland (unlike the EU member state Ireland) did not have to satisfy foreign lenders. Foreign lenders lost € 47 billion, a sum five times Iceland's GDP (2009).
The four rating agencies investigating Iceland's sovereign debt all lowered their ratings during the crisis and their outlook for forecasting future valuation changes turned negative. The Icelandic government had a relatively healthy balance, with a national debt of 28% of GDP and a budget surplus of 6% of GDP (2007). In 2011, however, the debt was estimated at 130% of GDP and the budget deficit at 6% of GDP.
Furthermore, the value of foreign currency bonds maturing in late 2008 was only $ 600 million. Foreign currency debt servicing in 2009 was only $ 215 million. The agencies believed the government needed to issue more foreign currency bonds, both to fill new funding gaps resulting from the discontinuation of the banks' liquidated overseas operations and to stimulate demand in the domestic economy as Iceland entered a recession.
A team of experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to Iceland at the beginning of October 2008 for talks with the government. Industry minister Össur Skarphéðinsson advocated help from the IMF to stabilize the kroon and lower interest rates.
On October 7, the Central Bank of Iceland announced that it was in talks with the Russian Ambassador, Victor I. Tatarintsev, about a EUR 4 billion loan from Russia. The loan is paid out over a period of three to four years at an interest rate of 30 to 50 points above LIBOR . The head of the IZB Davíð Oddsson later made it clear that the loan was still being negotiated. According to the RÚV , Prime Minister Geir Haarde has been investigating the possibility of a Russian loan since mid-summer. When asked about the matter at a press conference, Geir Haarde said: “We have not received the kind of support that we have asked our friends for. So you have to look around for new friends in a situation like this. "
A team of Icelandic negotiators arrived in Moscow on October 14th to negotiate the loan deal. Russian Deputy Finance Minister Dmitri Pankin said that "the meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere ... we will carefully work on this issue to make a final decision". On the same day, the Central Bank of Iceland used its swap facilities with the central banks of Denmark and Norway, each worth € 200 million. Iceland has secured swap facilities with the other Nordic countries worth a total of 1.5 billion euros. Iceland is also looking for support from the European Central Bank (ECB): There are some precedents as the ECB has already negotiated currency swaps with Switzerland, and thus with another non-member of the European Union .
On October 24th, the IMF provisionally approved a loan of 1.58 billion euros. However, on November 13, the loan had still not been approved by the IMF board of directors. Because of the delay, Iceland found itself in a classic “catch-22” situation: the loans from other countries could not be secured until the IMF approved the loan. The Icelandic government spoke of a funding gap of $ 500 million (376 million euros). The Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos stated that the Netherlands would opt out of this loan as long as there is no agreement on deposit insurance for Landsbanki customers in the Netherlands.
The $ 4.6 billion loan package was finally approved on November 19; the IMF contributed $ 2.1 billion and another $ 2.5 billion in loans and currency swaps came from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In addition, Poland ($ 200 million) and the Faroe Islands ($ 50 million - about 3% of Faroese GDP) offered additional loans. The Icelandic government reports that Russia has offered $ 500 million and Poland has offered $ 200 million. The next day, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom announced a joint loan of $ 6.3 billion, which would depend on the outcome of the deposit insurance dispute.
Economic development affects many Icelandic companies and citizens. With the creation of the Nýi Landsbanki to replace the old Landsbanki, around 300 employees will lose their jobs due to a radical restructuring to minimize international operations. Similar job cuts are expected at Glitnir and Kaupthing. If one compares 2136 registered unemployed with 495 advertised positions in Iceland at the end of August 2008, the economic significance of the bank restructuring becomes clearer.
Other companies are also affected. The private Sterling Airlines filed for bankruptcy on October 29, 2008. The national airline Icelandair has reported a sharp drop in domestic demand for flights. However, year-on-year international demand is not affected. Guðjón Arngrímsson, an airline spokesman, said, "we're getting decent traffic from other markets ... we are trying to let the weak [króna] help us." He also said it was impossible to predict whether the company will be profitable this year. Morgunblaðið , an Icelandic newspaper, is cutting some jobs and merging parts of its operations with media group 365. The newspaper 24 stundir also no longer appears, which means a loss of 20 jobs.
Importers are particularly hard hit as the government reserves the use of foreign currency to purchase essential products such as food, medicines and oil. The € 400 million loan from the Danish and Norwegian central banks is enough to pay for imports for a month, although there was a "temporary delay" on October 15th affecting all incoming and outgoing payments from Iceland.
The assets of Icelandic pension funds are expected to shrink by 15-25%, according to an expert. The Icelandic Pension Funds Association has announced that profits will in all likelihood need to be cut in 2009. Economists expect Iceland's GDP to shrink by 10% because of the crisis. This means that Iceland is, in the sense of some criteria, in an economic depression. Inflation could rise to 75% by the end of 2009.
Unemployment had more than tripled by the end of November 2008, with over 7,000 registered jobseekers (around 4% of the working population) compared to just 2,136 at the end of August 2008. As 80% of household debt is indexed and a further 13% in foreign currencies exist, the debt repayment becomes more expensive. Since October 2008, 14% of the workforce has had to accept wage cuts. Working hours were reduced for around 7%. According to the President of the Icelandic Federation of Labor (ASI), Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, these numbers are lower than expected. 85% of those registered as unemployed said they lost their job in October after the economic collapse.
On July 17, 2009, Parliament voted 33-28 (with two abstentions) for a government plan to apply for Iceland's full EU membership. Although Iceland has already implemented a free trade agreement with the EU, it has always refused full membership on concerns about a loss of independence. However, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir , who was elected in April, promised to bring Iceland into the EU in order to stabilize the island nation's economy. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn expressed support for Iceland's membership, stating that "a country with deep democratic traditions" like Iceland is welcome in the EU's expansion plans.
Over £ 840m in cash from more than 100 UK municipalities has been invested in Icelandic banks. Representatives from the local councils are working together to convince the Treasury Department to guarantee the repayment in the same way that Icesave customers do. Of all the local government agencies, Kent County Council has put the most money in Icelandic banks - currently £ 50 million. Transport for London , has also invested £ 40 million. Local authorities have acted on the advice of the government that the money should be invested as internationally and diversely as possible in order to spread the risk. Other UK organizations, such as Police and Fire Safety and even the Audit Commission, said they had invested large sums of money. It is to be hoped that about a third of the deposited funds will be available fairly quickly. This is equivalent to the cash of the UK subsidiaries: other assets, such as loans and offices, will take longer to sell.
At an emergency meeting in Tynwald on October 9th, the Isle of Man government decided compensation of 75% for the first £ 15,000 per depositor and 100% from £ 50,000 per depositor. The Prime Minister of the Isle of Man , Tony Brown , confirmed that Kaupthing operation and liabilities have guaranteed its subsidiary Manx in September 2007, and that the Manx government urges Iceland to come to this warranty. Depositors at Landsbanki in Guernsey found themselves without deposit insurance.
On October 11th, an agreement was reached between the Icelandic and Dutch governments on the savings of around 120,000 Dutch citizens. The Icelandic government will pay for the first € 20,887 in the Dutch savings accounts of the Landsbanki subsidiary Icesave with money borrowed from the Dutch government. The total value of Icesave deposits in the Netherlands is € 1.7 billion. At the same time, Iceland and the UK reached an agreement on the general outlines of a solution: Icesave deposits in the UK add up to a total of £ 4 billion (€ 5 billion) spread over 300,000 accounts, € 20,887 is the amount paid by Icelandic depositors and investors Guarantee Fund (DIGF; Tryggingarsjóður in Icelandic) is secured: however, at the end of 2007 the DIGF only had 8.3 billion krónur in equity, which corresponds to 90 million euros at the exchange rates at the time and was by far not enough to meet the Dutch and British claims cover.
The cost of deposit insurance in Great Britain was not entirely clear in November 2008. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) paid around £ 3 billion in deposits from Heritable Bank and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander to ING Direct, while the UK Treasury paid an additional £ 600 million to protect retail customer deposits, whichever is higher than those of the FSCS limit. The Treasury Department also paid £ 800 million to guarantee Icesave deposits that were higher than the limit. The Icelandic government is now expecting a £ 2.2 billion loan to cover Icesave's claims against Icelandic DIGF, while the UK's FSCS is facing £ 1 to 2 billion in claims.
The crisis has forced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cut aid to developing countries from 0.31% to 0.27% of GNP. The impact of this cut was reinforced by the falling value of the krona: the budget of the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) was reduced from US $ 22 million to $ 13 million. As Icelandic aid specializes in sectors where the country has particular expertise (e.g. fishing, geothermal energy), the cuts will have a significant impact in countries receiving Icelandic aid; most clearly in Sri Lanka, where ICEIDA is withdrawing completely.
On February 27, 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iceland's new government was trying to raise $ 25 million by selling its embassy residences in Washington, New York, London and Oslo.
On August 28, 2009, the Icelandic parliament voted with 34-15 abstentions (with 14 abstentions) to pay the UK and the Netherlands more than € 5 billion for the losses incurred (commonly known as the Icesave bill ). The project was initially rejected in June, but then passed after changes were passed on a cap on the country's payments based on the island's gross domestic product. Opponents of the law argued that Icelanders had already been staggered by the crisis and should not pay for mistakes made by private banks under the tolerance of other governments. However, the government argued that the UK and the Netherlands could block the International Monetary Fund's proposed aid package to Iceland if the bill is not paid. Under the terms of the agreement, up to 4% of Iceland's gross domestic product (GDP) will be paid to the UK, in sterling, from 2017 to 2023, and to the Netherlands up to 2% of Iceland's GDP, in euros, over the same period. Talks between the Icelandic, Dutch and British ministers in January 2010, known as 'Icesave', have not resulted in any concrete consensual action.
In July 2014 a criminal complaint was filed against the board of directors of the Luxembourg financial regulator CSSF .
The Special Counsel's Office was established with the passage of a law in the Icelandic Parliament December 10, 2008. The aim was to investigate suspected criminal behavior related to the banking crisis. As far as applicable, these investigations are to be continued by bringing charges to court against the persons concerned.
In April 2009, Iceland's prosecutor Eva Joly , the Norwegian-French investigator who was leading Europe's largest fraud investigation into bribery and corruption at the Elf Aquitaine oil company , acted as a special adviser to a 20-strong “team against white-collar crime” to “investigate suspected criminal activity to investigate in the period before the collapse of the Icelandic banks ”. Joly stated that the investigation would take at least 2-3 years to gather enough evidence and secure prosecution.
In an interview, Joly said:
“The research will start at home in Iceland, but my instinct tells me it will go beyond Iceland. If there is anything that affects the UK, we will contact the Serious Fraud Office. If there are things that are relevant for Germany, we will contact the authorities there. There is more than enough evidence in Iceland to start the investigation here, given the rumors of market manipulation and unusual loans. If these can be proven, it is embezzlement and fraud. The priority is to reconstruct the outflows and inflows of bank assets. "
The research is expected to focus on a number of questionable financial practices by Icelandic banks:
- Almost half of all loans from Icelandic banks went to holding companies, many of which are affiliated with the same Icelandic banks.
- Money was allegedly loaned out by the banks to employees and partners so that they could buy shares from the same banks while simply using the same shares as collateral for the loans. Borrowers were then allowed to defer payments of interest on the loan until the end of the period when the full amount plus accumulated interest became due. The same loans allegedly were then written off a few days before the bank crash.
- Kaupthing allowed an investor from Qatar to acquire 5% of the shares. It later emerged that the Qatari investor "bought" the stake with a loan from the bank and a holding company together with one of its employees (that is, the bank did in fact buy its own shares).
On March 9, 2011, Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz were arrested in London by the UK Serious Fraud Office in connection with their investigation with Iceland's Special Investigation Bureau.
- Baldur Guðlaugsson, State Secretary for the Ministry of Finance, has been sentenced to two years probation by Reykjavík District Court for insider trading. The case was referred to the Icelandic Supreme Court , which upheld the verdict.
- Aron Karlsson has been sentenced to 2 years in prison by Reykjavík District Court for fraud in real estate deals with Arion Bank.
- Lárus Welding, CEO of Glitnir , and Guðmundur Hjaltason, Managing Director of Corporate Banking at Glitnir, were sentenced to 9 months in prison by the Reykjavík District Court for serious abuse of confidence. Part of it is on probation.
The Icelandic business elite in the focus of public interest
Since the beginning of the crisis, many Icelandic entrepreneurs, who previously contributed decisively to the development of the Icelandic economy as financial gurus, are now in the focus of public interest because of their importance for the financial crisis:
- Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson and Johannes Jónsson, the owners of the Baugur Group, a retail empire that includes Hamleys, House of Fraser, The Oasis Center and much of the Icelandic media. Jón Ásgeir, known as the “business pop star” for his shaggy golden hairstyle, was the subject of a satirical video relating him to The Godfather . In addition, a former lover later revealed previously unknown details of his "playboy lifestyle" during an investigation. The investigation accused him of falsifying accounts, which prompted the Baugur Group to relocate to the UK.
- Lýður Guðmundsson and Águst Gudmundsson, the frozen food entrepreneurs who were responsible for Kaupthing Bank.
- Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson and Björgólfur Guðmundsson, the shipping and brewing moguls who owned the Landsbanki .
All of these people are rarely seen in public and some appear to have left the country. They are also allegedly the subject of an ongoing investigation to determine whether their business practices warrant prosecution.
Statements from former politicians
Björn Bjarnson, the former Minister of Justice and Church, has started a blog to present the problems of the economy and their efforts to cover them up. This was cited as an example of the loss of control by politicians and business people who traditionally had a tight grip on the Icelandic media. Dozens of similar blogs have sprung up. Björn said:
“I've written a lot about the problems in business over the past 14 years, and I can only compare some parts of them to Enron. Companies played a game here. It used media and publishing to look good. We just hope that the foreign media will soon begin to understand what was going on. "
In early November, the President of Iceland , Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson , invited foreign diplomats to an informal lunch and criticized Iceland's long-standing friends (especially Great Britain, Sweden and Denmark) and the International Monetary Fund. According to a note from the Norwegian embassy, he considered that the Russians might want to use Keflavík Air Base , to which the Russian ambassador replied that they had no need to use it. The president is quoted as saying that Iceland will soon recover, even on its own. The president does not necessarily have to agree with the government on these issues.
In October 2008, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown used Part 2 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 to freeze Landsbanki's holdings in the UK. Iceland's Prime Minister Geir Haarde protested what he called the application of "a terrorist law against us" and "an utterly unfriendly act". Angered by the British decision, Iceland decided to file a formal complaint with NATO about it . 80,000 Icelanders also signed a petition entitled "Icelanders Are Not Terrorists". Relations worsened when the UK responded a month later by breaking off scheduled patrols of Icelandic airspace in December 2008. Iceland has no standing army and relies on a long-term agreement with NATO after a group of member states have committed themselves to rotating to defend Icelandic airspace. The British Royal Air Force had lifted this by mutual agreement with NATO (probably no other member state had agreed to accept this obligation).
Icelandic public protests
Sections of the Icelandic public protested before and after the crisis against the central bank, the European Parliament and the government's lack of responsibility; between 3,000 and 6,000 people (1-2% of the Icelandic population) joined the protests on Saturdays.
According to a poll at the end of November 2008, 64% were in favor of early elections, only 29.3% against. In a poll of November 22, 2008, the Social Democratic Alliance led with 33.6%, followed by the Left-Green Alliance with 27.8% and the Independence Party with 24.8%, the Progressive Party and the Liberal Party with only 6, 3% and 4.3% far behind.
When the parliament met on January 20, 2009, violent protests broke out again and the conflict between demonstrators and police escalated. On January 22nd, police used tear gas to displace people from Austurvöllur (the square in front of the Althing). It was the first such deployment since the anti-NATO protests in 1949.
Political turning point
Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde announced on January 23, 2009 that he would be resigning from his position as head of the Independence Party for health reasons after a malignant tumor in the esophagus was diagnosed. He said he would travel to the Netherlands for treatment in late January. The education minister and vice-president of the independence party Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir should act as prime minister in his absence. The chairman of the Social Democratic Alliance , Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir , was also doing badly. She had been on treatment for a benign brain tumor since September 2008 . The government recommended that the elections take place on May 9, 2009.
Björgvin G. Sigurðsson , Iceland's Minister of Economic Affairs, said he resigned on January 25 because of the economic collapse and inconsistent crisis management by political decision-makers. As one of his final acts, he dismissed the director of the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA). Björgvin said Icelanders have lost confidence in their government and the political system. He wants to take his share of the responsibility for it.
Negotiations on the continuation of the coalition ended the next day, apparently because of demands from the Social Democratic Alliance to take over government, and Geir Haarde handed over the resignation to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson . The President asked the then government to continue working until a new government could be formed and held talks with the five parties in the Althing.
After these talks, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir of the Social Democratic Alliance and Steingrímur J. Sigfússon of the Left-Green Movement were asked by the President to negotiate the formation of a new coalition government. Such a coalition would get five fewer seats than an absolute majority in the Althing. But it was expected that the Progress Party (seven seats) would support the coalition. It was not a party leader who became Prime Minister, but the Minister for Social Affairs and Social Security, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir from the Social Democratic Alliance. She was also elected her party's new leader on March 28, 2009.
On April 8, 2009, former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde stated that he was solely responsible for accepting the controversial donations (30,000,000 kroner from the investment group FL Group, and 25,000,000 kroner from the Landsbanki) to the Icelandic 2006 Independence Party.
Geir H. Haarde was heavily criticized in April 2010 in the report by the special investigators on the financial collapse. He was accused of negligence along with three other government ministers. Iceland's parliament passed 33 votes to 30 on September 28, 2010, indicting Geir H. Haarde (but not the other ministers) of negligence. He had to answer to the Landsdómur . This special court for misconduct in government offices was convened for the first time since it was established in 1905. The trial began in Reykjavík on March 5, 2012. Geir H. Haarde was found guilty of one of four charges on April 23, 2012: namely, for not holding cabinet meetings on important government matters. The Landsdómur said that Geir H. Haarde would not be fined as it was a minor offense.
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