Swimming in Debt

Politician Shintaro Ishihara likes to portray himself as a friend of the common man. Certainly he's no friend of Japan's sinking banks. Last week, the outspoken governor of Tokyo jolted the financial community by threatening to withdraw $14.4 billion of the Tokyo government's money from Mizuho Bank, one of Japan's largest. If Mizuho, which is burdened with $19.4 billion in bad debt, does not clean up its act, Ishihara warned, he'll take his business elsewhere, even to U.S.-based Citigroup. "One thing we must consider is whether a financial institution is safe," Ishihara says. "Another is whether it pays good interest...

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