Banking: The Basel Club

Among the world's temples of high finance, none has risen to such eminence in such an unpretentious way as the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements. Its five-story, stone-faced headquarters, sandwiched between a tourist agency and a watch shop across from the railway station in Basel, still looks like the second-class hotel it once was. Travelers who often enter its musty lobby hoping to change their money find neither tellers nor vaults nor any cash at all. The B.I.S. keeps elsewhere its $1 billion gold hoard and $1.7 billion in other assets, for it is primarily a nerve center for its...

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