Bareknuckle Banking

As worries about American institutions grow, the free-for-all of global finance is becoming more fierce

The 1980s were a time of feast and fear for the world's international banking system: an era of globalization and vigorous overseas expansion but also of sharp competitive thrust. Asian banks and increasing numbers of European ones hung OPEN FOR BUSINESS signs abroad, joining the U.S. multinationals that had dominated global finance for decades. Suddenly the Japanese, drawing on their huge national savings pool and enormous trading surpluses, appeared to be the new Masters of the Banking Universe, carving out richer slices of international market share with startling rapidity. The global banking business became an international free-for-all.

The boom-and-bust '80s may...

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