Once Greece goes, runs on bank deposits are likely to follow in Spain and Italy. There is nothing to stop Spanish and Italian depositors from wiring their euros from their local bank to one in Switzerland, Norway or New York. At that point, the only thing still standing between the eurozone and financial chaos will be the ECB, which could buy government bonds and fund the bank runs. The scale of such an operation would be enormous, and would expose the ECB to huge credit risk. But it could, in principle, step in — if northern Europe permitted.
If the ECB does not step in, Italy and Spain, too, will be forced to exit the eurozone, default on their euro-denominated sovereign and bank obligations, and redenominate into national currency. Massive losses would be imposed on the global financial system. Given the opacity of banks’ exposures, creditors would be unable to discriminate between the solvent and the insolvent (as was the case in September 2008).
The U.S. banks most likely to be affected by such a scenario would be the globalists: Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. They would require a rescue package similar to the U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program, created after Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008. The U.S. can afford a second TARP, but it would require congressional legislation, which is not guaranteed.