From the New York Times
Financial deregulation in the 1980s fed a frenzy of real estate lending by Swedenâ€™s banks, which did not worry enough about whether the value of their collateral might evaporate in tougher times.
Property prices imploded. The bubble deflated fast in 1991 and 1992. A vain effort to defend Swedenâ€™s currency, the krona, caused overnight interest rates to spike at one point to 500 percent. The Swedish economy contracted for two consecutive years after a long expansion, and unemployment, at 3 percent in 1990, quadrupled in three years.
After a series of bank failures and ad hoc solutions, the moment of truth arrived in September 1992, when the government of Prime Minister Carl Bildt decided it was time to clear the decks.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the opposition center-left, Mr. Bildtâ€™s conservative government announced that the Swedish state would guarantee all bank deposits and creditors of the nationâ€™s 114 banks. Sweden formed a new agency to supervise institutions that needed recapitalization, and another that sold off the assets, mainly real estate, that the banks held as collateral.
Sweden told its banks to write down their losses promptly before coming to the state for recapitalization. Facing its own problem later in the decade, Japan made the mistake of dragging this process out, delaying a solution for years.
Then came the imperative to bleed shareholders first. Mr. Lundgren recalls a conversation with Peter Wallenberg, at the time chairman of SEB, Swedenâ€™s largest bank. Mr. Wallenberg, the scion of the countryâ€™s most famous family and steward of large chunks of its economy, heard that there would be no sacred cows.
The Wallenbergs turned around and arranged a recapitalization on their own, obviating the need for a bailout. SEB turned a profit the following year, 1993.
â€œFor every krona we put into the bank, we wanted the same influence,â€ Mr. Lundgren said. â€œThat ensured that we did not have to go into certain banks at all.â€