Mid-Crisis, Chinese Considered Buying Stakes in U.S. Banks

Leaked cables show Chinese investors wanted to invest in U.S. banks during the '08 crisis

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Chinese banking officials considered buying up stakes in American banks during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the McClatchy Newspapers reported Sunday, citing documents obtained from WikiLeaks.

The Chinese banks discussed the possibility of investing in American financial corporations, but ultimately declined to do so, fearing a public relations firestorm and the scrutiny of U.S. banking regulators.

From the McClatchy piece:

In 2008, Chinese banks were in position to provide capital to struggling U.S. banks and were interested in working more closely with their American counterparts, said David Bachman, a professor in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. But taking a significant stake would have triggered regulatory scrutiny and questions about whether Chinese banks were taking advantage of "fire sale" prices, he said.
"Eventually, they came to the conclusion that it was too much effort or too much bother," Bachman said.
Investments by Chinese banks in their U.S. counterparts have raised concerns among policymakers because many of these financial institutions are controlled by the Chinese government, said Virginia-based banking consultant Bert Ely. The concerns were similar to when the U.S. Treasury invested in banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, he said.
"There was fear when the government owns a piece of a bank to what extent does it get misused to advance policy initiatives, rather than being a strictly commercial operation," Ely said.

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