Could Cantona Cause a Bank Run?

First the French Finance Minister wagged her finger, then a top banker weighed in and now the media are in full flow, Cantona’s efforts to provoke a bank run in France on December 7 just scored a goal.

Is he worried? Well let’s just say Baudouin Prot CEO of BNP Paribas strongly disapproves of Cantona’s call and said so loudly in the media. Score: 1-0 to Cantona.

As we blogged here earlier Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is “irritated”, according to Le Figaro, by Cantona’s increasingly popular call on depositors to crash the banking system by joining a mass campaign of ATM withdrawals on December 7. (See Organised Bank Run). Mr. Cantona, she told a press conference, “is a tremendous footballer, but each to his own. I would not venture to interfere in his game and I don’t think he should intervene here.”

The CEO of BNP Paribas, Baudouin Prot, went further. He described former football player Eric Cantona’s support for a run on the banks as “unfounded” and “insecure”. Mr. Prot said he had much respect for a “great sportsman and for his concerns in addressing big issues such as poverty, but his appeal against the banks is ill-founded.”

The banker went on: “His call for people to withdraw the deposits is a totally insecure action to support, completely contrary to what we should be doing to ensure the economy continues to function”.

Mr. Prot said that the 400,000 employees in the French banking sector, “deserve more recognition than this. Furthermore no French banks have contributed to the origins of the current crisis, none have been given any state aid nor have they been a drag on the taxpayer”.

Quite so Mr. Prot. However according to the BIS Quarterly Review of June 2010, French banks could still be in a tight corner. “French and German banks were particularly exposed to the residents of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. At the end of 2009, they had $958 billion of combined exposures ($493 billion and $465 billion, respectively) to the residents of these countries. French and German banks were most exposed to residents of Spain ($248 billion and $202 billion, respectively), although the sectoral compositions of their claims differed substantially…”, BIS said.

The internet campaign has almost gone viral as searches on Twitter, in Google and on Facebook reveal a surge of interest in half-a-dozen countries around the globe eager to make the bank run international.

A French Facebook page shows almost 30 000 persons pledging to join Eric Cantona on December 7 and close their bank accounts . A search in French for “reactions to the Cantona call” threw up 3,100,000 results.

The Bankrun website says: “We are aware of the consequences of deregulated and uncontrollable global financial system on our jobs, our health, our education, our pensions, our industries, our environment, our future, our dignity, the dignity of citizens of countries that the system has enslaved through debt they can never repay… We are aware of the role this system plays in the prosperity of industrial empires whose interests depend on armed conflict, disease, food shortages and poverty prevailing in countries providing labour and natural resources at trifling cost. We are aware that that system will never have anything to gain from a world of peace and prosperity and that in continuing to entrust our hard earned cash to this malevolent system, makes us accomplices to its crimes, wars, and misery.”

The Cantona revolution has certainly lit some fires web-side. But one question nags a commenter on the Le Parisien website: “Where does Cantona intend to hide all his millions on December 7, surely a line of muggers will be right behind him at the ATM as he starts the bank run?” the commenter asked.

Oops, pass that ball Eric.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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