June 13, 2015
After Iceland suffered a heavy hit in the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which famously resulted in convictions and jail terms for a number of top banking executives, the IMF now says the country has managed to achieve economic recovery—“without compromising its welfare model,” which includes universal healthcare and education.
In fact, Iceland is on track to become the first European country that suffered in the financial meltdown to “surpass its pre-crisis peak of economic output”—essentially proving to the U.S. that bailing out “too big to fail” banks wasn’t the way to go.
Iceland is beautifully, yet unfortunately, unique in how it chose to handle the disaster. It simply let the banks fail, which resulted in defaults totaling $85 billion—lending ample justification for the prosecution and conviction of bank executives for various fraud-related charges.
The decision seemed shocking at the time, but the gamble has obviously paid off. Choosing a different route, the U.S. bailed out the banks and let executives off the hook by levying fines that ultimately ended up being paid by the corporations—meaning the executives ostensibly responsible for the mess got off scot-free.
“Why should we have a part of our society that is not being policed or without responsibility?” special prosecutor Olafur Hauksson said after Iceland’s Supreme Court upheld the convictions for three bankers—and sentenced them to between four and five and a half years each. “It is dangerous that someone is too big to investigate—it gives a sense there is a safe haven.”