Private Equity Stumbles in Banking Arena

Ideoblog notes this week that in Australia, at least, law

firms are going public — something that’s not allowed in the US, where

law firms can’t have non-lawyer owners. That rules out law firms being bought

by private-equity funds, too.

But if private equity funds can’t buy law firms, they can buy banks. That hasn’t

made a lot of headlines in the US, mainly because the banks they’re buying are

more likely to be foreign than domestic. (And no, I don’t really

think that Goldman Sachs is a private equity target.) But Dennis

Berman notes today that Cerberus Capital Management owns banks in no fewer

than 40 countries, at least according to its COO Mark Neporent:

We have financial holdings in 40 countries. The U.S., Germany, Austria, Japan,

Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, the Czech Republic, and the list goes on. We have

a banking license in each of these countries.

Neporent is upset

at the difficulties that Cerberus is facing getting a banking license in Israel.

But given how little is known about the internal workings of the company, those

difficulties don’t surprise me. Bank regulators want to know a lot of information

about the owners of the banks they regulate, especially if those owners are

foreign. Cerberus doesn’t like to give out information about itself. So problems

were always likely to arise.

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