Even though the bail-in tool is potentially helpful in resolving banks in crisis, it may still create the same issues that resolution is meant to prevent and/or avoid, namely contagion, financial instability and also systemic risk. Recent cases of bank restructuring have demonstrated that there are situations in which the use of the bail-in tool could end up being dangerous for the stability of the financial system. Obviously in such cases, the write down and/or conversion into equity of the bank’s liabilities must be avoided. At the same time, however, the disapplication of bail-in makes the provision of external resources necessary to rescue effectively the bank in crisis.
The EU legislator was aware of these potential issues and for this reason introduced a number of rules allowing, in certain situations, both the disapplication of the bail-in tool and the provision of external financing. Nevertheless, when the provision of external financing comes from the Member States, it has to comply with the rules of the State aid framework set by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and applied by the European Commission. In this article, it is argued that despite the strict rules on State aid, there is still room to manage even difficult banking crisis situations in which the application of the bail-in tool could be counterproductive and therefore public intervention should take place through the so-called precautionary recapitalisation instead. However, in this regard, it is crucially important that the authorities intervene before the bank in trouble ‘crosses the line’ of insolvency, as some recent cases of Greek and Italian banks have demonstrated.