My piece on the Italian government crisis has just been published by Time.
The news broke as Italians were sitting down for their Saturday dinner: Silvio Berlusconi, the scandal-plagued media mogul, had ordered the ministers from his party to withdraw from Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government, effectively causing it collapse after five months of shaky coalition rule.
The news didn’t come as a complete surprise. The government — born from compromise after a hung parliament exhausted all other possibilities — has been unstable and ineffective since its formation. It came under further stress in August, when Italy’s supreme court confirmed a lower court’s decision to slap Berlusconi with a one-year sentence for tax fraud and a ban on holding political office for a yet-to-be determined period.
Read the rest.
Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on the Icelandic prosecutor that’s going after the country’s bankers.
Ólafur Hauksson didn’t even apply for his job the first time it was offered. It was late 2008, and Iceland was in the early throes of financial meltdown. The island nation’s three largest banks had gone under, pulling in their wake an economy that had floated high on the back of a swollen financial sector. The króna was spiraling downward, kept from plummeting to the bottom only by emergency capital controls. Unemployment was surging. The population was riotous, pelting the parliament building in downtown Reykjavik with eggs, tomatoes, and yogurt.
The country’s panicked politicians responded by promising investigations. In December 2008, two months into the meltdown, Parliament appointed a three-member committee to study the cause of the crash and created a new legal body to look into suspicions of criminal activity related to the banks’ collapse. When a call for applications came for a leader of the new body, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the government didn’t receive a single résumé.
Read the rest.