Famous last words, Spanish edition

History is scattered with examples of hubris.

Take the story of King Croesus of Lydia who arrogantly asked the well-known wise man Solon the Athenian who he believed to be the happiest man in the world, fully expecting that the answer would be none other than himself, the King.

When Solon instead assigned the title to mere “private men” who were now dead — because no one can be considered happy until their fate is known, Croesus dismissed Solon with much indifference…

“…since he thought that a man must be an arrant fool who made no account of present good, but bade men always wait and mark the end.”

- Herodotus

Yet Solon had spoken wisely.

Before his life was through, Croesus had lost his wealth, his kingdom and his family.

About to be burned alive, Croesus remembered the wisdom of Solon and thrice called out his name: “Solon, Solon, Solon”.

Could modern day Europe now be destined to repeat his mistake?

Take the latest comments from Banco Santander CEO Alfredo Saenz in response to JP Morgan’s note that mortgage arrears will surge as unemployment rises:

“Mortgages get paid in good times and in bad,” he said in a news conference at the bank’s headquarters outside Madrid. “Anyone raising this problem as one of the issues for the Spanish financial system is saying something stupid.”

Dare we say that in a real Greek drama this would inevitably lead to the sound of “JP Morgan, JP Morgan, JP Morgan,” being yelled from a window somewhere in Santander, Spain one day…

Dicing with fate. Better the CEO of Santander than us. That’s all we’ll say.

Related links:
Santander CEO Derides Surge in Spain Defaults: Mortgages - Bloomberg
BBBasta — Spain cut to BBB+ - FT Alphaville

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Read next:

Read next:

FT Alpha Tweets