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Government swoops in

History offers a recipe for nationalizing banks: Do it as a last resort, but don't dawdle, don't mix politics and banking, and get out of the business as soon as possible.

Credit Lyonnais

France

Year of nationalization: 1945

Resolution: Privatized in 1999

Final cost: $19 billion

Summary: The bank retained considerable autonomy until a lending spree that began in the late 1980s soured in the early 1990s. The cost of the necessary rescue cured the government of its desire to own the company.

Verdict: Public ownership was bad for business.

Continental Illinois

United States

Year of nationalization: 1984

Resolution: Privatized in 1991

Final cost: $1.1 billion

Summary: The nation's 7th-largest bank grew through aggressive lending to energy companies and other businesses. Rising defaults forced a series of bailouts ending with the government taking an 80 percent stake.

Verdict: Critics say unnecessary nationalization damages economy.

Nordbanken and Gota

Sweden

Year of nationalization: 1992

Resolution: Privatized in 1995

Final cost: $2.7 billion

Summary: The collapse of a real-estate bubble forced Sweden to nationalize two of its largest banks. It created bad banks to house their troubled assets, merged the remnants and privatized the new company.

Verdict: The poster child for nationalization.

Long-Term Credit Bank

Japan

Year of nationalization: 1998

Resolution: Privatized in 2000

Final cost: $1.9 billion

Summary: The massive bank was immobilized by massive losses on commercial real estate loans and stayed that way for almost a decade before the government intervened decisively.

Verdict: Once the government acted, it worked.

Northern Rock

United Kingdom

Year of nationalization: 2008

Resolution: N/A

Final cost: N/A

Summary: One of the country's largest mortgage lenders lost access to funding as defaults rose, forcing the British government to take "temporary" control.

Verdict: The jury is still out.