At least Argentina kinda, sorta had the right idea: find an expensive foreign asset and nationalize it, impotent EU sound and fury be damned. Key word here: foreign. A few days later, the latest trade was escalation move appears to have gone viral, if with some curious, and serious, modification in the process. Minutes ago we learned that the Italian Finance police had seized a 20% stake in a heretofore unnamed firm (how does the police seize a stake? They pocket 20% of the electronic shares held in custody by the local DTCC? or they kidnap 20% of the Board of Directors? Inquiring minds want to know). We vaguely expected it would be a retaliatory move, and the firm would be based out of Latin America. No such luck. As Reuters fills in, the company "seized" is Premafin, "which controls Italy's No. 2 insurer Fondiaria-SAI as part of a judicial probe on market manipulation, the tax police and a judicial source said on Thursday."
At this point we can only say poor Italians for two reasons: 1) it appears that unlike in the US, where the SEC actively encourages market manipulation, especially if by means of High Freaks, Italians will be punished for such meddling trifles which achieve nothing but to restore some confidence in the manipulated market and 2) when you nationalize, don't, repeat do not, nationalize your own firms. Always go for the foreign ones first. Although there is some hope: "The stake in question is held directly and indirectly by two foreign trusts, the tax police said in a statement. The seizure, part of an ongoing investigation by Milan prosecutors, could complicate a planned merger of Fondiaria with peer Unipol." So ok, Italy got the nationalization part only half wrong. Good. So....first Argentina, now Italy: who is next on the nationalization bandwagon.