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Cramer: European Banks Revisit 2008

This column by Jim Cramer originally appeared on RealMoney earlier Thursday. For a free trial to RealMoney, follow this link.

NEW YORK ( RealMoney) -- You would think after 2008 we would figure out a way to make it so you couldn't just take bank stocks down to zero and profit from the decline. You would think that we would have some of safeguards or ammo or defenses that would stop the madness where a fairly solid bank can stem the crash, and yes, it is a crash, of both the confidence and the stock price.

But you can't. For a variety of reasons.

Let's take this Societe Generale. First, I have no idea of how SocGen is really doing. It's a French bank. They are pretty opaque. They might be sitting on gigantic losses. They may have all sorts of sovereign debt. They are a global player which has now become a code word meaning "we have lots of derivatives everywhere so look out."

But I don't have to worry about how well they are doing because there is enough scandalous chatter and commentary including emails that have hit my desk titled "Brink of Disaster" that include SocGen and another bank that everyone tells me is a teeterer -- Unicredit of Italy, probably the next big raid, I figure --that I don't have to bother to check out the facts. Those who are short it and those who hate it -- at some points that seems like the majority -- have already told me.

Does it matter if it is right?

What we learned in 2008 is that things have a way of becoming self-fulfilling with banks. Once the confidence erodes, there's not that much there. It makes it so when the CEO of SocGen comes on air you listen and you say, "Wow, what a futile set of denials," even as he is probably telling the truth.

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