When the European Monetary Union was formed, the countries hoped to avoid a Greece situation by putting hard caps on public debt.
Greece got around this by engaging in swaps with Goldman Sachs that helped disguise its true debt levels.
Earlier we noted how Italy may have been obfuscating its debt as well.
But the real story, it seems is that EVERYONE is doing this. The below document (via alea) explains how France got busted for this as well back in 2007.
And the lesson is that banks aren’t the only players that engage in regulatory arbitrage. Any institution — public, private, for-profit or otherwise — will seek to cut corners and come up with ways to disguise an aggressive or risky financial system.