"Modern market economies, those steadily growing organisms that have generated stunning wealth over the past two centuries, showed their soft underbelly: trust. What is a dollar bill but a piece of paper that one trusts will be honored as legal tender? What is an investment bank but a legal entity that acts as a custodian and intermediary in the handling of money, or stands between parties in a trade? As buyers and sellers collide and couple in the vast global marketplace - with little to bind them beyond the self-interest of one party having money and the other needing it - the institution makes certain that everyone honors his obligations, or legal remedies are triggered. That is their essential function. When the financial institution itself can't honor its obligations, panic is uncorked."
-Ron Suskind, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington
and the Education of a President