As human beings we have a deep-seated desire to explain natural and social phenomena. We have an in-built search mechanism which looks for causation in order to explain the world around us. For example, the US stock market declined on the day after Obama's election. Why? Most people connected the two events, but the two may have been totally unrelated. Another example can be found in today's Metro where it is claimed that crime falls and birth rates go up in Mexico City whenever Javier Hernandez is playing for Manchester United. These may simply be crude correlations and there may be no causation whatsoever. It requires rigorous statistical testing to demonstrate correlation never mind causation!
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of