When the onset of the world depression threatened disaster to Italy’s three major banks, the government decided to set up a new agency – the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) 1 – with the double purpose of rehabilitating the distressed banks which came under its control and, at the same time, of disposing as early as possible of all the industrial assets which the new agency took over from the same banks. IRI at the start was in fact conceived as a temporary institution, on the assumption that private capital would be ready to step in and provide the equity base needed for the growth of the industrial enterprises which till then had relied on the backing of the deposit-taking banks.