There was no particularly good way to resolve the banking mess in Cyprus. But what worries me about how things played out is that there appears to be no rule of law that applies to bank failure in Europe. There should be some clear principle that guides a bank resolution - e.g. equity holders and bondholders get wiped out first, then uninsured depositors, then insured depositors. Or perhaps there is some ratio of pain between insured and uninsured depositors.
It is clear that no such rule exists across Europe (or if it does, it does not enjoy any particular force such that folks feel free to ignore it in real time). That is the real danger here. Results, however bad, should be transparent and predictable in advance, which is far from what happened in Cyprus. Without a rule of law, one gets a rule of men -- in other words, rules are set by individual whim, often based on which government or corporate interests wield the most influence.
Think I am being too cynical? Here is a detail that was new to me about the depositor haircuts in Cyprus:
A few weeks ago, the Central Bank of Cyprus published a curious set of "clarifications for the better understanding of the resolution measures." The principle of a bail-in—that uninsured creditors should suffer losses before taxpayers are on the hook—turns out to contain a few lacunae. "Financial institutions, the government, municipalities, municipal councils and other public entities, insurance companies, charities, schools, and educational institutions" will be excused from contributing to the depositor haircuts, though insurers later were removed from the exempt list.
Apparently, individual parties are lining up for special exemptions as well (much like connected corporations did with the Obama Administration to get exemptions from early provisions of the PPACA). Essentially, all bank losses will be assigned to depositors who don't have access to powerful friends in the government.