The global financial crisis is complex and uneven. This paper focuses on the propagation and mediation of the crisis via a case study of the city of Pforzheim, in southwest Germany. In 2004 the municipality signed a number of derivative contracts with Deutsche Bank, aiming to limit interest payments. However, since the early days of the crisis these contracts have produced heavy losses. Attempts to restructure them (involving the world's largest derivatives dealer JPMorgan Chase) compounded losses. This study explores the making, unfolding, interpretation, negotiation and contestation of this crisis, enabling wider critical analysis of state–finance relations across the bounded spaces of local government, through transnational firms and intersecting varieties (and scales) of capitalism.