Dec 142013
 

By J. Iddhis Bing, 99GetSmart

Bob Diamond

Where’s Bob Diamond Now?

Early in the summer of 2012, Bob Diamond was an American banker with a talent for making numbers say what he wanted them to say. He was legit and was sitting in the catbird seat at Barclays Bank UK. He’d made $100 million over the previous six years.

A few weeks later, in early July, the world had flipped. Instead of sitting at his desk at Barclays Diamond was answering questions from a Parliamentary committee investigating LIBOR rate-fixing in 2008. A week after that he was out of work.

What’s LIBOR? The London Interbank Offered Rate measures the price at which banks lend currencies to each other. It gauges how much banks charge each other when they carry out interbank trades and it affects the rates businesses and households all over the world pay on loans and other financial products.

Diamond lost his job and Barclays was fined £290m. It was the financial scandal of the summer. Some say of the century, but we’ve got plenty of time to go yet.

July, 2012 was just the first act. The European Union wasn’t asleep at the wheel and started to investigate two other currency markets, the EURIBOR and the Yen LIBOR. They took their time and announced their findings two days ago. It turns out to be a good deal more serious than having to sweat through a rough morning in Parliament. Barclays got off with a £290m penalty in 2012 for their bad behavior. Maybe that wiped out a quarter or a half year’s earnings, and brought them some bad publicity. They found a way to dodge the bullet this time.

On Wednesday it was Joaquín Almunia’s job to announce EU charges against the banks involved. Almunia is the European Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy. He stood behind the podium in Brussels looking like the stern accountant with the big glasses who comes in to set things straight after the wild party’s over. The European Commission was going to levy €1.7bn in fines on seven banks and a brokerage firm for their roles in the worldwide interest rate manipulation. Banks named were Barclays, UBS, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS, bailed out at taxpayer expense), Deutsche Bank, Société Générale and two American banks, Citigroup and JP Morgan. A brokerage house, RP Martin, is in the mix, too. They’re contesting the charges and the fine. The tables with the damages, courtesy the EC, are included here as illustrations.

EU penalties in the Euribor scandal, by duration and number of incidents

EU penalties in the Euribor scandal, by duration and number of incidentsOfficial EU data on the instances and duration of Yen Euribor violations.Official EU data on the instances and duration of Yen Euribor violations

For its part of the deal, RBS will pay another £300m on top of the £390m it has already paid to US and UK regulators. RBS is a nationalized bank. That means English taxpayers will pick up the tab for the bank’s behavior.

Barclays was the first bank caught in the sting back in 2012. They knew which way the wind was blowing. They decided to cut a deal: by exposing the cartel in Euribor rate-fixing they avoided an additional £570m fine. Swiss bank UBS was spared a £2bn fine by doing the same for the rigging of yen interest rates. A cartel? The banks were working together? This is where things get interesting.

“What is shocking about the Libor and Euribor scandals is not only the manipulation of benchmarks, which is being tackled by financial regulators worldwide, but also the collusion between banks who are supposed to be competing with each other,” Almunia said.

Barclays tried to make it sound like they were Boy Scouts who got a little lost in the woods and stumbled on a coven of witches: “The European Commission has today announced that it has reached a settlement with Barclays and a number of other banks in relation to anti-competitive conduct concerning Euribor. The settlement acknowledges that the banks’ conduct infringed EC competition law by attempting to distort the normal course of pricing components for interest rate derivatives referencing Euribor. As today’s announcement from the Commission confirms, Barclays voluntarily reported the Euribor conduct to the Commission and cooperated fully with the Commission’s investigation.”

Which is a nice, elaborate way of saying, we burned the witches and got off scot-free. Would the EU have known about the Euribor fix if they hadn’t?

JPMorgan Chase, not a bank that makes nice to anybody, used the “Rogue” defense, citing “two former traders during a one-month period in early 2007.”

“The settlement makes no finding that JPMorgan Chase management had any knowledge or involvement in the conduct at issue, or that the traders’ actions had any impact on the firm’s LIBOR submissions or the published LIBOR rates. JPMorgan Chase has cooperated fully with the European Commission throughout its investigation and does not believe that the firm engaged in wrongdoing with respect to the EURIBOR benchmark. The company intends to defend itself fully.”

What we know now that we didn’t know in June 2012 was that the banks acted in concert. They didn’t compete on rates, they put their heads together and figured out a way to make even more money by jiggering them. Maybe you’ve read the emails where the traders promise each other crates of champagne if they help each other out. Which is something else that makes it difficult to believe in those “two former traders during a one-month period in early 2007.” The banks are all bonus-driven, and maybe the best way to survive is not to let your boss know what you’re doing. Results are what matter. JP Morgan and the others have cleaned house, and those two rogues won’t be heard from again.

Welcome to the world of the international cartels. The banks now work together to raise interest rates on everybody across the globe. The compliance officer at UBS saved his bank a €2.5bn by blowing the whistle on the yen scam. Maybe bankers only object when the numbers go over a billion.

Almunia said there is more to come. “This will not be the end of the story.” The EU is investigating the firms that refused to settle with the EC over the EURIBOR and yen LIBOR charges, and is taking a look at possible shenanigans in the FOREX market. Regulators in other countries are hard at work as well.

But that’s the problem. We’ve been stuck at the beginning for a while now: the banks find a new way to transgress, they make a bundle, investigators announce fines a few years later, somebody walks the plank and on we go to the next round.

The fines are big but they won’t hurt the banks too much. Nobody’s going out of business. They’ve got Quantitative Easing to thank for that. It’s a nice little program that helps out when the banks get tight.

You get knocked around on the market these days but there’s always a government somewhere to help you out. Even the moderate Socialist “enemy of finance” French government. Whenever Dexia in Belgium gets in a tight spot, François Hollande sends somebody over with a few billion to stop the bleeding. Too much old French money there to take any chances.

Bob Diamond’s long gone. He at least lost his job. Nobody remembers him. Where’d he go with all his millions? Who cares? There’s another millionaire to take his place, saying the same things about how it was all done by subordinates and he had no knowledge. Nobody knows what’s going on at the banks, the traders and compliance officers are running wild. Then one or two of them get caught, there’s an investigation, the bank shells out, somebody leaves and somebody else takes his place and life goes on, right over the waterfall until we all get soaked. Where’s Bob Diamond these days? In some nice paradise where he’s laughing his head off. What’s that to any of us?

J Iddhis Bing
Paris

May 122012
 

* POLICE INTIMIDATING NATO / OCCUPY PROTESTERS IN CHICAGO

Source: youtube

This video shows Chicago Police intimidating and threatening physical violence against protestors arriving in Chicago on May 9th, 2012

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TudIyxxAboA

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* CHICAGO POLICE BULK UP WITH $1M IN RIOT GEAR FOR ‘PEACEFUL’ NATO SUMMIT PROTEST

Police to employ use of controversial equipment ahead of planned action by a coalition of anti-war and Occupy groups 

By Adam Gabbatt, Guardian UK

Police in Chicago have spent $1m on riot-control equipment in the last few months ahead of next month’s Nato summit, which is expected to attract thousands of anti-war protesters.

Protesters from a coalition of organisations including unions, anti-war and Occupy groups are expected to descend on the city. National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the US, is providing free buses to Chicago for activists from across the country even as its own plans to demonstrate were vetoed by the city of Chicago on Tuesday.

While protesters insist demonstrations during the Nato conference – the main action is planned for Sunday 20 May – will be peaceful, police appear to be leaving nothing to chance. Records show that since it was announced the Nato conference would be held in Chicago, police have purchased improved riot gear for both officers and horses. Officers are also preparing to use the controversial long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, during the operation. […]

Footage of LRAD used at the G20 in Pittsburgh summit in 2009:

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/11/nato-protests-chicago-police-riot-gear

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* CHICAGO POLICE PREPARE FOR NATO SUMMIT WITH RIOT GEAR, SOUND CANNON

By Richard Rozoff, StopNATO

Chicago police prepare for NATO Summit with riot gear and sound cannon

Tens of thousands of demonstrators will descend on Chicago, Illinois this month to protest the annual conference of NATO nations, and police are preparing with the help of one million dollars’ worth of weapons and riot gear.

Chicago’s law enforcement agencies have invested as much as $1 million on riot-control equipment, including at least one long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, and upgrades to shields that will be worn by the police, reports the UK’s guardian

Demonstrators and organizers alike have both described the plans for marches and rallies against the NATO Summit later this month as being peaceful in nature. Law enforcement wants to make sure that they keep the events non-violent, though, and will aim to do so with a major new arsenal of riot gear.

The LRAD, a sound cannon-like device that has been linked to causing permanent hearing loss, is being touted by the Chicago Police Department as a necessity for public safety. […]

READ @ http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/chicago-police-prepare-for-nato-summit-with-riot-gear-sound-cannon/

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* NEWLY-RELEASED VIDEO SHOWS WALKER’S ‘DIVIDE AND CONQUER’ STRATEGY AGAINST LABOR

By Eric Kleefeld, TPM

A newly released video in Wisconsin could potentially have profound effects on the state’s recall election: Republican Gov. Scott Walker shown telling a wealthy supporter in January 2011 — before he introduced his legislation to roll back collective bargaining for public employees — that it was part of a “divide and conquer” strategy to take down organized labor, and potentially turn Wisconsin into a right-to-work state.  […]

[…] A month after that video was shot, of course, Walker introduced his legislation to curtail public employee unions, as part of a budget adjustment bill — setting off a wave of massive protests at the state Capitol and all across Wisconsin, followed by last year’s state legislative recalls, and finally the ongoing recall of Walker himself, his lieutenant governor, and four state senators.

Walker has denied allegations that he would make Wisconsin a right-to-work state — for example, this past January his office reiterated to the Journal Sentinel that Walker would not be introducing such legislation. […]

READ and VIDEO @ http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/05/newly-released-video-shows-walkers-divide-and-conquer-strategy-against-labor.php?ref=fpa

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* LOBBYIST ARRANGED N.Y. CONGRESSMAN’S $20,000. TRIP TO TAIWAN

By Justin Elliot, ProPublica

Two days after Christmas last year, Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., and his wife, Jane, boarded a first-class flight to Taiwan for a four-day tour of the island. Owens and his wife roomed at $500-a-night luxury hotels and enjoyed fine meals between meetings with Taiwanese officials and a day trip to Taipei’s famed National Palace Museum.

The Chinese Culture University in Taiwan had ostensibly invited the congressman and his wife “to promote international cultural exchange.” In fact, lobbyists for Taiwan’s government had organized the trip. Congressional ethics rules prohibit members from participating in most trips arranged by lobbyists.

Although Owens filed a travel disclosure with the House Ethics Committee that identifies the trip’s sponsor as the Culture University, email messages and other documents reviewed by ProPublica show that lobbyists from the New York firm Park Strategies, founded by former New York Sen. Al D’Amato, had invited Owens on the trip and spent four months organizing it.

A rule passed by Congress after the Jack Abramoff scandal states: “Member and staff participation in officially-connected travel that is in any way planned, organized, requested, or arranged by a lobbyist is prohibited.”

Besides D’Amato, others involved in arranging the trip included two executives at his firm, John Zagame and Sean King, son of Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. The Park Strategies lobbyists are registered foreign agents for the government of Taiwan.[…]

READ @ http://www.propublica.org/article/lobbyists-arranged-n.y.-congressmans-20000-trip-to-taiwan

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* FACEBOOK CO-FOUNDER SVERIN GIVES UP U.S. CITIZENSHIP BEFORE IPO

Source: Bloomberg

[…] Saverin, 30, joins a growing number of people giving up U.S. citizenship, a move that can trim their tax liabilities in that country. The Brazilian-born resident of Singapore is one of several people who helped Mark Zuckerberg start Facebook in a Harvard University dorm and stand to reap billions of dollars after the world’s largest social network holds its IPO.

“Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” said Tom Goodman, a spokesman for Saverin, in an e-mailed statement.

Saverin’s name is on a list of people who chose to renounce citizenship as of April 30, published by the Internal Revenue Service. Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship “around September” of last year, according to his spokesman.

Singapore doesn’t have a capital gains tax. It does tax income earned in that nation, as well as “certain foreign- sourced income,” according to a government website on tax policies there. […]

READ @ http://finance.yahoo.com/news/facebook-co-founder-saverin-gives-up-u-s–citizenship-before-ipo.html

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* BILL BLACK: NEW YORK TIMES REPORTERS EMBRACE THE BERLIN CONSENSUS AND IGNORE KRUGMAN AND ECONOMICS

Recurrent failure is the IMF’s specialty. Failure, therefore, has never led the IMF to change its insistence one size fits all financial suicide pact.

By Bill Black, Naked Capitalism

The New York Times’ coverage of the euro zone crisis continues to exhibit two related flaws. First, it is overwhelmingly written from the German perspective – the Berlinmag-glass_10x10.gif Consensus that is driving the crisis. Second, it continues to ignore economics. Paul Krugman, the NYT’s Nobel Laureate in economics, has been explaining the economics of the crisis for years in his weekly NYT column. We know that Berlin either doesn’t read or comprehend what Krugman has been trying to explain, but it is remarkable that so many of the NYT reporters covering the euro zone crisis share their failure to read or comprehend.

A recent example of this pattern is the May 8, 2012 article “German Patience with Greece on the Euro Wears Thin.”

The introductory paragraph establishes that the frame for the article is Berlin’s destructive and warped view of the euro zone crisis.

BERLIN — Just weeks ago, the idea that Greece would leave the euro zone was almost unthinkable. Now, with Greece’s newly empowered political parties refusing to abide by the terms of the country’s international loan agreement and Europe’s leaders talking tough, that outcome is looking increasingly likely.

We should begin with the title of the article. Germany has insisted that Greece follow austerity policies (the Berlin Consensus) that were certain to force Greece into depression. The Berlin Consensus has forced Greece into a depression. The German reaction to the economicmag-glass_10x10.gif catastrophe that it has forced on the Greek people is to be enraged that the Greek people in the recent election rebelled against their leaders who had given in to the German demands that the Greeks be forced into a depression. Greek patience with Germany’s destructive policies, its assaults on Greek sovereignty, and its constant, vitriolic insults of the Greek people has more than worn “thin.”

The Greeks are responding to the failed Berlin Consensus in a manner similar to Latin America’s revolt against the Washington Consensus. The Greek reaction, therefore, was not “almost unthinkable” – it was the typical response of a nation whose leaders caved in to a neoliberal assault on their economy and sovereignty. The NYT reporters get their analytics wrong because they studiously ignore the Greek perspective and refuse to even entertain the question of why anyone would expect a nation to accept being forced by a hostile foreign power into a great depression. As I have argued, the “Occupy” movement in the U.S. should stand in awe of Germany’s reoccupation of Greece. The Greeks have a bitter history of Greek quislings aiding Germany’s World War II occupation, so their rage at their recent leaders’ surrender to German demands is understandably intense.

The Greek reaction would be understandable if the NYT reporters bothered to consider the Greek perspective. Unfortunately, the reporters’ adoption of the German perspective leads them to emulate Berlin’s refusal to consider the Greek perspective. Instead, the reporters’ adopt the German framing of the issue. That framing is that the Greeks are inexplicably “refusing to abide by the terms of the country’s international loan agreement.” The idea that the Greek people should continue to take the Berlin elevator that has plunged their nation into a great depression because their disgraced leaders were coerced into agreeing to a deal that is destroying their nation is insane. Democracy is all about throwing out leaders who have disgraced themselves, crushed the nation’s economy, and cravenly taken orders from a hostile foreign power. The Greeks have done just that. Why would anyone expect the Greeks to continue to follow a suicidal economic policy imposed by Germany? Berlin and the NYT reporters share the bizarre belief that if your coerced leaders sign a suicide pact you have a duty to commit suicide because – a deal is a deal. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/bill-black-new-york-times-reporters-embrace-the-berlin-consensus-and-ignore-krugman-and-economics.html

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* IMPERFECT, OVERREACHING, BONUS-DRIVEN BANKERS

By Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture

The disclosure by once future Treasury Secretary and current JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon of a sudden and previously undisclosed $2 billion dollar derivative loss should be a wake up call. It unwittingly reveals much about the present state of finance:

• The inherent tension between traders using leveraged risk with Other People’s Money in the pursuit of enormous bonuses is still weighed heavily towards excess risk taking;

• There is no bank in the United States that has demonstrated the ability to manage proprietary trading risks — if they use derivatives and/or leverage;

• It took less than 3 years after the financial crisis peaked for traders to engage in the same sorts of highly leveraged reckless speculative bets that helped crash the economy last time. Imagine the sorts of risks these mis-incentivized desks will be doing when the memories of the crisis fade 10 years after. […]

[…] The solution to this risk is very very simple: The USA should reinstate Glass Steagall, and repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization  Act. […]

READ @ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/05/imperfect-bankers/

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* JAMIE’S CRYIN; DIMON, J.P. MORGAN CHASE LOSE $2 BILLION

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

A quick note on the disastrous news emanating from J.P. Morgan Chase, whose unflappable (well, unflappable until yesterday) CEO Jamie Dimon yesterday disclosed that the bank suffered $2 billion in trading losses this quarter.

Here’s the summation from the New York Times:

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan, blamed “errors, sloppiness and bad judgment” for the loss, which stemmed from a hedging strategy that backfired.

The trading in that hedge roiled markets a month ago, when rumors started circulating of a JPMorgan trader in London whose bets were so big that he was nicknamed “the London Whale” and “Voldemort,” after the Harry Potter villain. […]

[…] If you’re wondering why you should care if some idiot trader (who apparently has been making $100 million a year at Chase, a company that has been the recipient of at least $390 billion in emergency Fed loans) loses $2 billion for Jamie Dimon, here’s why: because J.P. Morgan Chase is a federally-insured depository institution that has been and will continue to be the recipient of massive amounts of public assistance. If the bank fails, someone will reach into your pocket to pay for the cleanup. So when they gamble like drunken sailors, it’s everyone’s problem. […]

READ @ http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/jamies-cryin-dimon-j-p-morgan-chase-lose-2-billion-20120511

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* JP MORGAN DEBACLE REVEALS FATAL FLAW IN FEDERAL RESERVE THINKING

By Simon Johnson, The Baseline Scenario

[…] The lessons from JP Morgan’s losses are simple.  Such banks have become too large and complex for management to control what is going on.  The breakdown in internal governance is profound.  The breakdown in external corporate governance is also complete — in any other industry, when faced with large losses incurred in such a haphazard way and under his direct personal supervision, the CEO would resign.  No doubt Jamie Dimon will remain in place.

And the regulators also have no idea about what is going on.  Attempts to oversee these banks in a sophisticated and nuanced way are not working.

The SAFE Banking Act, re-introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown on Wednesday, exactly hits the nail on the head.  The discussion he instigated at the Senate Banking Committee hearing on Wednesday can only be described as prescient.  Thought leaders such as Sheila Bair, Richard Fisher, and Tom Hoenig have been right all along about “too big to fail” banks (see my piece from the NYT.com on Thursday on SAFE and the growing consensus behind it).

The Financial Services Roundtable, in contrast, is spouting nonsense – they can only feel deeply embarrassed today.  Continued opposition to the Volcker Rule invites ridicule.  It is immaterial whether or not this particular set of trades by JP Morgan is classified as “proprietary”; all megabanks should be presumed incapable of managing their risks appropriately. […]

READ @ http://baselinescenario.com/2012/05/11/jp-morgan-debacle-reveals-fatal-flaw-in-federal-reserve-thinking/

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* SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH?

By Peter Crawford, Economy in Crisis

Peter Crawford reveals some of the exemptions and loopholes that America’s wealthiest citizens use to pay next to nothing in taxes.

VIDEO @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig8DyAwfhdE