Tag Archives: too big to fail

Timeline For “Bail-In” Of G20 Banking System

14 Jul

This-Is-What-It-Feels-Like-To-Have-Your-Life-Savings-Confiscated-By-The-Global-Elite

How did it happen?

How did we come to a place where an unknown, unelected body of bankers and bureaucrats — chaired since its inception by former Goldman Sachs men — has duped the G20 heads of government into endorsing a scheme to “bail-in” the insolvent private sector banking system by stealing the savings of taxpayers?

Financial Stability Board: Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions, October 2011 (click to enlarge)

Financial Stability Board: Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions, October 2011 (click to enlarge)

How did we come to a place where the European Union, the UK, the USA, Canada, and now Australia and New Zealand, have all begun implementing a new regime for “addressing the problem” of “moral hazard” associated with government bail outs for “too-big-to-fail” financial firms — supposedly “without exposing the taxpayer to the risk of loss” — by stealing the savings of taxpayers?

FSB – G-SIFI, Nov 4, 2011 (click to enlarge)

FSB – G-SIFI, Nov 4, 2011 (click to enlarge)

Here is the timeline to date (click the links to verify original sources):

FEBRUARY, 1999 – Following recommendations by then President of the Deutsche Bundesbank (German central bank) and later the Vice-Chairman (2003-present) of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Hans Tietmeyer, G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors endorse the creation of a new body, the Financial Stability Forum (FSF). It is funded by the BIS, and based in Basel, Switzerland.

Former Goldman Sachs vice chairman and managing director, and now President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, is appointed the first chairman of the FSF. Its stated purpose is to promote stability in the international financial system“:

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30 MAY, 2006Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs from 1999-2006, Henry “Hank” Paulson, appointed Secretary of the Treasury by George W. Bush. During his tenure at Goldman, it became a major player in the creation and sale of collateralised debt obligations (CDO’s), including subprime mortgage-backed securities ($135 billion from 2001-2007). A tax loophole introduced under former President George HW Bush enables Paulson to meet the conflict of interest preconditions for assuming a government position, by “divesting” most of his $700 million fortune in Goldman Sachs’ stock, tax-free.

During Paulson’s first 15 months as Secretary of the Treasury, Goldman Sachs sells $30 billion in toxic mortgage products to pension funds, foreign banks and other investors (including a 59% increase in 2006), and makes billions betting against its own products. In 2006 and 2007, as the housing bubble bursts, Goldman distributes $22.3 billion in year-end profit-sharing rewards to its 31,000 employees and $112 million in bonuses to Paulson’s successor, Lloyd Blankfein.

15 SEPTEMBER, 2008Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy; credit crunch; stockmarket panic; Global Financial Crisis:

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21 SEPTEMBER, 2008 – On a Sunday, Goldman Sachs is authorised to change its investment bank status, and becomes a traditional bank holding company, thus making it eligible for bailout funds.

26 SEPTEMBER, 2008 – French President Nicholas Sarkozy says “we must rethink the financial system from scratch”.

29 SEPTEMBER, 2008 – USA’s House of Representatives rejects the $700 billion Wall Street bank bailout bill promoted by Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson. Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) index plummets 777 points:

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1 OCTOBER, 2008 – US House of Representatives agrees to “bail out” Wall Street’s too-big-to-fail (TBTF) banks, passing amended Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, including the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) enabling the government to purchase up to $700 billion in “toxic assets” such as mortgage-backed securities (derivatives) from private sector banks. Despite being a prime cause of the subprime meltdown, Goldman Sachs is the largest individual recipient of public funds ($12.9 billion) from the bailout of insurance giant, AIG, makes $2.9 billion from “proprietary trades” on its own AIG account, and receives a further $10 billion directly from the US Treasury as an “investment” in preferred stock:

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7 OCTOBER, 2008 – World Bank President Robert Zoellick calls for “a new multilateral network for a new global economy”, says that “We will not create a new world simply by remaking the old”.

13 OCTOBER, 2008 – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says “We must create a new international financial architecture for the global age”, and that “We are proposing a world leaders’ meeting in which we must agree the principles and policies for restructuring the financial system across the globe”.

15 NOVEMBER, 2008 – First ever summit meeting for heads of government of the Group of Twenty (previously, a G20 summit of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held since 1999). Titled the “Leaders Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy”, the Washington Summit agrees on an “Action Plan” for financial market reform. It includes an expansion of the Financial Stability Forum to include emerging countries such as China:

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2 APRIL, 2009 – G20 London Summit Declaration on Strengthening the Financial System gives the freshly renamed Financial Stability Board (FSB) a “broadened mandate” and “enhanced capacity”:

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8 NOVEMBER, 2010 – FSB report to the G20 Progress since the Washington Summit on the Implementation of the G20 Recommendations for Strengthening Financial Stability states that “Good progress has been made in defining a policy framework to address the moral hazard risks posed by systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs)”, and that “The FSB is submitting to the G20 Seoul Summit a set of recommendations and timelines for implementation of this framework”:

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Within the “recommendations”, for the first time the spectre of “bail-in” of banks is formally (though blink-and-you-miss-it briefly) mentioned —

“…higher loss absorbency could be drawn from a menu of viable alternatives and could be achieved by a combination of capital surcharges, contingent capital and bail-in debt:

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11-12 NOVEMBER, 2010 – G20 Seoul Summit endorses “the policy framework, work processes and timelines proposed by the FSB to reduce the moral hazard risks posed by systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs) and address the too-big-to-fail problem”, “without… exposing the taxpayers to the risk of loss”:

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4 NOVEMBER, 2011 – Former Goldman Sachs co-head of sovereign risk and managing director of investment banking, chairman of the Bank for International Settlements’ Committee on the Global Financial System, and Governor of the central Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, is appointed the new chairman of the Financial Stability Board. He replaces fellow Goldman Sachs alumnus and current European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi.

4 NOVEMBER, 2011 – FSB states that “the development of the critical policy measures that form the parts of this framework has now been completed. Implementation of these measures will begin from 2012:

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The FSB’s Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions expressly identifies “bail-in” of banks as one of the “powers” that must be given to a single “Resolution authority” for each nation (G20) or jurisdiction (EU):

Financial Stability Board: Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions, October 2011 (click to enlarge)

Financial Stability Board: Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions, October 2011 (click to enlarge)

In the preamble, it is stated that one of the objectives is to make it possible for “unsecured and uninsured creditors to absorb losses”:

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Each nation or jurisdiction is required to set up a “Resolution authority”, which is to be “responsible for exercising the resolution powers over firms…”:

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The Resolution authority is to be given power to “transfer or sell assets and liabilities, legal rights and obligations, including deposit liabilities and ownership in shares, to a solvent third party,”without consent:

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Key Attribute 3.3 clearly states that any transfer of a bank’s assets or liabilities (ie, deposits) by the Resolution authority “should not require the consent of any interested party or creditor to be valid”, and, that any such action will not be deemed a “default” of the bank’s legal obligations –

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25 JUNE, 2012 – Government of Cyprus requests bailout from the EU, due to losses in its banking system associated with the Greek debt crisis.

10 DECEMBER, 2012 – A joint paper by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (USA) and the Bank of England (UK) titled Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions states that “the authorities in the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (U.K.) have been working together to develop resolution strategies that could be applied to their largest financial institutions”:

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FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important,
Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

It further identifies that “This work has taken place in connection with the implementation of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions”:

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important,
Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

The paper explains that its focus is “the application of ‘top-down’ resolution strategies that involve a single resolution authority applying its powers to the top of a financial group”, and how such a strategy could be implemented “for a U.S. or a U.K. financial group in a cross-border context”:

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important,
Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

With regard to the USA, it explains that “the strategy has been developed in the context of the powers provided by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, and that such a strategy would “assign losses to shareholders and unsecured creditors (meaning, bank depositors):

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With regard to the UK, it explains that “the strategy has been developed on the basis of the powers provided by the U.K. Banking Act 2009 and in anticipation of the further powers that will be provided by the European Union Recovery and Resolution Directive, and that the strategy would “involve the bail-in (write-down or conversion) of creditors at the top of the group in order to restore the whole group to solvency”:

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

FDIC and BoE: Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important,
Financial Institutions, December 2012 (click to enlarge)

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The paper expressly identifies the origin of the “framework” for the bail-in strategy as being the FSB —

“It should be stressed that the application of such a strategy can be achieved only within a legislative framework that provides authorities with key resolution powers. The FSB Key Attributes have established a crucial framework for the implementation of an effective set of resolution powers and practices into national regimes”:

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14 MARCH, 2013Reserve Bank of New Zealand releases draft Open Bank Resolution policy, which includes “bail-in” for failing banks using depositors’ money.

16 MARCH, 2013 – Cypriot Government agrees to EU-imposed conditions for receiving bail out funds, terms which include “bail-in” of Cypriot banks using depositors’ savings.

Cyprus is widely seen as a template for similar actions throughout the EU and the world. Forbes magazine states that “A new strategy has been unveiled around the world, with the first test run in Cyprus. Despite early denials, the ‘bail-in’ strategy for insolvent banks has already become official policy throughout Europe and internationally as well.”

21 MARCH, 2013 – Canadian Government’s Economic Action Plan 2013 states that “The Government proposes to implement a ‘bail-in’ regime for systemically important banks”, aimed at recapitalising failing banks by “the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital”. It further states that “This will reduce risks for taxpayers”:

Canada Budget 2013 Economic Action Plan, March 21, 2013, page 145 (click to enlarge)

Canada Budget 2013 Economic Action Plan, March 21, 2013, page 145 (click to enlarge)

14 MAY, 2013 – Australian Government Budget 2013-14 Portfolio Budget Statement for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority identifies implementation of the FSB-directed bank bail-in regime as a key strategic objective for 2013-14 —

“consolidate the prudential framework by enhancing prudential standards where appropriate, in line with the global reform initiatives endorsed by the G20 and overseen by the Financial Stability Board:

page 134, Portfolio Budget Statements, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Government Budget 2013-14, 14 May 2013 (click to enlarge)

page 134, Portfolio Budget Statements, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Government Budget 2013-14, 14 May 2013 (click to enlarge)

20 MAY, 2013 – The European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee issues a press release stating that “The case in Cyprus showed how important it is to have clear procedures for making shareholders, bondholders and ultimately depositors foot the bill”.

Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker says that draft EU bank rescue laws would be a milestone towards “a global system”.

JUNE, 2013 – Reserve Bank of New Zealand releases its Open Bank Resolution (OBR) Pre-positioning Requirements Policy, stating that the OBR provides the flexibility to assign losses to creditors (meaning, bank depositors):

Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Open Bank Resolution (OBR) Pre-positioning Requirements Policy, June 2013 (click to enlarge)

Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Open Bank Resolution (OBR) Pre-positioning Requirements Policy, June 2013 (click to enlarge)

In Definitions, the OBR states that “‘Customer account’, ‘customer liabilities’, or ‘customer liability accounts’ are unsecured liabilities of the bank represented by a range of products such as cheques, savings and other transactional accounts and including term deposits, and that these are considered “in-scope for pre-positioning”:

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The OBR further states that “The Implementation Plan is a key part of the documented evidence that pre-positioned arrangements to quickly close the bank, freeze a portion of customers’ claims to meet potential losses, and reopen the next business day and continue banking services, are in place”:

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The first requirement for “Pre-positioning” is stated as being “That the bank can be closed promptly at any time of the day and on any day of the week, freezing in full all liabilities and preventing access by customers and counterparties to their accounts”:

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27 JUNE, 2013 – The European Union agrees on “bail-in” rules as part of the Bank Resolution and Recovery Directive.

1 JULY, 2013 – Mark Carney appointed to a second term as chairman of the FSB; also becomes Governor of the Bank of England.

3 JULY 2013 – The Financial Times warns that the EU’s newly agreed ‘Bank Resolution and Recovery Directive’ “swings Europe from one extreme – a system laden with implicit government guarantees that protected bank creditors from bearing losses – to the other”, and “risks old-style bank runs”.

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To be continued…

Observant readers will note that the G20 heads of government endorsed the FSB’s “recommendations” (Seoul, Nov 2010) a full year before the FSB actually completed their “framework”, and finally documented that the power to bail-in the banks using depositors’ savings would be a requirement (“Key Attributes…”, Nov 2011). Prior to this, the only reference to the possibility of bail-in (with no mention of depositors) was one obscure, and very brief, reference in the FSB’s 2010 “Progress…” report to the G20 Seoul Summit; the report on which the G20 leaders based their decision to formally endorse, and implement, the yet-to-be-completed FSB framework —

“…higher loss absorbency could be drawn from a menu of viable alternatives and could be achieved by a combination of capital surcharges, contingent capital and bail-in debt.”

Amidst all the celebrity shoulder-rubbing, champagne, caviar, and photo ops, I wonder how many of the G20 leaders actually read the document, much less noticed that tiny part.

Or — if any of them did — if any had the first clue what it meant.

See also:

G20 Governments All Agreed To Cyprus-Style Theft Of Bank Deposits … In 2010

Australia Plans Cyprus-Style “Bail-In” Of Banks In 2013-14 Budget

But The Sheep Don’t Scatter: Banks Say “Sophisticated” Customers Have “Less Stable” Deposits

The Bank Deposits Guarantee Is No Guarantee At All

Think You’ve Got Cash In The Bank? Think Again

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G20 Governments All Agreed To Cyprus-Style Theft Of Bank Deposits … In 2010

1 Apr
FSB - G-SIFI, Nov 4, 2011 (click to enlarge)

FSB – G-SIFI, Nov 4, 2011 (click to enlarge)

November 11-12, 2010.

Armistice Day.

That is when all the major governments of the G20 first agreed to implement the new, Cyprus-style “bail-in” regime, at the direction of the internationalist Financial Stability Board under its new, GFC-enabled “broadened mandate”

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The pretext?

Financial stability, of course.

“Addressing the ‘too-big-to-fail’ problem”.

With a “new international standard”.

Specifically, “to enable authorities to resolve failing financial firms in an orderly manner without exposing the taxpayer to the risk of loss.”

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One cannot help but laugh at the Orwellian doublespeak slogans used by the architects of this new regime.

To address the problem of “systemically important” banks, “without exposing the taxpayer to the risk of loss,” our puppet politicians have agreed to confiscate … the savings of taxpayers.

Yes, today is All Fools’ Day. And no, you can’t make this $h!t up.

You may be thinking that this excerpt from an FSB press release does not prove that the G20 have specifically agreed to confiscation of bank deposits. And you would be correct.

As with all such schemes, it is not intended that the public will easily discover what has been planned. You have to wade carefully through all the verbose (and deliberately obtuse) technocrat-ese, and cross-reference the supporting documents (and their annexes), in order to discover just what our G20 attendee politicians – geniuses like “World’s Greatest Treasurer” Wayne Swan – have actually signed up to.

And to find the smoking gun.

One with the word B A I L – I N stamped clearly on its barrel.

cartoon_stickup-cyprus-bank_robbery_of_the_cypriot_people

First, in the FSB press release of 4 Nov 2011 we are told that the G20 allegedly “asked the FSB to develop a policy framework to address the systemic and moral hazard risks associated with systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs).”

Next, in Seoul 2010, “G20 leaders endorsed this framework and the timelines and processes for its implementation.”

That framework is set out in the FSB’s “Key Attributes of Effective Resolution Regimes for Financial Institutions” (pdf).

In the preamble of that document, we learn that one of the objectives is to make it possible for “unsecured and uninsured creditors to absorb losses.”  Meaning, if your savings are not covered by some form of government guarantee or federal insurance (for all that is worth) – or if, as in Australia, the government bank deposits guarantee is limited to an amount significantly less than (ie, 1/10th) the total of actual bank deposits held by the public – then your bank account can be made to “absorb losses”. And as we will see shortly, this can be done entirely without your consent –

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In the sub-points of the preamble, we see that G20 governments are expected to “have in place a recovery and resolution plan (“RRP”) … containing all elements set out in Annex III.”

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Each jurisdiction is required to set up a “Resolution authority”, which is to be “responsible for exercising the resolution powers over firms…”

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The Resolution authority’s powers are most interesting. For example, we can all applaud the idea that such an authority could (not that they actually would) “claw-back” bankers’ bonuses –

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What is of serious concern though, is its power to “transfer or sell assets and liabilities, legal rights and obligations, including deposit liabilities and ownership in shares, to a solvent third party,”without consent

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This is confirmed in Key Attribute 3.3, where it is clearly stated that any transfer of a bank’s assets or liabilities (ie, deposits) by the authority “should not require the consent of any interested party or creditor to be valid”, and, that any such action will not be deemed a “default” of the bank’s legal obligations –

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Now if you are still sceptical that all this means the G20 have specifically agreed to a new regime that might include provisions for a Cyprus-style “bail-in” using depositors’ savings, then perhaps it is because you – like me – would be looking for this exact phrase in order to be fully convinced.

Yes, it is there. 

Lucky number (ix) in the “powers” (page 7-8) of the Resolution authority that each of the G20 governments agreed to establish, back in 2010 –

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Note that not only can the Resolution authority use a “bail-in” to support “continuity of essential functions” of a failing bank; it can also do so in order to finance the setting up of a new third party or “bridge” institution, into which the failed (“non-viable”) bank’s assets or liabilities (ie, your savings) can be transferred. Not so you can get your money back, but for the purpose of “capitalising” the new institution.

At that other elite lucky number (xi), we see another power; to shut banks, suspend payments to customers (except for payments to “central counterparties”, ie, to central banks, quelle surprise), and impose a “stay” on actions by creditors (eg, deposit holders) to “collect money”

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You may have noticed that the “bail-in” power at (ix) referenced Key Attribute 3.5. There, we see that the power to carry out a bail-in “should” (how comforting) be performed “in a manner that respects the hierarchy of claims in liquidation.” This no doubt will reassure the more gullible reader that there is nothing nefarious in this plan; that it is clearly intended that the traditional hierarchy of claims in a bank insolvency would be respected

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So, what exactly is the “hierarchy of claims” under this new FSB-dictated regime? Again we have to refer to another section (Key Attribute 5.1) to find the answer.  Which does indeed appear to support the traditional hierarchy of claims. Except for this stunning caveat –

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It is worth repeating –

“Resolution powers should be exercised in a way that respects the hierarchy of claims while providing flexibility to depart from the general principle of equal (pari passu) treatment of creditors of the same class…”

Moral relativism at its finest.

This is what has happened in Cyprus. While the final details are still evolving as to exactly how much Cypriot depositors holding more, or less, than €100k will have stolen from them, what is clear is that this FSB template for bail-ins in G20 nations or “jurisdictions” (EU), is the one being followed.

What is also clear, especially in light of recent revelations that Canada has expressly identified “bail-in” procedures in their 2013 Budget, is that all Western governments have, unbeknown to their citizens and without their consent, agreed to the imposition of the same new regime for managing insolvent banks.

A regime devised, and dictated by, an unelected central body.

Feel free to check these documents for yourself, here (pdf) and here (pdf).

Are you wondering who and what is the Financial Stability Board?

According to their website:

The FSB has been established to coordinate at the international level the work of national financial authorities and international standard setting bodies and to develop and promote the implementation of effective regulatory, supervisory and other financial sector policies. It brings together national authorities responsible for financial stability in significant international financial centres, international financial institutions, sector-specific international groupings of regulators and supervisors, and committees of central bank experts.

A list of institutions represented on the FSB can be found here .

The FSB is chaired by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada. Its Secretariat is located in Basel, Switzerland, and hosted by the Bank for International Settlements.

Got that?

A kind of “super regulator”. Chaired currently by a Goldman Sachs man. With membership comprising the central bankers, treasury department heads, and prudential regulators of 24 nations, along with the IMF, World Bank, and a cavalcade of others.

Including – and “hosted by” – the central bank of central banks.

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

According to its Articles of Association, the FSB is also funded by the BIS –

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According to its updated Charter (pdf), the FSB received its original mandate from the central bankers and Finance Ministers of the G7 nations in 1999.

It then received a “broadened mandate” from the “Heads of State and Government of the Group of Twenty” at a meeting in London on April 2, 2009 –

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At the same meeting, another now-infamous Goldman Sachs alumnus and current President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, was appointed Chairman of the FSB

FSB - History (click to enlarge)

FSB – History (click to enlarge)

So… the hapless G20 heads of government, panicking in the midst of the GFC, gave the fonts of central banking wisdom at the FSB a “broadened mandate”, and “asked” them “to develop a policy framework to address the systemic and and moral hazard risks associated with systemically important financial institutions”, did they?

And under the consecutive chairmanships of Goldman Sachs men, these unelected bankers and bureaucrats – not one of whom warned of the approaching GFC – devised this “bail-in” policy for the whole of the G20, to solve the problem of Too-Big-To-Fail banks?

As the Machiavellian-minded so often say:

“Never let a good crisis go to waste”

See also:

Imagine A World With No Banks

The People’s NWO: Every Man His Own Central Banker

David Murray Shows The Greens And MSM Are Clueless. Again.

18 Apr

Former chairman of the Future Fund, David Murray, ruffled lots of establishment feathers during his tenure, particularly for his scathing criticism of the Warmageddonist movement.

Now, he has shown up the Greens – and, the entire lamestream economics and political media contingent – with his astute comments about the real reason why the government must balance the nation’s books.

From the Australian (emphasis added):

FORMER Future Fund chairman David Murray has accused the Greens of making “ill-advised” demands on the federal budget, declaring the priority should be to protect the government’s credit rating as the global financial system remains under strain

Mr Murray, former chairman of the nation’s $73 billion sovereign wealth fund and a former Commonwealth Bank chief executive, said he was concerned about the Greens’ suggestions that curbing government spending was not important, given the woes in the global economy and the size of the blow-out in the budget at the peak of the global financial crisis.

“What’s at risk here is that with very significant offshore borrowings and a shaky world for raising capital, if the commonwealth in particular can’t hold its ratings, that will affect the ratings of the banks, that will affect the cost of debt, and it also means that the commonwealth is not there in the same measure as a backstop if things go wrong again and the banking system can’t fund itself offshore,” Mr Murray told The Australian.

That’s the higher risk that has to be managed at the moment. We don’t control what happens in the rest of the world. You need the commonwealth rating as a backstop because of what’s going on elsewhere in the world. You can’t put that at risk. To do that you have to achieve a budget that is cash-neutral at least, so that the debt stabilises and within that cash neutral position you can pay interest.”

Exactly right.

As we have seen here at barnabyisright.com for many months now, the government (and the economy) are now trapped by the errors and abject stupidity of the past.

The credit ratings agencies have put our government on notice that the credit rating of the government – and more importantly, of the banking system – is contingent on the government showing a credible path back to balanced budgets. Why? Because in the GFC, the government explicitly and implicitly guaranteed our hugely overleveraged, foreign-debt dependent, housing market exposed banking system, using the sovereign balance sheet.  If the government can not promptly curb its ever-rising debt and deficits, then the government guarantee propping up the banks will lose credibility.

On the other hand, if the government does attempt to achieve an actual surplus in 2012-13, and not just a forecast for one on May 8th, that spells disaster for the economy too.

How so?

See for yourself – Labor’s Inbred, Debt-Fed Chickens Coming Home To Roost.

We are Ireland Mk 2.

Our “Lehman Moment” Near – S&P Downgrades Banks

4 Dec

Just four days ago, your humble blogger noted that our mainstream news media, financial commentariat, and blogosphere, have (again) overlooked the key issue, in their reporting of Treasurer Swan’s MYEFO budget update.

Once again, they have all overlooked the critical economic risk; the joined-at-the-hip relationship between our Big Four banks, and our government’s financial position, as perceived by the major credit ratings agencies.

To wit, back in May this year Moody’s Ratings agency essentially declared our Big Four banks are Too Big To Fail. And in downgrading the Big Four’s credit ratings, Moody’s tacitly warned the government that it must maintain the implicit and explicit government (taxpayer) guarantees propping up the Big Four, else Moody’s will cut their ratings by another 2 notches.

By inference, this means that Moody’s was also warning the government that it must achieve and maintain a pristine government sector balance sheet, in order to support the plausibility of its guarantees for our Ponzi banking system.

If the government cannot reverse the direction of its ever-rising debt trajectory, and demonstrate a plausible path back to achieving an annual budget surplus (in order to start paying off the gross debt), at some point in the not-too-distant future their failure to manage the debt will be taken as a sign that our government’s guarantees of our banking system are less than reliable.

Wayne’s (unreported) MYEFO prediction of a 57% blowout in net public debt this year alone, will only hasten the arrival of that day.

As will his blowing through our third increased debt ceiling in just 3 years, by around mid-2012.

Commonwealth Government Securities On Issue | Source: Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM)

Inevitably, our banks will have their credit ratings cut further.

They will find it increasingly difficult to attract funding from international money markets, upon whom the banks are dependent for around 40% of their wholesale funding. (Indeed, as we saw on Wednesday, the yield spread on Aussie banks’ bonds compared to non-financial Aussie corporate bonds, has just hit an all-time high).

Funding costs for the banks will rise.

Interest rates for Australian borrowers debt slaves will rise. (Or at the very least, RBA interest rate cuts will not be passed on).

Availability of loans to businesses will fall even further, choking the economy.

Unemployment will rise.

Bad loans (defaults) will increase.

Our housing bubble’s gentle 10-month price deflation, will accelerate.

Our economy will crash.

Our banks will collapse like the Ponzi house of cards that they are.

And the all-time record debt-soaked government taxpayer …

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… will be obliged to bail out the banks, as per the Government Guarantees.

Now, we have a further red flag that my Missing The Key Economic Point For Dummies blog was right.

From The Australian (emphasis added):

Australia’s major banks are confident the first ratings downgrade by Standard & Poor’s in two decades will not have a major impact on their funding costs, despite the ongoing volatility created by the European sovereign debt crisis.

The share prices of the major banks — Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank — rose by 1.5-2 per cent, despite the one-notch ratings downgrade from AA to AA- as the overall market rose 1.4 per cent for a sparkling weekly gain of 7.6 per cent…

… The banks’ ratings were last cut in the early 1990s as the Australian economy struggled with recession.

S&P defended the ratings downgrades, which it attributed to Australian banks’ heavy reliance on wholesale funding markets.

And from ABC News (emphasis added):

BBY banking analyst Brett Le Messurier says the downgrade is not too serious but could lead to higher borrowing costs in the long term.

Mr Le Messurier says the big four banks still have plenty of liquidity to help them “ride out the current turmoil in Europe for some time”.

“In and of itself it doesn’t matter that much, but if another one follows then they get into the “A” category,” Mr Le Messurier said.

“And that is going to lead to increased wholesale funding costs over and above what’s resulted from the current European crisis and therefore that will ultimately feed through to consumers.”

And from the Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):

When it comes to Australia’s banks, don’t listen to the spin.

Late last night, Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on all of the big 4 — Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and National Australia Bank — warning about rising costs and a continued increase in wholesale funding costs. Given Australia’s banks predominantly fund themselves offshore, the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis has raised concerns about the contagion possibilities…

… The moves come about six months after Moody’s did almost exactly the same thing and predictably, just like then, each of the banks have come out today to defend their balance sheets and businesses.

But while ratings agencies certainly don’t carry the clout they used to, make no mistake, there are a stream of issues for Australia’s banks.

For one, a credit facility from the Reserve Bank of Australia, or RBA, established to help banks satisfy new global banking rules, known as Basel III, are certain to lower each of the banks’ risk-taking possibilities and profits.

But actions speak louder than words and when the RBA cut its key cash rate a month ago, NAB refused to pass on the favor in full. If Europe gets worse, and the RBA cuts a few more times, all those banks that today are talking about their strong balance sheets will change their refrain when they decide to hold back on passing those cuts on.

The NZ Herald’s Liam Dann debunks the spin, and explains why the banks’ attempt to downplay the ratings cuts masks an important truth (emphasis added):

You can say all you like about yesterday’s banking downgrade being “anticipated”, “reflecting methodology changes” and not “impacting on consumers” – but down is still down. It’s the wrong direction.

So despite the spin suggesting this is no big deal, the big Australasian banks should hopefully be paying close attention to the Standard & Poors review which saw their ratings cut from AA to AA-…

… taking a step back from the technical stuff, it’s important to recognise that this methodology change is not some just arbitrary fiddling with numbers.

It’s grounded in the very real increase in risk to lenders that has occurred since the global financial crisis struck.

The changes stem from the failure of the ratings agencies to identify that crisis in 2007 and 2008.

So, in some respects, this downgrade represents the credit agencies doing their job properly – finally.

The big shift in the way S&P now looks at banking risk is that it has weighted its focus away from the cyclical ups and downs which are reflected in an institution’s quarterly financial performance and towards the underlying structural risks of a region’s banking sector.

So now, S&P is analysing first the structural risks in the Australasian banking system as a starting point, and then assessing the relative position of each bank’s performance within that context.

And finally, from Ireland’s The Journal (emphasis added):

S&P said the decision was based on the cost posed by sourcing cash from overseas markets and the country’s foreign debt.

Following the crash of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which S&P failed to foresee, the agency revised its rating criteria – and it is in the context of these new considerations that the banks were downgraded, reports The Australian.

Meanwhile, rival rating agency Moody’s said it would keep the banks on their AA rating and retain their outlook as positive.

Experts have warned that a continuing European debt crisis could expose the banks to a further downgrade.

As noted in Wednesday’s blog, our Net Foreign Debt is yet another key factor that our politicians (on both “sides”) and lapdog media studiously avoid focussing any attention on. Why? According to the latest RBA data, our Net Foreign Debt at June 2011 was a whopping $675 billion. More than 50% of GDP. So naturally, noone in positions of power want to mention it, even though it is a very serious structural problem, and one that is now fundamental to triggering negative consequences such as this S&P rating downgrade.

Break out the popcorn folks.

It has begun.

As usual … Barnaby is right:

“If you do not manage debt, debt manages you” – Feb 2010

Missing The Key Economic Point, For Dummies

30 Nov

It is rather bemusing to browse around the economic commentaries on Wayne’s MYEFO (Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) announced yesterday. In particular, the commentaries from those with a leftist bent.

By and large, from these folk we hear the same refrain as that parrotted on down the line from Treasury via their talking head (Wayne Swan). To wit, “strongest economy in the developed world”, “envy of the developed world”, “lower debt-to-GDP than other advanced economies”, “nothing to see here, move along folks”.

Here’s some good examples that caught my eye:

Secondly, let’s tackle the Opposition canard – gleefully recycled by some media outlets – that somehow we are drowning in debt. It doesn’t take much – like five minutes on the Internet – to show that total government liabilities at around around 22 per cent of GDP are the lowest in the OECD and compare extremely favourably to just about every other developed economy.

It appears rather obvious from The Failed Estate’s analysis, that he did indeed spend “like 5 minutes on the internet” researching his momentous piece of groupthink.

And then there was New Matilda’s Ben Eltham. See if you can spot the drive-a-truck-through-it hole in his effusion (hint, emphasis added):

Step back from all the sound and fury about budget surpluses and the European debt crisis for a moment, and have an unbiased look at the latest Treasury figures on the health of Australia’s economy.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 5.5 per cent next year, and remain at the level into 2013. Inflation will be 3.25 per cent. Wages will grow at 4 per cent. Consumer spending will grow at 3 per cent, and the economy as a whole at 3.25 per cent.

These are figures that would make finance ministers in Europe weep. The Australian economy is growing. We’re adding jobs and keeping unemployment low, consumers are still spending, and inflation is modest. And yes, the budget will return to surplus.

Note to Mr Eltham: These are “estimates” and “projections”. Not outcomes. “Expected” does not equal “will”.

Indeed, as regular readers know, both the budget and MYEFO are all about “estimates” and “projections”.  And the Treasury department has a sterling record of abject failure when it comes to getting within a bulls roar of accurately predicting the final budget outcomes. Indeed, in less than 6 months, their “truly extraordinary” growth forecasts underpinning the May 2011 budget “estimates” and “projections”, are already shot to hell.

But our purpose today, dear reader, is not to dissect the ignorant parrotry of “leftist” journalists and bloggers.

Or “rightists”, for that matter.

Our purpose is to identify the key economic point that they are all missing.

One that even respected mainstream economic commentators like Access Economics’ Chris Richardson, here implying that it may not be wise for the government to be cutting spending at this time, have universally overlooked:

Deloitte Access Economics director Chris Richardson said the government planned to cut spending when the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) had cut its cash rate in early November.

The RBA cut the cash rate from 4.75 per cent to 4.5 per cent to provide some stimulus for a slowing economy.

“What the government is doing here is actually taking money back out again solely to get a surplus next year,” Mr Richardson told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“It is not clear that it is smart to have the Reserve Bank tipping money but the government then taking it back out when the outlook especially with Europe is somewhat fraught.”

Let’s help out Messr’s Denmore, Eltham, and Richardson, with a brief guide on how to miss the key economic point.

For dummies:

1. Focus on the Federal government public debt figure.

2. Emphasise comparison of Federal government public debt-to-GDP versus other “developed” countries, praise Labor government for comparatively “low debt-to-GDP”.

3. Downplay importance of return to balanced annual budget / budget surplus. Cite 2. as primary justification.

4. Belittle any who express concern over ever rising government debt trajectory. Cite 2. as primary justification.

Commonwealth Government Securities On Issue | Source: Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM)

5. Ignore the fact that while Federal Government public debt is “only” relatively small, our total Net Foreign Debt at June 2011 was almost $675 Billion, or over 50% of GDP (RBA Statistics, H5).

6. Ignore the fact that our banking system (thus, economy) relies on international money markets for some 40% of its “wholesale funding”.

7. Ignore the fact that in May 2011, Moody’s downgraded our Big Four banks’ credit ratings, cited their wholesale funding dependence as a key concern, and tacitly threatened the government that without the government’s explicit and implicit Guarantees propping them up, our Big Four banks would have their credit ratings slashed by at least two more ‘notches’.

8. Ignore the fact that in late June 2011, Fitch Ratings warned that Australia’s banks are amongst the most vulnerable in the world to the EU debt crisis, due to their reliance on wholesale funding from international money markets.

9. Ignore the fact that the spread on bond yields for Australia’s Big Four banks (versus non-financial institutions) have just hit record highs (from Bloomberg via SMH):

 Yields on bonds of Australian banks reached a record high relative to debt of the nation’s nonfinancial borrowers as Europe’s debt crisis threatens to freeze credit markets

Lenders including Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank Ltd., may need to sell about $144 billion of bonds in the 12 months ended June, 2012, according to a July research report from Deutsche Bank …

Trading conditions in the euro area have deteriorated this month as the region’s sovereign debt crisis deepens. Germany failed to get bids for 35 per cent of the 10-year bonds offered for sale on November 23 and traders were left seeking prices in the aftermath of a Spanish debt sale on November 17.

10. Ignore the fact that due to the very real vulnerability of our banking system, it is near-inevitable that the government will need to reinstate the Government (taxpayer) Wholesale Funding Guarantee to prop up our Too Big To Fail banks.

11. Ignore the fact that the government’s present “low” public debt comparison versus other countries is largely rendered a moot point, because the credit ratings agencies have already effectively served notice that they will have a lower tolerance for anything less than pristine government finances – and thus, a genuinely convincing case for return to surplus – due to the compulsion upon the Australian Government to (continue to) prop up a highly vulnerable banking system.

12. Blithely skip merrily through cherry-strewn intellectual fields, hand-in-hand with fellow groupthinkers, picking fruit and singing la la la la, wilfully ignoring the reality that (in the words of Senator Joyce) …

… “If you do not manage debt, debt manages you.”

Stealing Our Super – I DARE You To Ignore This Now

8 Aug

Caricature by Zeg | click to enlarge

My sincere apologies, dear reader.

I understand that you are probably a little concerned about the future for the economy right now.

If you own shares, then you are probably worried about last week’s bloodbath in global sharemarkets.

But I have a very important question to ask you.

It’s a bit of a reality check, I’m afraid.

Do you think your Superannuation “nest egg” is safe from the greedy hand of government?

If you answered “yes”, then …

I dare you.

I dare you to ignore the rest of this blog.

I dare you to ignore the fact that Senator Barnaby Joyce – the only Australian politician who foresaw and forewarned about America’s present debt nightmare – gave this warning on 5th May 2011:

In response to a question I put in Senate estimates, Treasury revealed that $64 billion of the difference between our gross debt and our net debt is made up of the cash and non-equity investments of the Future Fund. The Future Fund is there to cover the otherwise unfunded costs of public servants’ superannuation.

That is a little fact that the people of Canberra might be interested in. When Wayne mentions net debt translate that to, I am going to pay his debt off with my retirement savings.

I dare you to ignore the fact that Barnaby repeated his warning on May 13th, straight after the Budget:

Of course, the public servants will not be happy when we use their retirement savings, put aside in the Future Fund, to pay off some of Labor’s massive debt.

I dare you to ignore the fact that the US Government has been stealing federal workers pensions since May this year:

Treasury to tap pensions to help fund government

The Obama administration will begin to tap federal retiree programs to help fund operations after the government lost its ability Monday to borrow more money from the public, adding urgency to efforts in Washington to fashion a compromise over the debt…

Geithner, who has already suspended a program that helps state and local government manage their finances, will begin to borrow from retirement funds for federal workers.

I dare you to ignore the fact that the US Government has been planning to steal their private citizens’ super too, since at least February 2010:

The plan, as sketched in the 43-page document, calls for the creation of something called  “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts” (GRAs). Biden slyly shifts the onus for the idea through weasel words typical of the federal government: “Some have suggested the creation of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs), which would give workers a simple way to invest a portion of their retirement savings in an account that was free of inflation and market risk, and in some versions under discussion, would guarantee a specified real return above the rate of inflation.”

These accounts would be “free of inflation and market risk” because they would be under the direct and absolute control of the federal bureaucracy.

I dare you to ignore the fact that Argentina’s government stole their citizens’ super in October 2008:

Argentina’s center-left President Cristina Fernandez on Tuesday signed a bill for a government takeover of the $30 billion private pension system in a daring and unexpected move that rocked domestic markets.

I dare you to ignore the fact that Hungary’s government nationalised stole their citizens’ super in November last year:

Hungary is giving its citizens an ultimatum: move your private-pension fund assets to the state or lose your state pension.

Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy announced the policy yesterday, escalating a government drive to bring 3 trillion forint ($14.6 billion) of privately managed pension assets under state control to reduce the budget deficit and public debt. Workers who opt against returning to the state system stand to lose 70 percent of their pension claim.

I dare you to ignore the fact that France began stealing their citizens’ super in late 2010 as well:

France seizes €36bn of pension assets

Asset managers will have the chance to get billions of euros in mandates in the next few months for the €36bn Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR), the French reserve pension fund, after the French parliament last week passed a law to use its assets to pay off the debts of France’s welfare system.

I dare you to ignore the fact that “Europe’s economic superstar”, the one EU nation that (like Australia) came through GFC1 with positive economic growth, began stealing their citizens’ super in May this year:

It appears moving backwards on pension reforms has become the thing to do on both sides of the Atlantic.

Hungary last year moved much of its private pension assets to the state. Last month, new rules came into effect in Poland diverting 5% of the 7.3% of salary going to private pension funds to the state.

I dare you to ignore the fact that Ireland too, began stealing their citizens’ super in May this year:

Irish Bombshell: Government Raids PRIVATE Pensions To Pay For Spending

“The various tax reduction and additional expenditure measures which I am announcing today will be funded by way of a temporary levy on funded pension schemes and personal pension plans.”

I dare you to ignore the fact that the UK Government announced plans to steal public sector workers’ pension entitlements in June this year:

Thousands of teachers, lecturers and civil servants joined a UK wide strike yesterday in a mass protest over pension reforms.

The government … wants to impose a 3%-of-pay levy on public sector workers’ contributions to help reduce the budget deficit. This amounts to a pay cut to follow on the heels of the current pay freeze.

I dare you to ignore the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia quietly announced a new policy on June 3 this year – sneakily disguised as a helpful “reform” – that should make your hair stand on end:

Further relief for small business

The Coalition will relieve the red tape burden from Australia’s small businesses by giving them the option to remit the compulsory superannuation payments made on behalf of workers, directly to the ATO.

Small business will be given the option to remit superannuation payments to the ATO at the same time as they remit their PAYG payments.

This will require only one payment to one agency – rather than multiple cheques to multiple superannuation funds. The ATO will be responsible for sending the money to superannuation funds directly.

I dare you to ignore the fact that an “option”, can very easily become a “non-option”.

I dare you to ignore the fact that our Green-Labor Government announced plans in the May Budget that should also make your hair stand on end:

The Gillard government’s 2011-12 budget has proposed a raft of initiatives aimed at encouraging superannuation fund and private investment in infrastructure projects.

I dare you to ignore the fact that “encouraging”, can very easily become “enforcing”.

I dare you to ignore the botched “school halls” program, and the white elephant NBN, as you ponder whether or not you really trust this government to wisely and prudently invest your super in Government infrastructure projects, and achieve a reasonable return on your money, when even so-called “experts” have doubts:

The government’s plan to use tax incentives to encourage superannuation funds to invest in new infrastructure could be thwarted by inadequate returns on projects and a reluctance by the states to take on project risk, experts say.

I dare you to ignore the fact that the government’s white elephant NBN is a(nother) Green-Labor thought bubble, drawn up on the back of Kevin Rudd’s in-flight napkin, with no cost/benefit analysis:

Trust us with the NBN; we’re politicians

I dare you to ignore the fact that Bill Shorten, the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, already thinks of your super as a “significant national asset” … a kind of “sovereign wealth fund”:

Superannuation is our sovereign wealth fund

This week marks 12 months exactly since the government announced plans to take compulsory superannuation from 9 per cent to 12 per cent.

… our superannuation savings place Australia fourth in the world. Its $1.3 trillion in funds under management through superannuation significantly boosts national savings and provides greater retirement security for millions of Australians. Superannuation is also a significant national asset because it strengthens our financial sector.

I dare you to ignore the fact that our government has guaranteed our banking sector using the promise of your future earnings as collateral, and that Moody’s ratings agency has put our government on notice that our banks are Too Big To Fail – just like in the USA, UK, and Europe:

Heavens to Betsy.  It’s finally out in the open. The big four are too big to fail and Moody’s rates the Australian government’s implicit guarantee of the banks’ wholesale debt (as well as the explicit deposit guarantee) as worth two ratings notches. Moreover, by phrasing it this way, Moody’s has essentially put the Australian government on notice that if it dares back away from that guarantee then it can count on the result. The further implication is that the Budget had better remain shipshape to provide the guarantee.

I dare you to ignore the fact that the government’s carbon pricing scheme scam includes a new “independent” Clean Energy Finance Corporation (carbon bank) that will be permitted to borrow against future government revenue – your future tax dollars – in order to invest in “green” energy projects:

The Clean Energy Council will today release a discussion paper proposing the carbon bank, which it says could be allowed to borrow money to invest in renewable energy projects against the future revenue of Labor’s proposed carbon tax and emissions trading scheme.

The Gillard government is examining the creation of a multi-billion-dollar carbon bank to drive renewable energy technologies as the Greens demand “complementary measures” to cut emissions in return for accepting a lower starting price for the carbon tax.

6.2.1 The Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will invest in businesses seeking funds to get innovative clean energy proposals and technologies off the ground. These Government-backed investments will deliver the financial capital needed to transform our economy.

A variety of funding tools will be used to support projects, including loans on commercial or concessional terms and equity investments.

The Corporation will be independent from the Government. The Government will appoint an independent Chair who will have appropriate banking or investment management experience.

I dare you to ignore international banking’s core philosophy, now rendered infamous by GFC1: “Privatise the profits … socialise the losses”.

I dare you to ignore the fact that another sharemarket collapse – like in 2008 – would be a perfect pretext for nanny-state, “Big Brother knows best” governments everywhere to step in and “safeguard your retirement”, by taking and “investing” your super in Government-approved “safe investments” … just like the US Government’s planned, doublespeak-titled “Guaranteed Retirement Accounts”.

I dare you to ignore the fact that this blog has documented in detail the wave of super confiscations that is already rolling around the Western world, and the clear evidence that both sides of Australian politics already have their own quiet, sneaky plans to do the same.

I dare you to not bother reading any of my many articles on this topic –

No Super For You!!

US Treasury “Borrowing” Of Federal Pensions Brings Theft Of Private Pensions One Step Closer

Now The UK Government Is Stealing Super Too

Fresh Evidence Our Banks In “Race To The Bottom” Means You Can Kiss Your Super Goodbye

Fitch Ratings: Australian Banks Most Vulnerable To Europe’s Debt Crisis

Our Banks Racing Towards A “Bigger Armageddon”

Money Morning Agrees – Your Retirement Savings Under Threat

The Pricing Carbon Choir – Why Should *Any* Sane Person Trust Economists After The GFC?

Why Would Any Sane Person Believe Treasury’s Carbon Tax Modelling When Its Budget Forecasting Record Is This Bad?

How Wayne ‘Franked’ Another $20 Billion

Wayne: OOPS! I Did It Again

Liberal Party’s Sneaky Plan To Steal Your Super To Pay Labor’s Debt

Dear reader …

I dare you to ignore, mock, and ridicule Barnaby Joyce’s warnings … again.

I dare you to bend over … grab your ankles … bury your head in the sand … and keep telling yourself that “She’ll be right mate”.

I dare you to ignore the fact that …

Barnaby is right.

* A hearty “Thank You” to the inimitable Zeg for his brilliant cartoon drawn especially for this post, and at very short notice.

Please follow him on Twitter – @Zegcartoonist and subscribe to his blog – http://zegsyd.blogspot.com/

Better still … hire him!

By Hook Or By Crook – Moody’s Says Our Banks Are Too Big To Fail

20 May

Australia’s Big Four banks have all just received a credit rating downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the long-term debt ratings of Australia’s big four banks to Aa2 from Aa1, citing their relatively high reliance on overseas funds rather than local deposits.

For a closer analysis of what this really means for Australia’s economic future, we turn to a man far more knowledgeable on this topic than I.

From the must-read MacroBusiness.com.au (emphasis added):

Moody’s analysis of the Australian banks’ vulnerability is pointed. In fact, it’s right on the money as it were, capturing both the past vulnerability and potential future problems, as well as solutions.

To put it bluntly, Moody’s is onto us.

For well over a decade, Australia’s banks have funded huge swathes of the current account deficit. As well, over the past two commodities booms, much of the export income has been leveraged up and blown on housing and fancy living. Moody’s is effectively calling the risks of this model to account. And they’re still not finished:

At Aa2, the major banks’ ratings continue to incorporate 2 notches of uplift from systemic support. Moody’s views bank supervisors and the government in Australia to be supportive by global comparison and the banks to have high systemic importance, as implicitly recognized by the government’s “Four Pillars” policy (which restricts M&A among the banks).

Moody’s also notes that creditor-unfriendly initiatives — such as bail-in legislation — are not on the policy agenda in Australia.

Heavens to Betsy.  It’s finally out in the open. The big four are too big to fail and Moody’s rates the Australian government’s implicit guarantee of the banks’ wholesale debt (as well as the explicit deposit guarantee) as worth two ratings notches. Moreover, by phrasing it this way, Moody’s has essentially put the Australian government on notice that if it dares back away from that guarantee then it can count on the result. The further implication is that the Budget had better remain shipshape to provide the guarantee.

Moody’s is rightly concerned about our banks’ heavy reliance on borrowing from off-shore, in order to lend into our housing bubble.

But as we have recently seen (“Tick Tick Tick – Aussie Banks’ $15 Trillion Time Bomb“), our banking system is vulnerable to a much greater danger than reliance on wholesale funding.

Derivatives.

The exotic financial instruments at the very heart of the GFC, that the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffet, famously called “a mega-catastrophic risk”, “financial weapons of mass destruction”, and a “time bomb”.

To give you an idea of the vast disconnect between our banks’ $2.66 Trillion in On-Balance Sheet “Assets” (66% of which are loans), and their $15 Trillion in Off-Balance Sheet exposure to OTC derivatives, take a look at the following chart.

It shows our banks’ combined total Assets – blue line – versus a red line of total Off-Balance Sheet “business” (click to enlarge):

$2.66 Trillion in "Assets" versus $15 Trillion in Off-Balance Sheet "Business"

Never mind the risk of wholesale funding liabilities.  What happens when our banks’ $15 Trillion worth of Off-Balance Sheet “financial weapons of mass destruction” blow up – just as they did in the USA?  That’s more than 10x the entire value of this country’s annual GDP!

Now you know the answer.

The takeout from the Moody’s downgrade is very simple.

Moody’s has effectively just warned the Australian government that it MUST continue to guarantee the liabilities of our entire banking system. Or else the Big Four banks’ credit ratings will be downgraded even further.

Meaning much higher interest rates.  And, the real risk of off-shore funding drying up completely.

Australian taxpayers are now firmly on the hook … to bail out the crooks.

Because – just like in America – they are now considered Too Big To Fail.

For a sneak preview of our future, here’s how Australia will look when the SHTF.

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