And this might become a problem for the Fed. ECB President Mario Draghi wields more power than just about any other public official in Europe, perhaps even including Angela Merkel. The organization he heads not only controls the monetary policy levers of the entire Eurozone, it also supervises the region’s 130 biggest banks. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, it even has the power to decide which of Europe’s struggling banks get to live and which don’t. Yet it is answerable to virtually no one. Until now. Emily O’Reilly, the EU Ombudsman, an arbiter for the public’s complaints about EU-institutions, has just sent Draghi a letter asking him to explain his role in the potentially compromising Group of Thirty (G30) and how he makes sure that he does not divulge insider information or runs into conflicts of interest. The tenor, tone and direction of O’Reilly’s inquiries make it clear that she means business. The Washington-based G30 was founded in the late seventies at the initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation, which also provided start-up funding for the organization. Its current membership reads like a Who’s Who of the world of global finance. It includes current and former central bankers, many of whom now work or worked in the past for major financial corporations, such as:
This post was published at Wolf Street on Jul 10, 2017.
This is how desperate the Italian Banking Crisis has become. When things get serious in the EU, laws get bent and loopholes get exploited. That is what is happening right now in Italy, where the banking crisis has reached tipping point. The ECB, together with the Italian government, have just this weekend to resolve Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, two zombie banks that the ECB, on Friday night, ordered to be liquidated. Unlike Monte dei Pachi di Siena, they will not be bailed out primarily with public funds. Senior bondholders and depositors will be protected while shareholders and subordinate bondholders will lose their shirts. However, as the German daily Welt points out, subordinate bondholders at Monte dei Pachi di Siena had billions of euros at stake, much of it owned by its own retail customers who’d been sold these bonds instead of savings products such as CDs. So for political reasons, they were bailed out. Junior bonds play a smaller role at the two Veneto-based banks. According to the Welt, the two banks combined have 1.33 billion (at face value) in junior bonds outstanding. They last traded between 1 cent and 3 cents on the euro. So worthless. Only about 100 million were sold to their own customers, not enough to cause a political ruckus in Italy. So they will be crushed.
This post was published at Wolf Street by Don Quijones ‘ Jun 25, 2017.
Transparency International whacks at a central bank. The European Central Bank has found itself in the rare position of having to defend itself in the public arena following the release of a scathing report on its perceived lack of political independence. The report, published by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, argues that the institution has accrued new power and influence in the wake of the financial crisis but its code of conduct has not kept up with that newfound clout. It even suggests that the ECB should withdraw from the Eurozone’s Troika of creditors, precisely at a time that calls are rising for the creation of a European Monetary Fund. ‘The extraordinary measures taken by the ECB since 2008 have tested the ECB’s mandate (to ensure price stability) to breaking point,’ Transparency International EU said. ‘The ECB’s accountability framework is not appropriate for the far-reaching political decisions taken by the Governing Council.’
This post was published at Wolf Street on Mar 29, 2017.
One day after snap protests against corruption and Russia PM Medvedev broke out across numerous Russian cities, leading to the detention of hundreds of protesters as well as opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, the Russian opposition activist was found guilty of staging an unsanctioned rally, and will be fined 20,000 rubles (US$350) for his role in organizing what the authorities said was an illegal protest in Moscow on Sunday. The Russian protests, estimated to be the biggest since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011/2012, come a year before a presidential election that Vladimir Putin is expected to contest, running for what would be a fourth term.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 27, 2017.
For 26-days straight, thousands of people have taken to the streets in order to send the message to Soros and European leaders that the people of Macedonia are a sovereign nation who utterly reject the left-wing agenda to divide the nation and bring a socialist-Muslim coalition to power. Johannes Hahn is an Austrian politician, who since November 2014 is Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement. He went to earlier last week to Skopje, in Macedonia, where he held talks with political representatives in a bid to contribute to a solution to the political deadlock there to get Macedonia to join the EU. There was considerable corruption where the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was forced to resign in December 2015. The EU brokered elections in December 2016 to end the protests against the government of Gruevski. The December 2016 elections have left a transitional government was installed including from 20 October 20th, 2015 with the two main parties, VMRO-DPMNE and the Social Democratic Union (SDSM).
Europe could become the site of a new global war in the East as tensions build there against refugees and the economic decline fosters old wounds. The EU is deeply divided over the refugee issue and thus it is fueling its own demise and has failed to be a stabilizing force. After five days of demonstrations, Romania’s month-old government backed down and withdrew a decree that had decriminalized some corruption offenses. They were still acting like typical politicians and looking to line their pockets. After one month, the people have rising up saying ‘We can’t trust this new government.’ On the eastern border of the EU, only a few hundred kilometers from Berlin as well as Vienna, there is a growing danger that the world will stumble into a global war primarily from through the incompetence of the politicians in the EU as well as in the East. The EU is more concerned about punishing Britain and trying to hold on to overpaid political jobs that to address the real issues facing Europe.
Although multi-billionaire hedge fund tycoon and international political pot-stirrer George Soros lost big with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the victory of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, he stands to lose further ground, politically and financially, as the winds of political change sweep across the globe. Soros, who fancies himself as the master of placing short put options on stocks, often cleaning up to the tune of billions of dollars in the process when the stock values collapse, has been dealt a few financial body blows. Recently, the Dutch securities market regulator AFM accidentally revealed on line all of Soros’s short trades since 2012. Soros’s trades were revealed on AFM’s website and were removed after the regulator realized the error. However, the Soros data had already been captured by automatic data capturing software programs operated by intelligence agencies and brokerage firms that routinely scour the Internet looking for such mistakes. Among the bank shares targeted by Soros was the Ing Groep NV, a major institution and important element of the Dutch economy. After campaigning against Brexit, Soros bet against the stock of Deutsche Bank AG, which he believed would fall in value after Britain voted to leave the EU. Deutsche Bank stock fell 14 percent and Soros cleaned up. But Soros’s celebration was temporary. With Trump’s election, Soros lost a whopping $1 billion in stock speculation. Surrounded by his fellow financial manipulators, Soros explained his recent losses while attending the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Soros’s mega-wealthy cronies placed their own bets against smaller Dutch firms. Those firms included Ordina, an information technology firm; Advanced Metallurgical Group; and the real estate group Wereldhave N. V.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 29, 2017.
In the coming year, the United States will remain the overwhelmingly dominant geopolitical power in the global system, and President-elect Donald Trump will be at the helm. His presidency will mark a turning point as the first significant shift towards nationalism at the center of the US political system. As explained in our 2017 forecast, this rise in nationalism is a global trend, and one of three critical consequences of the 2008 financial crisis that will play a pivotal role in shaping geopolitics in 2017. (The other two are economic stagnation and instability in export-dependent countries.) Its rise stems from the rejection of the internationalist model that has dominated international relations since the end of World War II. In places like Europe, it is easy to see why internationalism is losing favor. It is less obvious for the US. The European Union (EU) put in place policies and regulations that prioritized the Union’s survival over national interests, and this inherently creates conflicts of interest between the bloc and member states. This was exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. Member countries saw their economies crash while their hands remained tied by Brussels, which was slow to act and offered a narrow range of Band-Aid solutions.
Toxic loans as a result of corruption, political kickbacks, fraud, and abuse. The Bank of Italy’s Target 2 liabilities towards other Eurozone central banks – one of the most important indicators of banking stress – has risen by 129 billion in the last 12 months through November to 358.6 billion. That’s well above the 289 billion peak reached in August 2012 at the height of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Foreign and local investors are dumping Italian government bonds and withdrawing their funding to Italian banks. The bank at the heart of Italy’s financial crisis, Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), has bled 6 billion of ‘commercial direct deposits’ between September 30 and December 13, 2 billion of which since December 4, the date of Italy’s constitutional referendum. Italy’s new Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who took over from Matteo Renzi after his defeat in the referendum, said his government – a virtual carbon copy of the last one – is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop MPS from collapsing and thereby engulfing other European banks. His options would include directly supporting Italy’s ailing banks, in contravention of the EU’s bail-in rules passed into law at the beginning of this year. Though now, that push comes to shove, the EU seems happy to look the other way. While attention is focused on the rescue of MPS, news regarding another Italian bank, Banca Erturia, has quietly slipped by the wayside.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 18, 2016.
As written for goldseek.com On November 8 2016 at 8.00 pm Prime Minister Mr. Modi announced his decision to demonetize or scrap the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. I am seeing some unjustified criticism and fear about this decision as well as unjustified praise and bonhomie (people praising this decision without understanding the full ramifications). So I decided to write this article to educate: Facts: I believe, that this is a huge huge move with far reaching consequences. Only time will tell if it is good or bad. But With this one master stroke, PM Modi has levelled the playing field for corrupt persons and honest people. Due to scrapping of 500 and 1000 rs. notes, now there will be an increase in the circulation of Rs. 100 notes. I sincerely believe (and hope), that the decision to introduce the Rs. 2000 note is just a stop gap arrangement. Circulation of this note should be and will be stopped as soon as possible. Rs. 1,00,000/- in 100 rs. notes fits in a small briefcase (10 bundles of 100 X 100), whereas in 1000 rs. denomination, it used to be a single bundle, which could easily fit into the pocket. Even huge economies such as the USA and EU have a highest denomination of 100 dollars or euros. All higher transactions in such economies are carried out using either direct bank transfers or cheques or debit / credit cards. So, all transactions of a certain higher quantum tend to leave a paper trail. The direct result of all this is the reduction in the volume of the shadow economy (untraceable money or black money in the economy). Pros: 1) Corruption: This decision is a very direct assault on the endemic corruption in the Indian system. Firstly, you can only exchange a limited amount of cash under the table. You can’t carry 5 or 10 briefcases of 100 rs. notes to home every single evening without attracting attention. Also, the person paying the bribe cannot withdraw 5 or 10 lac rupees from the bank without attracting attention, if he keeps on doing so regularly. This will directly affect the ability to pay a bribe and to receive a bribe.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 20 November 2016.
For a long time, I’ve advocated that the world’s governments should default on their debt. I recognize that this is an outrageous-sounding proposal. However, the debts accumulated by the governments of the U.S., Japan, Europe and dozens of other countries constitute a gigantic mortgage on the next two or three generations, as yet unborn. Savings are proof that a person, or a country, has been living below their means. Debt, on the other hand, is evidence that the world has been living above its means. And the amount of government debt and liabilities in the world is in the hundreds of trillions and growing rapidly, even with essentially zero percent interest rates. This brings up several questions: Will future generations be able to repay it? Will they be willing to? And, if so, should they? My answers are: No, no and no. The ‘should they’ is one moral question that should be confronted. But I’ll go further. There’s another reason government debt should be defaulted on: to punish the people stupid enough, or unethical enough, to lend governments the money they’ve used to do all the destructive things they do. I know it’s most unlikely you’ve ever previously heard this view. And I recognize there would be many unpleasant domino-like effects on today’s over-leveraged and unstable financial system. It’s just that, when a structure is about to collapse, it’s better to have a controlled demolition, rather than waiting for it to collapse unpredictably. That said, governments will perversely keep propping up the house of cards, and building it higher, pushing the nasty consequences further into the future, with compound interest. With that in mind, a few words on the euro, the E.U. and the European Central Bank are in order.
The annual Conservative Party conference commenced last Sunday, and the media focus was mostly about the Government’s stance on Brexit. This is hardly surprising, because Mrs May is being secretive, avoiding stoking a public spat with the EU by negotiating in public. The only hard news to emerge was that Article 50, formally giving notice of Britain leaving the EU, would be triggered by the end of March, in other words before the end of this tax year. Brexit is mostly about trade deals, which is why big business is lobbying furiously, and EU functionaries are winding up their punitive rhetoric. In the US, Donald Trump has also wound up the rhetoric over trade, threatening to tear up NAFTA and refuse to ratify the trans-Pacific partnership. He also attacked China, accusing her of stealing American production and jobs. We should never believe anything a politician says on the stump to gain votes, but if nothing else Trump does seem to have identified electoral resentment on the trade issue. This article looks at the theory behind trade, and finds that free trade, not the promotion of vested interests, should be the clear economic objective. But it also concludes that differing approaches to this thorny subject could accentuate the split between world trade into two separate streams, between fast-growing emerging economies and an increasingly sluggish old order. Corn laws and Smoot-Hawley Free trade first became a political issue in Britain when the 1815 Importation Act, which imposed tariffs on imported grain, led to artificially high grain prices, benefiting landlords at the expense of the poor. This was repealed by the Importation Act 1846. These Acts were known as the corn law and its repeal respectively. The debate prior to the 1815 Act is echoed today, with producers always seeking to disadvantage foreign competition to the detriment of the consumer. However, there’s every reason to believe that the abolition of trade barriers and tariffs would be similarly beneficial to contemporary economies as the Importation Act 1846 was to both Britain and the global economy then. Equally, if this is true, then trade restrictions and tariffs hinder economic progress, and any country embarking on greater trade restrictions is therefore pursuing a deliberate policy of unemployment. For evidence that it is indeed true, we need look no further than the catastrophic introduction of the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 in the US.
This post was published at GoldMoney on OCTOBER 06, 2016.
My column for the Village covering the Apple Tax fiasco:As it says on the ‘tin’ – the problem with Apple Tax is not the rate of corporate taxation set in law in Ireland (the 12.5% ‘red line’ rate), and not tax competition, nor the benign nature of tax exemptions that Ireland bestows on all companies, including the MNCs. The problem is that these competitive aspects of the Irish regime are simply not enough for the likes of Apple, which pursued and obtained access to exemptions that any ordinary company operating in Ireland cannot avail of. Hence, the red herring of the arguments that the EU Competition ruling is an attack on Irish tax rate. It is, instead, a challenge to the asymmetric preferences granted in the past (and still in use during the ongoing phase-out period) to a handful of MNCs over and above domestic companies.
On August 30th, the European Union (EU) Commission ordered the Irish government to reclaim some $14.6 billion of so-called back taxes plus interest from Apple Inc. The order challenged sovereign tax authority within the EU and well-established international tax rules. The aggressive stance of the Commission set off a furor of high level political argument among taxing authorities and multinational companies accustomed to complex but legal international tax planning. Apple’s case was big enough to place it at center stage in a simmering problem for governments in striking a balance between attracting businesses, creating jobs, generating taxes and deciding precisely what type of earnings can be taxed. In a testament to how strange the taxing regimes have become, the Irish government has protested loudly and is reluctant to take the nearly 15 billion the EU says it is entitled. When small countries turn down such sums, it should be clear that the stakes are much higher. With uncontrolled socialism and Keynesian monetary policies killing economic growth around the world, governments have ever greater need to wring revenue from the relatively stagnant pool of corporations and wealthy individuals. While the crackdown on personal tax havens, in Switzerland and the Channel Islands for instance, has been largely successful, corporations have become extremely adept using legal loopholes and creative international accounting to move revenues from high tax jurisdictions to countries where rates are lower. As of October, Reuters reported that U. S. based companies have some $2.1 trillion parked abroad in order to avoid high domestic taxes. Apparently Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, accounts for over $180 billion of this total. The U. S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent is widely considered to be uncompetitive and even excessive when compared with Ireland’s 12.5 percent rate (and even the 20 percent in the UK). It is an old adage that capital flows to where it is treated best. Ireland rolled out the red carpet for Apple, a decision that greatly benefited both. Apple established a company in County Cork, Ireland in October 1980, sometime before Apple blossomed financially. Since then, Apple has become one of the largest taxpayers in the world and, according to its CEO, Tim Cook, the largest taxpayer in Ireland where it employs almost 6,000 people, mostly in high paying jobs, adding great benefit to the Irish economy both directly and by encouraging copycat corporations. (A Message to the Apple Community in Europe, 8/30/16)
This post was published at Euro Pac on September 15, 2016.
Conflict of interest? More than 130,000 people think so, and they’ve signed a petition started by E.U. staff in protest against the bank’s recruitment of the former president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. He was hired in July — after the Brexit vote — and will advise Goldman Sachs, among other things, on how to limit the damage from the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U. The appointment has also drawn a warning from the official charged with investigating complaints into the behavior of E.U. institutions. Emily O’Reilly wrote to Barroso’s successor on Tuesday, saying the move had caused “widespread concerns.” “This public unease will be exacerbated by the fact that Mr Barroso has publicly stated that he will be advising on the U.K.’s decision to leave the E.U.,” O’Reilly said.
German imports and exports unexpectedly shrunk in July, with a sharp export contraction causing a surprise narrowing in Germany’s trade balance. Federal Statistical Office data showed seasonally adjusted exports fell by 2.6% – analysts had expected about 0.3% growth – whereas imports fell by 0.7%, as against expectations for a 0.8% rise. On the year exports slumped by 10% and imports shriveled by 6.5%. The foreign trade balance shrunk to 19.4 billion ($21.9 billion) from 21.4 billion in June, as against expectations for a balance of 22 billion. The Federal Statistical Office said the pace of German exports to other EU countries fell by 7% in July, while imports from the region fell by 4.5%. The falls were slightly narrower for trade with other eurozone countries.
Europe’s Competition Directorate commands the shock troops of the EU power structure. Ensconced in its fortress at Place Madou, it can dispatch swat teams on corporate dawn raids across Europe without a search warrant. It operates outside the normal judicial control that we take for granted in a developed democracy. The US Justice Department could never dream of acting in such a fashion. Known as ‘DG Comp’, it acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and can in effect impose fines large enough to constitute criminal sanctions, but without the due process protection of criminal law. It misused evidence so badly in pursuit of the US chipmaker Intel that the company alleged a violation of human rights. Apple is just the latest of the great US digital companies to face this Star Chamber. It has vowed to appeal the monster 13bn fine handed down from Brussels this week for violation of EU state aid rules, but the only recourse is the European Court of Justice. This is usually a forlorn ritual. The ECJ is a political body, the enforcer of the EU’s teleological doctrines. It ratifies executive power. We can mostly agree that Apple, Google, Starbucks, and others have gamed the international system, finding legal loopholes to whittle down their tax liabilities and enrich shareholders at the expense of society. It is such moral conduct that has driven wealth inequality to alarming levels, and provoked a potent backlash against globalisation.
The Brexit vote was never just about whether the Brits would reject rule from Brussels. The real issues were much broader and felt across the whole EU – an arrogant and undemocratic elite, its disastrous economic policies and an increasing gap between haves and have-nots, the first being the cause of the second and the second the cause of the third. To paraphrase what one disillusioned British voter told The Guardian: if you’ve got money, you vote in; if you ain’t got no money, you vote out. In this context, I would like to quote two poignant open letters from European friends that were sent out just before the UK referendum. The first is from a group of prominent Greek opinion leaders. Their letter started with the basic idea, as it was explained to the people in Europe, [which] was [that the EU] was a community of European nations in friendship, solidarity, mutual benefit and democracy: Basic European Values. It continued: Unfortunately, these inviting promises proved to be false or failed. There is nothing about freedom, solidarity or friendship in the European Union. The European Union has proven to act on behalf of the interest of banks, multi-national enterprises and groups in the shadow, as advised by professional think-tanks and lobbyists, not in favor of its people. . . . The European Union is designed as a cartel and typically, there is a lack of democratic structures and processes: democracy becomes a disturbing factor.
Last week everyone was clamoring about Italy. In the aftermath of the UK’s European Union referendum, markets started worrying about what a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, would mean for one of the euro area’s sore spots: Italian banks. But this week attention has started to shift over to Portugal – and not just because of its victory over France in the Euro 2016 final. Rather, markets are once again feeling antsy about the Iberian nation’s banking problems as macroeconomic conditions start to deteriorate. ‘The UK referendum hit an already vulnerable banking system in the eurozone. Italian banksare on the front burner, but the temperature is rising in Portugal,’ Marc Chandler, the global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, wrote in a Monday note to clients. ‘The country is struggling with a systemic banking crisis, the lack of a convincing medium-term fiscal plan and excessive public and private sector leverage,’ a Barclays team led by Antonio Garcia Pascual observed in a note to clients.
The prime minister is under pressure, economists are slashing growth forecasts and companies are warning of Brexit’s dire consequences. London? No, Dublin. The intertwining of trade and finance means no other country is feeling the fallout from the U. K.’s vote to leave the European Union more than Ireland. In the year the Irish marked the centenary of their uprising against British rule, the country remains at the mercy of the unfolding drama in its closest neighbor. ‘It’s the most serious, difficult issue facing the country for 50 years,’ said John Bruton, 69, who was Irish prime minister between 1994 and 1997 and later served as the EU’s ambassador to the U. S. Exporters have warned the plummeting pound will erode earnings and economic growth, just as a recovery had taken hold after the 2010 international bailout that followed the banking meltdown. Irish shares have declined, not least because the U. K. is the top destination for the country’s exports after the U. S. and the biggest for its services. Meantime, Prime Minister Enda Kenny is fending off demands by Northern Irish nationalists for a reunification poll as he comes to terms with the loss of a key EU ally and plotters from his own party try to topple him. Then there’s the future of the U. K.’s only land border with the EU. ‘The consequences are mind-boggling,’ said Eoin Fahy, chief economist at Kleinwort Benson Investors in the Irish capital.