The times are still all over the place. As I finished the 5th part of my previous story, the stories from SkyTV UK and the news by the Dutch NOS started to hit my TV. The thoughts I had on issues that are currently playing out are nowhere near done. I get the distinct feeling that this is far from over. It is almost that there is a voice whispering in the ear of Dutch Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The whispers seem to be about the Bad Bank and the whispers could involve Goldman Sachs. There is no doubt that this man knows his stuff. He got his finance papers in Wageningen, a renowned and highly respected Dutch University. There is however more at play. I know it is a personal feeling and I am not an economy graduate, so there are plenty who can run circles around me in this regard.
The first part is that this idea comes from Goldman Sachs. Is it wrong to call a spade a spade as the expression goes? This firm together with the Lehman Brothers were the massive cause of something that had us reeling in 2008, and this is not over, not by a long shot. THAT damage will take decades to overcome. No amount of fancy bookkeeping can brush this under any size of carpet. This is however not about emotions. That path will never ever give any solution. My issues remain clinical (or at least I am trying to keep them that way).
Consider the banks are all allowed to get all their failings into a small rejectable corporation. These costs should be paid by the failed implementers. Not the government, not the taxpayer. The bank must pay for their blunders!
If this continues as it currently seems to be going, then we get a legal situation where high risk bad ideas can just be written off the books and straight onto the taxpayers list of to pay, whilst those responsible will ever show improvement. Those people will just keep on playing high risk games. That had been shown already. This thought was also mentioned by Rolfe Winkler at the New York Daily News. How is it even possible that a company that seems to have been one of the major reasons for the financial meltdown be regarded, or even ALLOWED to make any continued presence?
Wherever I looked Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, and perhaps even more places. Goldman Sachs keeps on being named as a primary advisor. How many bad banks are there in America?
Let’s take a clinical jump into health care. Would the Dutch Minister of healthcare Mrs Edith Schippers consider someone for a position? You see, I know a person (well, kind of). Brilliant physician (so they say), over a decade of medical research experience and deep knowledge of improving the physical best in all of us. His name is Dr. Mengele. Would she please consider him as the new Surgeon General?
Are people feeling ‘slightly’ sick at this particular moment? So if a transgressor of THAT magnitude is so offensive, can ministers not understand that we have a massive amount of resistance against parties like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers? Some things should just not be considered. This is not emotion, this is common sense. If groups like that can debunk a generation, why trust them again?
Again I say, this is not emotion, this is common sense. My reasoning is simple. When a board member moves into such a power position, that person will surround himself/herself with the golden boys and girl that made for this to happen. It is an evolutionary step. The board member rewarded is also the golden boy/girl reward. The top of the pyramid moved to the direct vicinity of that power circle. And they would have moved a few people into their vicinity too. So whatever was done to that board of directors did not stop when they left. We are looking at a minimum of two additional circles of power, some moved up, some moved away and some stayed. But the way of thinking of those who left remained in place. That is the real danger. This could happen again!
My fears are voiced in much better way by Professor Julia Black from the London School of economics in a paper from January 2011 “The financial crisis revealed weaknesses in regulation which went far deeper than organisational structure. The new legislation alone cannot provide the solutions – but it will be an important tool for guiding the future conduct of regulators, as well as determining the name of the institution for which they will work” (Black, J, ‘Breaking up is hard to do’, 2011).
So these weaknesses go deeper than just the casual parts. This is partially visible in an article in the Guardian written by Alan Travis on October 2nd 2012 (“Labour will introduce new laws against dishonest bankers, Cooper to say”). It is interesting that this happens more than a year after the paper by Professor Black and more than 3 years after the Banking Act 2009 (I reckon they could not delay it any longer). In the article Cooper says: “Cooper says that the public looked at what had happened and had seen no real sign of people being held to account.” This was Yvette Cooper MP, the current UK Shadow Home Secretary.
Many had that feeling since 2008 when retirement funds when to the local latrine and haven’t been heard of since. For me there are a few additional issues.
1. Can this happen in Australia? (Some might say No, we are not like that, but how clearly is this set in legislation?) We should find and test this BEFORE the Australian public is presented with a multi-billion dollar write off.
2. The UK has the Fraud Act 2006 (originally part of the Theft Act). The problem here is that the word ‘Dishonest’ is a factor in each of the variations of Fraud. That has the issue that the events that lead the 2008 meltdown were not illegal. When we look at the Banking Act 2009, the criminal links are not really there. More important, since its release there have been no additions, alterations or amendments to stop the bad credit ‘solutions’ the US banks employed. So it seems to me that proper protection is still not in place. This means that the impression remains with me that the financial top can continue to get their monthly shares of luxury items, real estate and yachts. It seems that this area is not filled with loopholes; it remains nothing less than an open gate. Beyond that is the statement of Martin Wheatley in regards to LIBOR and that this had been happening since 1991 is an indication of the remaining dangers. So how safe am I in Australia from our banks playing this game?
3. Which solutions and papers can we trust? Many of them are all about concepts, approaches and possible ideas. And nearly all of them are pleading against regulators, regulations and stricter control. It seems to me that those papers are all from financial experts who want a solution without hindering their need for freedom of movement. This is in the heart of my fears.
There are leagues of papers that proclaim ideas. An example is “CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND BANK RESOLUTION QUO VADIS, EUROPE?” written by Dr Barbara Jeanne Attinger. In the conclusions section of page 47 she writes: “National special resolution regimes are capable of addressing the characteristics of credit institutions at national level. The UK regime is exemplary in this respect, as it provides an effective toolbox for bank resolution”.
We might ask her about the LIBOR issues; that in itself does not invalidate her thoughts and approach to the Banking dilemma at heart. Stronger than that, her presentation on 29th January 2013 in Copenhagen reads direct, to the point, clear and pretty brilliant. I do not need to need a finance degree to read between the lines that this is a possible approach to a solution. The part I am missing starts to be visible when get to the resolution in the context of a banking union. She mentions this and focusses on the third pillar.
• Single supervisory mechanism
• Integrated resolution framework
• Common system for deposit protection
The first pillar is about the supervisory mechanism. From my point of view I see the specific need for a fourth pillar, which would require alignment over several nations (not all have the same acts, rules and legislations when it comes to banks).
My thoughts would go towards:
• Single supervisory mechanism
• Integrated resolution framework
• Common system for deposit protection
• Acts of Accountability for Banks and Financial Institutions
I have seen several papers that rely on a solution without regulations. There is no way to tell who’s right here (my lack of Financial degrees gives them the advantage), yet the fact has been shown that Banks cannot be trusted, and the LIMOS scandal just adds a bucket load to that belief.
The acts need to go further than the Fraud Act and the Banking act combined. It must clearly outlaw certain acts. It must also limit rewards. The utter need for a ruling that bad bank approaches are no longer rewarded. More important, any form of reward within financial institutions should be lessened by the amount moved to a bad bank, or bad investment write-off. Something they will not want, however, consider the fact that people end up with margin profits with swapping papers. That should no longer be rewarded.
The high risk use of Interest-Rate Hedging Products (IRHP) are reported to dent their net earnings prospects in the short- to medium-term. (Quote from the Guardian) Well, if it is impeding net profits, then it should not be rewarded in any way shape or form. You want to run risks, fine, but then the bank does it risking their own capital and own finances. What are the chances the banks agree to such measures?
There is an additional issue. This is the current instalments of Goldman Sachs creativity called Bad Banks. This is nothing to attack them on, as they do not seem to be doing anything wrong or illegal. However, I feel that this escape hatch will cause a lot more damage in the short and medium term than anything else. Even long term these Bad Banks are to be seen as issues. The required change would be that until resolved, no less than 5% of annual banking revenues MUST be transferred to the bad banks from the banks that had to be created because of their actions. In additions, the commission-able revenue must be based on the remaining profits AFTER funds are transferred into the Bad Bank. The need for this is shown as the Netherlands are already reporting the need for more and more financial assistance as Bad Bank properties are placed in financial duress. So SNS can just wave it off and sail to the future? It reads like the good old British days of Wine and Jousting: “Peasant Population Taxation! For a long lasting rule of Fun and Frolic”
The next issue goes beyond this. The Bad Bank might be taken care of in some way. Perhaps McKinsey & Company picks it up. Perhaps Moret & Young takes a creative accounting dip in that pool. The LIBOR scandal is however more than just an issue at hand, it will be a debilitating complication, allowing several parties to start muddy the water, leaving a solution hanging until sometime down the track, and at present no protection seems to be in place, and none to look forward to in the short term.
I reckon the current scandals show that this is not even the end of the beginning!