Ellen Brown Interviewed by James Corbett
Just in from www.GlobalResearch.com
“Epic in scale, unprecedented in world history.” That is how William K. Black, professor of law and economics and former bank fraud investigator, describes the frauds in which JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has now been implicated. They involve more than a dozen felonies, including bid-rigging on municipal bond debt; colluding to rig interest rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars in mortgages, derivatives and other contracts; exposing investors to excessive risk; failing to disclose known risks, including those in the Bernie Madoff scandal; and engaging in multiple forms of mortgage fraud.
So why, asks Chicago Alderwoman Leslie Hairston, are we still doing business with them? She plans to introduce a city council ordinance deleting JPM from the city’s list of designated municipal depositories. As quoted in the January 14th Chicago Sun-Times:
The bank has violated the city code by making admissions of dishonesty and deceit in the way they dealt with their investors in the mortgage securities and Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandals. . . . We use this code against city contractors and all the small companies, why wouldn’t we use this against one of the largest banks in the world?
A similar move has been recommended for the City of Los Angeles by L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo. But in a January 19th editorial titled “There’s No Profit in L A. Bashing JPMorgan Chase,” the L.A. Times editorial board warned against pulling the city’s money out of JPM and other mega-banks – even though the city attorney is suing them for allegedly causing an epidemic of foreclosures in minority neighborhoods.
“L.A. relies on these banks,” says The Times, “for long-term financing to build bridges and restore lakes, and for short-term financing to pay the bills.” The editorial noted that a similar proposal brought in the fall of 2011 by then-Councilman Richard Alarcon, backed by Occupy L.A., was abandoned because it would have resulted in termination fees and higher interest payments by the city.
It seems we must bow to our oppressors because we have no viable alternative – or do we? What if there is an alternative that would not only save the city money but would be a safer place to deposit its funds than in Wall Street banks?
The Tiny State That Broke Free
There is a place where they don’t bow. Where they don’t park their assets on Wall Street and play the mega-bank game, and haven’t for almost 100 years. Where they escaped the 2008 banking crisis and have no government debt, the lowest foreclosure rate in the country, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and the lowest unemployment rate. They also have the only publicly-owned bank.
The place is North Dakota, and their state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) is a model for Los Angeles and other cities, counties, and states.
Like the BND, a public bank of the City of Los Angeles would not be a commercial bank and would not compete with commercial banks. In fact, it would partner with them – using its tax revenue deposits to create credit for lending programs through the magical everyday banking practice of leveraging capital.
The BND is a major money-maker for North Dakota, returning about $30 million annually in dividends to the treasury – not bad for a state with a population that is less than one-fifth that of the City of Los Angeles. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, the BND has reported a return on investment of 17-26%.
Like the BND, a Bank of the City of Los Angeles would provide credit for city projects – to build bridges, restore lakes, and pay bills – and this credit would essentially be interest-free, since the city would own the bank and get the interest back. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of public projects by 35% or more.
Awesome Possibilities for Los Angeles
Consider what that could mean for Los Angeles. According to the current fiscal budget, the LAX Modernization project is budgeted at $4.11 billion. That’s the sticker price. But what will it cost when you add interest on revenue bonds and other funding sources? The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge earthquake retrofit boondoggle was slated to cost about $6 billion. Interest and bank fees added another $6 billion. Funding through a public bank could have saved taxpayers $6 billion, or 50%.
If Los Angeles owned its own bank, it could also avoid costly “rainy day funds,” which are held by various agencies as surplus taxes. If the city had a low-cost credit line with its own bank, these funds could be released into the general fund, generating massive amounts of new revenue for the city.
The potential for the City and County of Los Angeles can be seen by examining their respective Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs). According to the latest CAFRs (2012), the City of Los Angeles has “cash, pooled and other investments” of $11 billion beyond what is in its pension fund (page 85), and the County of Los Angeles has $22 billion (page 66). To put these sums in perspective, the austerity crisis declared by the State of California in 2012 was the result of a declared state budget deficit of only $16 billion.
The L.A. CAFR funds are currently drawing only minimal interest. With some modest changes in regulations, they could be returned to the general fund for use in the city’s budget, or deposited or invested in the city’s own bank, to be leveraged into credit for local purposes.
Beyond being a money-maker, a city-owned bank can minimize the risks of interest rate manipulation, excessive fees, and dishonest dealings.
Another risk that must now be added to the list is that of confiscation in the event of a “bail in.” Public funds are secured with collateral, but they take a back seat in bankruptcy to the “super priority” of Wall Street’s own derivative claims. A major derivatives fiasco of the sort seen in 2008 could wipe out even a mega-bank’s available collateral, leaving the city with empty coffers.
The city itself could be propelled into bankruptcy by speculative derivatives dealings with Wall Street banks. The dire results can be seen in Detroit, where the emergency manager, operating on behalf of the city’s creditors, put it into bankruptcy to force payment on its debts. First in line were UBS and Bank of America, claiming speculative winnings on their interest-rate swaps, which the emergency manager paid immediately before filing for bankruptcy. Critics say the swaps were improperly entered into and were what propelled the city into bankruptcy. Their propriety is now being investigated by the bankruptcy judge.
Not Too Big to Abandon
Mega-banks might be too big to fail. According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, they might even be too big to prosecute. But they are not too big to abandon as depositories for government funds.
There may indeed be no profit in bashing JPMorgan Chase, but there would be profit in pulling deposits out and putting them in Los Angeles’ own public bank. Other major cities currently exploring that possibility include San Franciscoand Philadelphia.
If North Dakota can bypass Wall Street with its own bank and declare its financial independence, so can the City of Los Angeles. And so can the County. And so can the State of California.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and author of 12 books including The Public Bank Solution. She is currently running for California state treasurer on the Green Party ticket.
– See more at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/enough-is-enough-fraud-ridden-banks-are-not-californias-only-option/5366715#sthash.jLqlWRYb.dpuf
by Ellen Brown
Governor Jerry Brown and his staff are exchanging high-fives over balancing California’s budget, but the people on whose backs it was balanced are not rejoicing. The state’s high-wire act has been called “the ultimate in austerity budgets.”
Welfare payments, health care for the poor, and benefits for the elderly and disabled have been slashed. State workers have been downsized. School districts in need of cash have been reduced to borrowing through “capital appreciation bonds” bearing 300% interest. In one notorious case, the Santa Ana school district actually borrowed at 1,000% interest. And the governor acknowledges that California still faces a “wall of debt” amounting to $28 billion. Some analysts put it much higher than that.
At the end of the 20th century, California was ranked the sixth largest economy in the world. By 2012, it had slipped to number twelve. It is coming back up, in part because European countries are falling further into recession; but California’s poverty rate remains the highest in the country. More than eight million Californians struggle to meet their daily needs, and one in four children lives in poverty. Income inequality is higher in the nation’s most populous state than in almost any other.
California cannot solve its budget problems by slashing services that have already been cut to the bone or raising sales taxes that hurt the poor far more than the rich. We are fighting over a pie that remains too small. The pie itself needs to be expanded – and it can be.
How? By reclaiming that portion that is now siphoned off in interest and bank fees. When tallied up at every stage of production, interest has been calculated to claim one-third of everything we buy.
How can that money be recaptured? By owning the bank.
The approach was pioneered in North Dakota, the only state to escape the 2008 banking crisis. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, the lowest foreclosure rate, the lowest default rate on credit card debt, and no state debt at all. It is also the only state to own its own bank.
In the fall of 2011, a bill for a feasibility study for a state-owned bank passed both houses of the California legislature. The Public Banking Institute, which I founded and chair, was instrumental in helping to get the bill as far as it got. But it died when Jerry Brown vetoed it. His rationale was that we already have a banking committee, and that the matter could be explored in-house. Needless to say, however, we have heard no more about it since.
I am therefore running for California State Treasurer on a state bank platform, along with Laura Wells, who is running for Controller. We are throwing our bonnets in the ring for the opportunity to show the Governorr or his successor that a state-owned bank can be our ticket to returning California to the abundance it once enjoyed.
I was a recipient of that abundance myself. I got my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, when tuition was free; and my law degree at UCLA Law School in the 1970s, when tuition was $700 a year. Today it is $13,000 and $45,000 annually, respectively, for in-state students. In the 1960s, the governor of California was Jerry Brown’s father Pat Brown, a New Deal visionary who believed that investment in education, infrastructure and local business was an investment in the future. Our goal is to revive that optimistic vision in 2014.
We are running on the endorsement of the Green Party – along with Luis Rodriguez for governor and David Curtis for secretary of state – because Green Party candidates take no corporate money. Candidates who take corporate money – and that means nearly all conventional candidates – are beholden to large corporate interests and cannot properly represent the interests of the disenfranchised 99%.
The North Dakota Model:
Banking that Supports Rather Than Exploits the Local Economy
California’s revenues are currently parked in those very largest of corporations, Wall Street banks. These out-of-state banks use our giant asset pool for their own speculative purposes, and the funds are at risk of confiscation in the event of a “bail-in.”
In North Dakota, by contrast, all of the state’s revenues are deposited by law in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND). The BND is set up as a DBA of the state (“North Dakota doing business as the Bank of North Dakota”), which means all of the state’s capital is technically the bank’s capital. The bank uses its copious capital and deposit pool to generate credit for local purposes.
The BND is a major money-maker for the state, returning a sizable dividend annually to the treasury. Every year since the 2008 banking crisis, it has reported a return on investment of between 17 percent and 26 percent. The BND also provides what is essentially interest-free credit for state projects, since the state owns the bank and gets the interest back. The BND partners with local banks rather than competing with them, strengthening their capital and deposit bases and allowing them to keep loans on their books rather than having to sell them off to investors. This practice allowed North Dakota to avoid the subprime crisis that destroyed the housing market in other states.
Consider the awesome potential for California, with its massive capital and deposit bases. California has over $200 billion stashed in a variety of funds identified in its 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), including $58 billion managed by the Treasurer in a Pooled Money Investment Account currently earning a meager 0.264% annually. It also has over $400 billion in its pension funds (CalPERS and CalSTRS).
California’s population of 37 million is more than 50 times that of North Dakota. In 2010, the BND had about $4,500 in deposits and $4,200 in loans per capita. Multiplying 37 million by $4,200, a State Bank of California could, in theory, generate $155.4 billion in credit for the state; and this credit would effectively be interest-free free, since the state would own the bank.
What could California do with $155 billion in interest-free credit? One possibility would be to refinance its ominous “wall of debt” at 0%. A debt that is interest-free can be rolled over indefinitely without cost to the taxpayers.
Another possibility would be to fund public projects interest-free. Eliminating interest has been shown to reduce the cost of public projects by 35% or more.
Take, for example, the San Francisco Bay Bridge earthquake retrofitting boondoggle, which was originally slated to cost about $6 billion. Interest and bank fees wound up adding another $6 billion to the overall cost to taxpayers. Funding through its own bank could have saved the state $6 billion or 50% on this project.
Then there is the state’s bullet train fiasco, which has been beset with delays, cost overruns, and funding issues. As with the Bay Bridge, costs are projected to double as a result of compounding interest on long-term bonds, imposing huge hidden costs on the next generation of taxpayers. By funding the bullet train through a state-owned bank, its costs, too, could be reduced by 50%.
The Challenge of a “Jungle Primary”
As voters become increasingly disillusioned with big-corporate-money candidates, the third party option is gaining traction. According to a recent Gallup poll, in 2013 42% of Americans identified themselves as political independents, significantly outpacing Democrats at 31% and Republicans at 25%.
The growing threat posed by independent and third-party candidates may explain why it is getting harder and harder to run as one. In California we now have Proposition 14, the Top Two primary, sometimes called the “Louisiana primary” or “jungle primary.” It might better be named the Incumbents’ Benevolent Protection Act.
Proposition 14 requires statewide and congressional California candidates, regardless of party preference, to participate in a nonpartisan blanket primary, with only the top two candidates advancing to the general election. Incumbents and heavily-funded candidates have historically reaped the benefits of this arrangement. Third party candidates are liable to get knocked out in the first round in June, eliminating them from the November elections.
But the new system does have the advantage that anyone can vote for any candidate in the June primary; so if we can mobilize voters, we have a shot.
There is, however, another new hurdle imposed by Proposition 14. In place of the 150 signatures-in-lieu-of-filing-fee needed earlier, we now need 10,000 signatures – either that or $2,800. But we’re hoping to turn that requirement, too, to advantage, by using it to build the people power and energy necessary to take the June 3, 2014 primary. If you would like to sign a petition or donate, click here.
There is another way to balance a state budget, one that leads to prosperity rather than austerity. California can stimulate its economy and the job market, restore low-cost higher education, build 21st-century infrastructure, preserve the environment, and relieve the state’s debt burden, by establishing a bank that is owned by the people and returns its profits to the people.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the bestselling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 200+ credit blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She is currently running for California State Treasurer on the Green Party ticket.
Shock waves from one Wall Street scandal after another have completely disillusioned us with our banking system; yet we cannot do without banks. Nearly all money today is simply bank credit. Economies run on it, and it is created when banks make loans. The main flaw in the current model is that private profiteers have acquired control of the credit spigots. They can cut off the flow, direct it to their cronies, and manipulate it for personal gain at the expense of the producing economy. The benefits of bank credit can be maintained while eliminating these flaws, through a system of banks operated as public utilities, serving the public interest and returning their profits to the public. This book looks at the public bank alternative, and shows with examples from around the world and through history that it works admirably well, providing the key to sustained high performance for the economy and well-being for the people.
Although this site supports credit unions, we also recognize that Ellen Brown’s plan to put in State-Owned Public Banks would be another way to short-circuit the Bankster outlaws at the Federal Reserve, which is the private institution that is owned by the international banking cartel. The Federal Reserve is currently destroying the economy of the United States by printing Trillions of dollars of worthless paper. The only thing that kept some confidence in the dollar was that it was a petrodollar, and dollars were the only currency allowed in oil transactions. Now however, other countries, like Iran,Venezuela, and China are accepting other currencies for oil, rendering an end to our dominance of the world, and beginning a currency collapse.
Click Here to go to Ellen Brown’s website to order this eye-opening book.
September 4, 2013
In an August 2013 article titled “ Larry Summers and the Secret ‘End-game’ Memo,” Greg Palast posted evidence of a secret late-1990s plan devised by Wall Street and U.S. Treasury officials to open banking to the lucrative derivatives business. To pull this off required the relaxation of banking regulations not just in the US but globally. The vehicle to be used was the Financial Services Agreement of the World Trade Organization.
The “end-game” would require not just coercing support among WTO members but taking down those countries refusing to join. Some key countries remained holdouts from the WTO, including Iraq, Libya, Iran and Syria. In these Islamic countries, banks are largely state-owned; and “usury” – charging rent for the “use” of money – is viewed as a sin, if not a crime. That puts them at odds with the Western model of rent extraction by private middlemen. Publicly-owned banks are also a threat to the mushrooming derivatives business, since governments with their own banks don’t need interest rate swaps, credit default swaps, or investment-grade ratings by private rating agencies in order to finance their operations.
Bank deregulation proceeded according to plan, and the government-sanctioned and -nurtured derivatives business mushroomed into a $700-plus trillion pyramid scheme. Highly leveraged, completely unregulated, and dangerously unsustainable, it collapsed in 2008 when investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, taking a large segment of the global economy with it. The countries that managed to escape were those sustained by public banking models outside the international banking net.
These countries were not all Islamic. Forty percent of banks globally are publicly-owned. They are largely in the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—which house forty percent of the global population. They also escaped the 2008 credit crisis, but they at least made a show of conforming to Western banking rules. This was not true of the “rogue” Islamic nations, where usury was forbidden by Islamic teaching. To make the world safe for usury, these rogue states had to be silenced by other means. Having failed to succumb to economic coercion, they wound up in the crosshairs of the powerful US military.
Here is some data in support of that thesis.
The End-game Memo
In his August 22nd article, Greg Palast posted a screenshot of a 1997 memo from Timothy Geithner, then Assistant Secretary of International Affairs under Robert Rubin, to Larry Summers, then Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Geithner referred in the memo to the “end-game of WTO financial services negotiations” and urged Summers to touch base with the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citibank, and Chase Manhattan Bank, for whom private phone numbers were provided.
The game then in play was the deregulation of banks so that they could gamble in the lucrative new field of derivatives. To pull this off required, first, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the 1933 Act that imposed a firewall between investment banking and depository banking in order to protect depositors’ funds from bank gambling. But the plan required more than just deregulating US banks. Banking controls had to be eliminated globally so that money would not flee to nations with safer banking laws. The “endgame” was to achieve this global deregulation through an obscure addendum to the international trade agreements policed by the World Trade Organization, called the Financial Services Agreement. Palast wrote:
Until the bankers began their play, the WTO agreements dealt simply with trade in goods–that is, my cars for your bananas. The new rules ginned-up by Summers and the banks would force all nations to accept trade in “bads” – toxic assets like financial derivatives.
Until the bankers’ re-draft of the FSA, each nation controlled and chartered the banks within their own borders. The new rules of the game would force every nation to open their markets to Citibank, JP Morgan and their derivatives “products.”
And all 156 nations in the WTO would have to smash down their own Glass-Steagall divisions between commercial savings banks and the investment banks that gamble with derivatives.
The job of turning the FSA into the bankers’ battering ram was given to Geithner, who was named Ambassador to the World Trade Organization.
WTO members were induced to sign the agreement by threatening their access to global markets if they refused; and they all did sign, except Brazil. Brazil was then threatened with an embargo; but its resistance paid off, since it alone among Western nations survived and thrived during the 2007-2009 crisis. As for the others:
The new FSA pulled the lid off the Pandora’s box of worldwide derivatives trade. Among the notorious transactions legalized: Goldman Sachs (where Treasury Secretary Rubin had been Co-Chairman) worked a secret euro-derivatives swap with Greece which, ultimately, destroyed that nation. Ecuador, its own banking sector de-regulated and demolished, exploded into riots. Argentina had to sell off its oil companies (to the Spanish) and water systems (to Enron) while its teachers hunted for food in garbage cans. Then, Bankers Gone Wild in the Eurozone dove head-first into derivatives pools without knowing how to swim–and the continent is now being sold off in tiny, cheap pieces to Germany.
The Holdouts – US Conspiracy to “Take Down” Islamic Countries Because They Refuse Usury.
That was the fate of countries in the WTO, but Palast did not discuss those that were not in that organization at all, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. These seven countries were named by U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.) in a 2007 “Democracy Now” interview  as the new “rogue states” being targeted for take down after September 11, 2001. He said that about 10 days after 9-11, he was told by a general that the decision had been made to go to war with Iraq. Later, the same general said they planned to take out seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.
What did these countries have in common? Besides being Islamic, they were not members either of the WTO or of the Bank for International Settlements  (BIS). That left them outside the long regulatory arm of the central bankers’ central bank in Switzerland. Other countries later identified as “rogue states ” that were also not members of the BIS included North Korea, Cuba, and Afghanistan.
The body regulating banks today is called the Financial Stability Board (FSB), and it is housed in the BIS in Switzerland. In 2009, the heads of the G20 nations agreed to be bound by rules imposed by the FSB, ostensibly to prevent another global banking crisis. Its regulations are not merely advisory but are binding, and they can make or break not just banks but whole nations. This was first demonstrated in 1989, when the Basel I Accord raised capital requirements a mere 2%, from 6% to 8%. The result  was to force a drastic reduction in lending by major Japanese banks, which were then the world’s largest and most powerful creditors. They were undercapitalized, however, relative to other banks. The Japanese economy sank along with its banks and has yet to fully recover.
Among other game-changing regulations in play under the FSB are Basel III and the new bail-in rules. Basel III is slated to impose crippling capital requirements on public, cooperative and community banks, coercing their sale to large multinational banks.
The “bail-in” template was first tested in Cyprus and follows regulations imposed by the FSB in 2011. Too-big-to-fail banks are required to draft “living wills”  setting forth how they will avoid insolvency in the absence of government bailouts. The FSB solution is to “bail in” creditors – including depositors – turning deposits into bank stock, effectively confiscating them.
The Public Bank Alternative
Countries laboring under the yoke of an extractive private banking system are being forced into “structural adjustment” and austerity by their unrepayable debt. But some countries have managed to escape. In the Middle East, these are the targeted “rogue nations.” Their state-owned banks can issue the credit of the state on behalf of the state, leveraging public funds for public use without paying a massive tribute to private middlemen. Generous state funding allows them to provide generously for their people.
Like Libya and Iraq before they were embroiled in war, Syria provides free education at all levels  and free medical care. It also provides subsidized housing for everyone (although some of this has been compromised by adoption of an IMF structural adjustment program in 2006 and the presence of about 2 million Iraqi and Palestinian refugees). Iran too provides nearly free higher education  and primary health care .
Like Libya and Iraq before takedown, Syria and Iran have state-owned central banks  that issue the national currency and are under government control. Whether these countries will succeed in maintaining their financial sovereignty in the face of enormous economic, political and military pressure remains to be seen.
As for Larry Summers, after proceeding through the revolving door to head Citigroup, he became State Senator Barack Obama’s key campaign benefactor. He played a key role in the banking deregulation that brought on the current crisis, causing millions of US citizens to lose their jobs and their homes. Yet Summers is President Obama’s first choice to replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman. Why? He has proven he can manipulate the system to make the world safe for Wall Street; and in an upside-down world in which bankers rule, that seems to be the name of the game.
Check out Ellen Brown at:
This article first appeared at Web of Debt.
Cyprus-style confiscation of depositor funds has been called the “new normal.” Bail-in policies are appearing in multiple countries directing failing Too Big To Fail banks to convert the funds of “unsecured creditors” into capital; and those creditors, it turns out, include ordinary depositors. Even “secured” creditors, including state and local governments, may be at risk. Derivatives have “super-priority” status in bankruptcy, and Dodd Frank precludes further taxpayer bailouts. In a big derivatives bust, there may be no collateral left for the creditors who are next in line.
Shock waves went around the world when the IMF, the EU, and the ECB not only approved but mandated the confiscation of depositor funds to “bail in” two bankrupt banks in Cyprus. A “Bail in” is a quantum leap beyond a “bail out.” When governments are no longer willing to use taxpayer money to bail out banks that have gambled away their capital, the banks are now being instructed to “recapitalize” themselves by confiscating the funds of their creditors, turning debt into equity, or stock; and the “creditors” include the depositors who put their money in the bank thinking it was a secure place to store their savings.
The Cyprus bail-in was not a one-off emergency measure but was consistent with similar policies already in the works for the US, UK, EU, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, as detailed in my earlier articles here and here. “Too big to fail” now trumps all. Rather than banks being put into bankruptcy to salvage the deposits of their customers, the customers will now be put into bankruptcy to save the banks.
Why Derivatives Threaten Your Bank Account
The big risk behind all this is the massive $230 trillion derivatives boondoggle managed by US banks. Derivatives are sold as a kind of insurance for managing profits and risk; but as Satyajit Das points out in Extreme Money, they actually increase risk to the system as a whole.
In the US after the Glass-Steagall Act was implemented in 1933, a bank could not gamble with depositor funds for its own account; but in 1999, that barrier was removed. Recent congressional investigations have revealed that in the biggest derivative banks, JPMorgan and Bank of America, massive commingling has occurred between their depository arms and their unregulated and highly vulnerable derivatives arms. Under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured. In a major derivatives fiasco, derivative claimants could well grab all the collateral, leaving other claimants, public and private, holding the bag.
The tab for the 2008 bailout was $700 billion in taxpayer funds, and that was just to start. Another $700 billion disaster could easily wipe out all the money in the FDIC insurance fund, which has only about $25 billion in it. Both JPMorgan and Bank of America have over $1 trillion in deposits, and total deposits covered by FDIC insurance are about $9 trillion. According to an article in Bloomberg in November 2011, Bank of America’s holding company then had almost $75 trillion in derivatives, and 71% were held in its depository arm; while J.P. Morgan had $79 trillion in derivatives, and 99% were in its depository arm. Those whole mega-sums are not actually at risk, but the cash calculated to be at risk from derivatives from all sources is at least $12 trillion; and JPM is the biggest player, with 30% of the market.
It used to be that the government would backstop the FDIC if it ran out of money. But section 716 of the Dodd Frank Act now precludes the payment of further taxpayer funds to bail out a bank from a bad derivatives gamble. As summarized in a letter from Americans for Financial Reform quoted by Yves Smith:
Section 716 bans taxpayer bailouts of a broad range of derivatives dealing and speculative derivatives activities. Section 716 does not in any way limit the swaps activities which banks or other financial institutions may engage in. It simply prohibits public support for such activities.
There will be no more $700 billion taxpayer bailouts. So where will the banks get the money in the next crisis? It seems the plan has just been revealed in the new “Bail-in” policies.
All Depositors, Secured and Unsecured, May Be at Risk
The bail-in policy for the US and UK is set forth in a document put out jointly by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Bank of England (BOE) in December 2012, titled Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.
In an April 4th article in Financial Sense, John Butler points out that the directive does not explicitly refer to “depositors.” It refers only to “unsecured creditors.” But the effective meaning of the term, says Butler, is belied by the fact that the FDIC has been put on the job. The FDIC has direct responsibility only for depositors, not for the bondholders who are wholesale non-depositor sources of bank credit. Butler comments:
Do you see the sleight-of-hand at work here? Under the guise of protecting taxpayers, depositors of failing institutions are to be arbitrarily, de-facto subordinated to interbank claims, when in fact they are legally senior to those claims!
. . . [C]onsider the brutal, unjust irony of the entire proposal. Remember, its stated purpose is to solve the problem revealed in 2008, namely the existence of insolvent TBTF institutions that were “highly leveraged and complex, with numerous and dispersed financial operations, extensive off-balance-sheet activities, and opaque financial statements.” Yet what is being proposed is a framework sacrificing depositors in order to maintain precisely this complex, opaque, leverage-laden financial edifice!
If you believe that what has happened recently in Cyprus is unlikely to happen elsewhere, think again. Economic policy officials in the US, UK and other countries are preparing for it. Remember, someone has to pay. Will it be you? If you are a depositor, the answer is yes.
The FDIC was set up to ensure the safety of deposits. Now it, it seems, its function will be the confiscation of deposits to save Wall Street. In the only mention of “depositors” in the FDIC-BOE directive as it pertains to US policy, paragraph 47 says that “the authorities recognize the need for effective communication to depositors, making it clear that their deposits will be protected.” But protected with what? As with MF Global, the pot will already have been gambled away. From whom will the bank get it back? Not the derivatives claimants, who are first in line to be paid; not the taxpayers, since Congress has sealed the vault; not the FDIC insurance fund, which has a paltry $25 billion in it. As long as the derivatives counter-parties have super-priority status, the claims of all other parties are in jeopardy.
That could mean not just the “unsecured creditors” but the “secured creditors,” including state and local governments. Local governments keep a significant portion of their revenues in Wall Street banks because smaller local banks lack the capacity to handle their complex business. In the US, banks taking deposits of public funds are required to pledge collateral against any funds exceeding the deposit insurance limit of $250,000. But derivative claims are also secured with collateral, and they have super-priority over all other claimants, including other secured creditors. The vault may be empty by the time local government officials get to the teller’s window. Main Street will again have been plundered by Wall Street.
Super-priority Status for Derivatives Increases Rather than Decreases Risk
Harvard Law Professor Mark Row maintains that the super-priority status of derivatives needs to be repealed. He writes:
. . . Derivatives counter-parties, . . . unlike most other secured creditors, can seize and immediately liquidate collateral, readily net out gains and losses in their dealings with the bankrupt, terminate their contracts with the bankrupt, and keep both preferential eve-of-bankruptcy payments and fraudulent conveyances they obtained from the debtor, all in ways that favor them over the bankrupt’s other creditors.
. . . When we subsidize derivatives and similar financial activity via bankruptcy benefits unavailable to other creditors, we get more of the activity than we otherwise would. Repeal would induce these burgeoning financial markets to better recognize the risks of counter-party financial failure, which in turn should dampen the possibility of another AIG-, Bear Stearns-, or Lehman Brothers-style financial meltdown, thereby helping to maintain systemic financial stability.
In The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences, Mr. David Skeel agrees. He calls the Dodd-Frank policy approach “corporatism”“ a partnership between government and corporations. Congress has made no attempt in the legislation to reduce the size of the big banks or to undermine the implicit subsidy provided by the knowledge that they will be bailed out in the event of trouble.
Under-girding this approach is what Mr.Skeel calls “the Lehman myth,” which blames the 2008 banking collapse on the decision to allow Lehman Brothers to fail. Mr. Skeel counters that the Lehman bankruptcy was actually orderly, and the derivatives were unwound relatively quickly. Rather than preventing the Lehman collapse, the bankruptcy exemption for derivatives may have helped precipitate it. When the bank appeared to be on shaky ground, the derivatives players all rushed to put in their claims, in a run on the collateral before it ran out. Mr. Skeel says the problem could be resolved by eliminating the derivatives exemption from the stay of proceedings that a bankruptcy court applies to other contracts to prevent this sort of run.
Putting the Brakes on the Wall Street End Game
Besides eliminating the super-priority of derivatives, here are some other ways to block the Wall Street asset grab:
(1) Restore the Glass-Steagall Act separating depository banking from investment banking. Support Marcy Kaptur’s H.R. 129
(2) Break up the giant derivatives banks. Support Bernie Sanders’ “too big to jail” legislation.
(3) Alternatively, nationalize the TBTFs, as advised in the New York Times by Gar Alperovitz. If taxpayer bailouts to save the TBTFs are unacceptable, depositor bailouts are even more unacceptable.
(4) Make derivatives illegal, as they were between 1936 and 1982 under the Commodities Exchange Act. They can be unwound by simply netting them out, declaring them null and void. As noted by Paul Craig Roberts, “the only major effect of closing out or netting all the swaps (mostly over-the-counter contracts between counter-parties) would be to take $230 trillion of leveraged risk out of the financial system.”
(5) Support the Harkin-Whitehouse bill to impose a financial transactions tax on Wall Street trading. Among other uses, a tax on all trades might supplement the FDIC insurance fund to cover another derivatives disaster.
(6) Establish postal savings banks as government-guaranteed depositories for individual savings. Many countries have public savings banks, which became particularly popular after savings in private banks were wiped out in the banking crisis of the late 1990s.
(7) Establish publicly-owned banks to be depositories of public monies, following the lead of North Dakota, the only state to completely escape the 2008 banking crisis. North Dakota does not keep its revenues in Wall Street banks but deposits them in the state-owned Bank of North Dakota by law. The bank has a mandate to serve the public, and it does not gamble in derivatives.
A motivated state legislature could set up a publicly-owned bank very quickly. Having its own bank would allow the state to protect both its own revenues and those of its citizens while generating the credit needed to support local business and restore prosperity to Main Street
For more information on the public bank option, see here. Learn more at the Public Banking Institute conference June 2-4 in San Rafael, California, featuring Matt Taibbi, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Gar Alperovitz and others.
Ellen Brown is an attorney, chairman of the Public Banking Institute, and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free. Her websites are www.webofdebt.com and www.ellenbrown.com.
Here’s a snip from Ellen Brown’s latest article chronicling the criminal activities of the European Union:
– Martin Hutchinson on the attempted EU raid on deposits in Cyprus banks
The deposit confiscation scheme has long been in the making. US depositors could be next . . . .
Retirement. (Photo: Loz Pycock / Flickr)On Tuesday, March 19, the national legislature of Cyprus overwhelmingly rejected a proposed levy on bank deposits as a condition for a European bailout. Reuters called it “a stunning setback for the 17-nation currency bloc,” but it was a stunning victory for democracy. As Reuters quoted one 65-year-old pensioner, “The voice of the people was heard.”
The EU had warned that it would withhold €10 billion in bailout loans, and the European Central Bank (ECB) had threatened to end emergency lending assistance for distressed Cypriot banks, unless depositors – including small savers – shared the cost of the rescue. In the deal rejected by the legislature, a one-time levy on depositors would be required in return for a bailout of the banking system. Deposits below €100,000 would be subject to a 6.75% levy or “haircut”, while those over €100,000 would have been subject to a 9.99% “fine.”
Read the entire article: Click Here
Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:10 By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis
Shredded money and percentage Interest charges are a strongly regressive tax that the poor pay to the rich. A public banking system could realize savings up to 40 percent – allowing taxes to be cut, services increased and market stability created – with banks feeding the economy rather than feeding off it.
In the 2012 edition of Occupy Money released last week, Professor Margrit Kennedy writes that a stunning 35 percent to 40 percent of everything we buy goes to interest. This interest goes to bankers, financiers, and bondholders, who take a 35 percent to 40 percent cut of our GDP. That helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street. The rich get progressively richer at the expense of the poor, not just because of “Wall Street greed,” but because of the inexorable mathematics of our private banking system.
This hidden tribute to the banks will come as a surprise to most people, who think that if they pay their credit card bills on time and don’t take out loans, they aren’t paying interest. This, says Dr. Kennedy, is not true.
To read the rest of this interesting article, go to:
Our comment: In ancient times, about 3,500 BC, our system of economics began as a debt system. The ancient Sumerians, the founders of modern western civilization, invented it. Interest was a common thing, used by tradesmen and business people. Exact records were kept on baked clay tablets of these transactions. But there was one difference: the Sumerians knew that simple mathematics showed that interest payments, creating money or credit out of thin air, would eventually take its toll on their society, and all the wealth would eventually end up in the hands of a few. But they had a solution. Every six decades or so they reset the counter, and all interest payment and debt was forgiven. Everyone started over again. This tradition carried down to the middle ages when the Catholic Church declared “Jubilees”, which were debt forgiveness and time to celebrate economic freedom. The absolute greed of our 20th century rulers and bankers, who have decided to go for the whole pot of wealth come what may, and our ignorant “leaders” both in politics and religion, have ensured that we have arrived at the tipping point today. Most of the real wealth in America is owned by a very few at the top. How long will the serfs allow this to continue?