Category Archives: Big Banks

France’s far-right sets sight on presidency

Spanish Independence Movements and the Recolonization of Southern Europe: Interview with Sister Teresa Forcades

Totalitarianism, American Style

Chris Hedges recently spoke during a panel discussion in New York:

‘We have undergone a transformation during the last few decades—what John Ralston Saul calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion. We are no longer a capitalist democracy endowed with a functioning liberal class that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible. Liberals in the old Democratic Party such as the senators Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern—who worked with Ralph Nader to make the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the OSHA law, who made common cause with labor unions to protect workers, who stood up to the arms industry and a bloated military—no longer exist within the Democratic Party, as Nader has been lamenting for several years. They were pushed out as corporate donors began to transform the political landscape with the election of Ronald Reagan. And this is why the Democrats have not, as Bill Curry points out, enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s.

We are governed, rather, by a species of corporate totalitarianism, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin describes as “inverted totalitarianism.” By this Wolin means a system where corporate power, while it purports to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the three branches of government and a free press, along with the iconography and language of American patriotism, has in fact seized all the important levers of power to render the citizen impotent.’

READ MORE…

Gold price seen near tipping point for mine cuts, closures

Nicole Mordant reports for Reuters:

‘The price of gold, down more than a third in three years, is approaching the tipping point where the mining industry would see a spike in the number of producers reducing output or even shutting down operations.

Several mines globally have already suspended output in the past 18 months, but not as many as industry watchers expected as producers focused on slashing costs and reworking mine plans to extract more profitable, higher-grade ounces.

But with bullion’s slide this week to a nine-month low of $1,208.36 an ounce, those defenses may not be enough.’

READ MORE…

Big Banks Manipulated $21 Trillion Dollar Market for Credit Default Swaps (and Every Other Market)

From Washington’s Blog:

Runaway derivatives – especially credit default swaps (CDS) – were one of the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis. Congress never fixed the problem, and actually made it worse.

The big banks have long manipulated derivatives … a $1,200 Trillion Dollar market.

Indeed, many trillions of dollars of derivatives are being manipulated in the exact same same way that interest rates are fixed (see below) … through gamed self-reporting.

Reuters noted last week:

A Manhattan federal judge said on Thursday that investors may pursue a lawsuit accusing 12 major banks of violating antitrust law by fixing prices and restraining competition in the roughly $21 trillion market for credit default swaps.

***

“The complaint provides a chronology of behavior that would probably not result from chance, coincidence, independent responses to common stimuli, or mere interdependence,” [Judge] Cote said.

The defendants include Bank of America Corp, Barclays Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc , Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG , Goldman Sachs Group Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc , JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG.

Other defendants are the International Swaps and Derivatives Association and Markit Ltd, which provides credit derivative pricing services.

***

U.S. and European regulators have probed potential anticompetitive activity in CDS. In July 2013, the European Commission accused many of the defendants of colluding to block new CDS exchanges from entering the market.

***

“The financial crisis hardly explains the alleged secret meetings and coordinated actions,” the judge wrote. “Nor does it explain why ISDA and Markit simultaneously reversed course.”

In other words, the big banks are continuing to fix prices for CDS in secret meetings … and have torpedoed the more open and transparent CDS exchanges that Congress mandated.

As shown below, Wall Street has manipulated virtually every other market as well – both in the financial sector and the real economy – and broken virtually every law on the books.’

READ MORE…

Are We On The Verge Of Another Financial Crisis?

Whistleblower’s tapes suggest the Fed was protecting Goldman Sachs from the inside

Dylan Matthews reports for Vox:

‘One of the most troubling aspects of the financial crisis was that government regulators let it happen in the first place. And the most compelling explanation is also the most disturbing: regulators were unduly influenced or even controlled (“captured” is the term of art) by the very banks and financial firms they were meant to rein in. This argument, popularized most notably by MIT economist Simon Johnson, has strong circumstantial evidence supporting it, but concrete proof from within regulatory agencies has, understandably, been hard to come by.

On Friday, This American Life and ProPublica announced they had found such proof. A joint report produced by ProPublica reporter Jake Bernstein (who previously won a Pulitzer for his investigative reporting on Wall Street for the two outlets) revealed the existence of 46 hours of audio recordings made inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which, as the Fed’s interface with the financial sector, serves as one of country’s most powerful bank regulators. Taken by former Fed bank examiner Carmen Segarra, the recordings suggest a culture within the Fed that was at best overly cautious in confronting bank wrongdoing, and at worst in bed with the banks it was regulating.’

READ MORE…

Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy

AlterNet has republished a recently delivered speech by Noam Chomsky from Bonn, Germany at DW Global Media Forum:

Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy‘[...] According to received doctrine, we live in capitalist democracies, which are the best possible system, despite some flaws. There’s been an interesting debate over the years about the relation between capitalism and democracy, for example, are they even compatible? I won’t be pursuing this because I’d like to discuss a different system – what we could call the “really existing capitalist democracy”, RECD for short, pronounced “wrecked” by accident. To begin with, how does RECD compare with democracy? Well that depends on what we mean by “democracy”. There are several versions of this. One, there is a kind of received version. It’s soaring rhetoric of the Obama variety, patriotic speeches, what children are taught in school, and so on. In the U.S. version, it’s government “of, by and for the people”. And it’s quite easy to compare that with RECD.

In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. And the results are interesting. In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.’

READ MORE…

Eric Holder’s legacy on Wall Street, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties and Press Freedom

Bill Black says Eric Holder’s legacy on “too big to fail” is “too big to jail”:

Mike Papantonio on Eric Holder’s relationship to the corporate world:

Part of a Democracy Now! round-table discussion on Eric Holder’s “complex legacy”:

Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph on Wealth Illusion, Structural Violence & Hope for Survival

Abby Martin interviews the creator of the Zeitgeist Movement, Peter Joseph, covering everything from the upcoming Zeitgeist Festival in Los Angeles on October 4th to economic and societal solutions to global problems ranging from environmental destruction to mass inequality. (Breaking the Set)

Chris Hedges on Wilful Blindness, Climate Corporatism & the Underground Revolt

Abby Martin speaks with journalist and author, Chris Hedges, going over where the recent mass climate change demonstrations in New York fall short, as well as why he believes revolt is the only solution to restoring a functioning American democracy.’ (Breaking the Set)

World Bank urges Turkey, EU to integrate further

The Daily Sabah reports:

World Bank urges Turkey, EU to integrate further‘World Bank Turkey Director Martin Raiser on Tuesday addressed design flaws in the EU-Turkey Customs Union agreement that is seen as the biggest obstacle for Turkey in EU economic integration.

Raiser said that although Turkey is a candidate for EU membership, its inability to participate in the decision-making process on the EU’s Customs Union policies increases the risk of Turkish non-compliance with EU legislation.

[...] Raiser was speaking at the “Turkey-EU Custom Union” panel held by the European Union and the Ankara-based think tank Global Research Association, which conducts research into Turkey’s harmonization with EU principles and policies.’

READ MORE…

IFS: Austerity will continue during next Tory, Labour or Lib Dem parliament

Larry Elliott reports for The Guardian:

‘George Osborne’s plans to balance the government’s books will require additional tax increases, spending cuts or welfare cuts worth more than £37bn in the first three years of the next parliament, according to Britain’s leading experts on the public finances.

In an assessment of the budget plans of the three biggest Westminster parties, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that austerity would continue under a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat chancellor, but that Osborne had by far the toughest approach to fiscal policy.’

READ MORE…

Game Theory + Market Democracy

How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign

Arun Gupta writes for CounterPunch:

‘Environmental activist Anne Petermann and writer Quincy Saul describe how the People’s Climate March has no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money. One veteran activist who was involved in Occupy Wall Street said it was made known there was plenty of money to hire her and others. There is no sense of history: decades of climate-justice activism are being erased by the incessant invocation of the “biggest climate change demonstration ever.” Investigative reporter Cory Morningstar has connected the dots between the organizing groups, 350.org and Avaaz, the global online activist outfit modeled on MoveOn, and institutions like the World Bank and Clinton Global Initiative. Morningstar claims the secret of Avaaz’s success is its “expertise in behavioral change.”

That is what I find most troubling. Having worked on Madison Avenue for nearly a decade, I can smell a P.R. and marketing campaign a mile away. That’s what the People’s Climate March looks to be. According to inside sources a push early on for a Seattle-style event—organizing thousands of people to nonviolently shut down the area around the United Nations—was thwarted by paid staff with the organizing groups.’

READ MORE…

Plymouth University under fire for spending £150,000 on 7 designer chairs

Sarah Cassidy reports for The Independent:

‘A scandal-hit university which has already seen its vice chancellor suspended and its chairman of governors stand aside as part of a bitter boardroom feud, has spent £150,000 on seven designer chairs. Plymouth University has commissioned the award-winning furniture designer John Makepeace to make seven handcrafted chairs to be used at graduation ceremonies.

The news follows revelations earlier this month that the university had spent more than £24,000 on sending six members of staff to a conference in Miami earlier this year. This was despite threatened job losses which have prompted a series of protests by lecturers at the Plymouth University campus this summer.’

READ MORE…

Occupy Movement Buys & Forgives $4 Million In Student Loan Debt

Can the Scots Blaze a Trail of Economic Sovereignty? A Public Bank Option for Scotland

Ellen Brown writes for Web of Debt:

‘Arguments against independence include that Scotland’s levels of public spending, which are higher than in the rest of the UK, would be difficult to sustain without raising taxes.  But that assumes the existing UK/EU investment regime.  If Scotland were to say, “We’re starting a new round based on our own assets, via our own new bank,” exciting things might be achieved. A publicly-owned bank with a mandate to serve the interests of the Scottish people could help give the newly independent country true economic sovereignty.

I wrote on that possibility in December 2012, after doing a PowerPoint on it at the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh. That presentation was followed by one by public sector consultant Ralph Leishman, who made the proposal concrete with facts and figures.  He suggested that the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) be licensed as a depository bank on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. I’m reposting the bulk of that article here, in hopes of adding to the current debate.’

READ MORE…

The Whys Behind the Ukraine Crisis

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, speaking to Ukrainian and other business leaders at the National Press Club in Washington on Dec. 13, 2013, at a meeting sponsored by Chevron.‘A senior U.S. diplomat told me recently that if Russia were to occupy all of Ukraine and even neighboring Belarus that there would be zero impact on U.S. national interests. The diplomat wasn’t advocating that, of course, but was noting the curious reality that Official Washington’s current war hysteria over Ukraine doesn’t connect to genuine security concerns.

So why has so much of the Washington Establishment – from prominent government officials to all the major media pundits – devoted so much time this past year to pounding their chests over the need to confront Russia regarding Ukraine? Who is benefiting from this eminently avoidable – yet extremely dangerous – crisis? What’s driving the madness?’

READ MORE…

Market Farces: Horrifying Images of the “Free” Market at Work

akadjian writes for Daily Kos:

 photo child-labor-sm_zpse67cfcab.jpg‘When economists talk about how a market “regulates itself,” what they mean is that markets reach an equilibrium between supply and demand.

This says nothing about whether or not this equilibrium will be a good thing for society. It simply states that if consumers choose what to buy and producers choose what to sell and how to produce it, the market settles on a product distribution and prices.

Lately, many people I know have argued that “free markets” mean something more. They see markets as ethically right or ethically moral, meaning pursuit of profit always somehow leads to a greater good.

Unfortunately, morality isn’t built into markets.’

READ MORE…

New BBC chief sued over claims HSBC laundered terrorists and drug cartels’ money

Alasdair Glennie reports for The Daily Mail:

‘The BBC’s chairman-elect is being sued over her involvement in the HSBC money-laundering scandal, it was revealed yesterday. Rona Fairhead, who is set to become the first woman to lead the corporation, had her appointment approved by MPs yesterday.

But hours after the Commons hearing it emerged the 53-year-old is facing a class action lawsuit by HSBC shareholders over allegations the bank allowed terrorists and Mexican drug cartels to launder money.

Mrs Fairhead chaired the bank’s ‘risk committee’ in 2012, when it was fined £1.2billion by US authorities to settle allegations that it allowed drug traffickers to launder millions of pounds. The bank was also accused of breaching sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Burma and Zimbabwe.’

READ MORE…

TUC leader speech on class system cut off by royal baby newsflash

Editor’s Note: This story reminded me of when an MSNBC host cut off a U.S. Congresswoman who was talking about the NSA’s bulk collection of phone data, just so that she could bring us “breaking news” about Justin Bieber appearing in court. Hilarious yet absolutely shocking at the same time but is it really any surprise? Bieber and the Royal baby are just another example of what a joke the media is on both sides of the Atlantic. A media which is largely there to keep us misinformed and distracted for the benefit of those own the system. So strap yourself in for another long, drawn-out, gooey eyed ride with Britain’s favourite celebrities. Puke!

Andy McSmith reports for The Independent:

‘Live television coverage of a speech by Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, was cut off this morning minutes after she had warned of a return to a “Downton Abbey” society –  for a newsflash announcing that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting her second child.

The second royal pregnancy was deemed to be so important that nothing more was heard of Ms O’Grady’s speech, in which she expanded on her theme that the British class system is being reinvented, as the gap between rich and poor widens.’

READ MORE…

Spain’s brain drain ‘worst in Western Europe’

The Local reports:

Spain's brain drain 'worst in Western Europe'‘Spain is among the European countries hardest hit by the so-called ‘brain drain’ effect with thousands of professionals including nurses and teachers taking steps to leave the country in recent years, new figures from the European Union show.

One of the most damaging aspects of Spain’s economic crisis has been the departure from the country of university graduates and highly skilled professionals. With jobs hard to come by and research and development funding slashed in many industries, anecdotal evidence suggests many people have decided to make the move elsewhere.’

READ MORE…

Italy’s fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage

Anthony Faiola reports for The Independent:

The Colosseum in Rome‘They have clothed the world’s wealthy fashionistas and bejeweled Hollywood stars. Now, Italy’s kings of fashion are poised to give this nation’s crumbling monuments a makeover to restore them to their former glory, something the cash-strapped Italian government cannot do.

But as Italy courts private cash to rescue some of the globe’s best-known relics of the ancient world, a debate is raging over the commercialisation of history. The Italians have been careful to avoid, say, the kind of US-style rebranding that could lead to Prada’s Pompeii or the Leaning Tower of Gucci. But critics are already fretting about corporate exploitation of Italy’s national patrimony.’

READ MORE…

Former First Lady on Hollande: ‘He does not like the poor, privately he calls them the toothless ones’

John Lichfield reports for The Independent:

‘In the 320 pages of Valérie Trierweiler’s literary revenge attack on François Hollande, just two words may have destroyed what remains of the hapless French President’s credibility. France has exploded with self-righteous rage at Ms Trierweiler’s claim that a Socialist President, who once said that he “hated the rich”, jokingly refers to the poor in private as “les sans dents” – “people without teeth”.’

READ MORE…

Fast-Food Workers Arrested In Fight For $15 Minimum Wage

Erika Eichelberger reports for Mother Jones:

‘On Thursday, nearly two years after fast-food employees first walked off the job in New York City, workers in dozens of cities around the country are staging a new round of strikes aimed at winning workers a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union. This spate of walk-outs will see a significant escalation in tactics: home healthcare workers will join the day of action, and some workers will engage in civil disobedience. Several have already been arrested.’

READ MORE…

Payday loan hardship cases up 42%, says UK debt charity

BBC News reports:

cash loans sign‘The number of people struggling with payday loans has risen by 42% in the past year, according to a debt charity. The charity StepChange is asking the City regulator to take further action to protect consumers who suffer from such financial hardship.

It said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should impose an even stricter cap on payday loan costs. The FCA said it would study the idea, along with all the other responses to its current consultation.

StepChange’s latest figures suggest the number of people getting into difficulty as a result of payday loans is continuing to increase. In the first half of 2014 it dealt with 43,716 consumers who were in trouble. That compares with 30,762 in the same period last year.’

READ MORE…

Even the Council on Foreign Relations Is Saying It: Time to Rain Money on Main Street

Ellen Brown writes at Web of Debt:

When an article appears in Foreign Affairs, the mouthpiece of the policy-setting Council on Foreign Relations, recommending that the Federal Reserve do a money drop directly on the 99%, you know the central bank must be down to its last bullet.

The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs features an article by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan titled “Print Less But Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly To The People.” It’s the sort of thing normally heard only from money reformers and Social Credit enthusiasts far from the mainstream. What’s going on?

The Fed, it seems, has finally run out of other ammo. It has to taper its quantitative easing program, which is eating up the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities needed as collateral for the repo market that is the engine of the bankers’ shell game. The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) has also done serious collateral damage. The banks that get the money just put it in interest-bearing Federal Reserve accounts or buy foreign debt or speculate with it; and the profits go back to the 1%, who park it offshore to avoid taxes. Worse, any increase in the money supply from increased borrowing increases the overall debt burden and compounding finance costs, which are already a major constraint on economic growth.

Meanwhile, the economy continues to teeter on the edge of deflation. The Fed needs to pump up the money supply and stimulate demand in some other way. All else having failed, it is reduced to trying what money reformers have been advocating for decades — get money into the pockets of the people who actually spend it on goods and services.’

READ MORE…

Nail In The Petrodollar Coffin: Gazprom Begins Accepting Payment For Oil In Ruble, Yuan

Zero Hedge reports:

‘Several months ago, when Russia announced the much anticipated “Holy Grail” energy deal with China, some were disappointed that despite this symbolic agreement meant to break the petrodollar’s stranglehold on the rest of the world, neither Russia nor China announced payment terms to be in anything but dollars. In doing so they admitted that while both nations are eager to move away from a US Dollar reserve currency, neither is yet able to provide an alternative.

This changed in late June when first Gazprom’s CFO announced the gas giant was ready to settle China contracts in Yuan or Rubles, and at the same time the People’s Bank of China announced that its Assistant Governor Jin Qi and Russian central bank Deputy Chairman Dmitry Skobelkin held a meeting in which they discussed cooperating on project and trade financing using local currencies. The meeting discussed cooperation in bank card, insurance and financial supervision sectors.

And yet, while both sides declared their operational readiness and eagerness to bypass the dollar entirely, such plans remained purely in the arena of monetary foreplay and the long awaited first shot across the Petrodollar bow was absent. Until now.’

READ MORE…

Russia and economic warfare: RIP the free market new world order

Larry Elliott writes for The Guardian:

Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989‘[...] Although Putin has no alternative ideology to offer, times have changed. This is now a messier, less clearly defined, multipolar world. It is not just that the pre-eminence of the dollar has been challenged by Russia’s announcement that roubles and yuan will be used in the oil deal it has brokered with China. It is not just that we are back to spheres of influence. It is not even that governments have become more interventionist and protectionist. It is that after the convulsions of the past seven years, it is hard to imagine a US president or indeed any western leader saying: “We know what works, the free market works.”

So RIP new world order. Born Berlin 1989. Died with Lehman Brothers September 2008. Laid to rest eastern Ukraine August 2014.’

READ MORE…