Category Archives: Big Banks

Sunday Times Rich List: Britain’s richest double their wealth in 10 years

Press Association reports:

The collective wealth of Britain’s richest people has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

This year’s list found the wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families now have a combined fortune of just over £547bn – or £547m each on average.

The figure has more than doubled since a total of just under £250bn was recorded in 2005, despite the world economy being gripped by a punishing recession over much of the last decade.

Plain old millionaires increasingly struggle to count themselves among the mega-rich, with a fortune of £100m now required to make it into the top 1,000. That is £15m higher than last year’s minimum.’

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The Volatility / Quantitative Easing Dance of Doom

Nomi Prins, author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, writes:

The battle between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of global financial policy is escalating to the point where the ‘haves’ might start to sweat – a tiny little. This phase of heightened volatility in the markets is a harbinger of the inevitable meltdown that will follow the grand plastering-over of a systemically fraudulent global financial system. It’s like a sputtering gas tank signaling an approach to ‘empty’.

Obscene amounts of central bank liquidity applauded by government leaders that have protected the political-financial establishment with failed oversight and lack of foresight, have coalesced to form one of the most unequal, unstable economic environments in modern history. The ongoing availability of cheap capital for big bank solvency, growth and leverage purposes, as well as stock and bond market propulsion has fostered a false sense of economic security that bears little resemblance to most personal realities.

We are entering the seventh year of US initiated zero-interest-rate policy. Biblically, Joseph only gathered wheat for seven years before seven years of famine. Quantitative easing, or central bank bond buying from banks and the governments that sustain them, has enjoyed its longest period of existence ever. If these policies were about fortifying economic conditions from the ground up, fostering equality as a force for future stability, they would have worked by now. We would have moved on from them sooner.

But they aren’t. Never were. Never will be. They were designed to aid big banks and capital markets, to provide cover to feeble leadership. They are policies of capital creation, dispersion and global reallocation.  The markets have acted accordingly.’

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Patriot gains: Sir John Sawers is the latest in long line of British spy chief sell-outs

Charlie Skelton writes for the International Business Times:

Sir John Sawers (left) at the 2014 Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, with BP chair Carl-Henric SvanbergYet more fallout from the HSBC tax scandal. The former head of MI6, Jonathan Evans, known to his friends as Baron Evans of Weardale, has resigned from the board of the National Crime Agency. He stepped down to avoid any “perceived conflict of interest” between his role at the publicly funded NCA and his rather more lucrative position as a director of HSBC.

What’s troubling about this situation is not so much the conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, as the fact the former director of our domestic intelligence service is now a director of one of the world’s biggest banks.

In fact, Baron Evans is just one of a growing line of British spy chiefs who have hopped off the top of the intelligence pyramid into corporate boardrooms and cushy consultancies. But it wasn’t always so. There was a time, not long ago, when outgoing spy chiefs styled their post-resignation lives a little more along the lines of Sherlock Holmes, who retired to the Sussex Downs to keep bees.’

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George Carlin: Bullshit is everywhere

CEO Raises Workers’ Minimum Salary To $70,000, Takes 90% Pay Cut

‘Money can’t buy happiness, but Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price doesn’t believe in that philosophy. The boss announced a big raise for many of his employees and took a big pay cut. Anthony Mason reports.’ (CBS This Morning)

America’s Shame: Trillions in New Wealth, Millions of Children in Poverty

Paul Buchheit writes for Buzzflash:

2015.13.4 BF BuchheitAmerica’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

Financier and CEO Peter Schiff said, “People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy.” The 16 million kids on food stamps know what it’s like to go hungry. Perhaps, some in Congress would say, those children should be working. “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” insisted Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, even for schoolkids, who should be required to “sweep the floor of the cafeteria” (as they actually do at a charter school in Texas).

The callousness of US political and business leaders is disturbing, shocking. Hunger is just one of the problems of our children. Teacher Sonya Romero-Smith told about the two little homeless girls she adopted: “Getting rid of bedbugs, that took us a while. Night terrors, that took a little while. Hoarding food..”‘

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How America Became an Oligarchy

Ellen Brown writes for Web of Debt:

According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America’s political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.

“Making the world safe for democracy” was President Woodrow Wilson’s rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?

The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that “all men are created equal” – that all people have “certain inalienable rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters’ collective will no longer prevails.’

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Crippling PFI deals leave Britain £222bn in debt

Jonathan Owen reports for The Independent:

Every man, woman and child in Britain is more than £3,400 in debt – without knowing it and without borrowing a single penny – thanks to the proliferation of controversial deals used to pay for infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The UK owes more than £222bn to banks and businesses as a result of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) – “buy now, pay later” agreements between the government and private companies on major projects. The startling figure – described by experts as a “financial disaster” – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office (NAO).’

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British banking scandals have wiped out 60% of profits since 2011

Lianna Brinded reports for Business Insider:

Financial scandals wiped out 60% of Britain’s biggest five banks’ profits since 2011.

According to the accountancy giant KPMG’s latest report, entitled “A Paradox of Forces,” the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered forked out £38.7 billion ($57.6 billion) in customer remediation, conduct failings and fines since 2011.

KPMG warned that while conduct costs fell by 8% last year to £9.9bn, banking scandals “continue to be a major issue.”

It said that half of the costs related to financial scandal remediation went towards the compensating victims of the mis-selling of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and interest rate hedging products.’

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George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history

Another Angry Voice writes:

Over the years I’ve presented a lot of facts and statistics to demonstrate that George Osborne has been doing a terrible job as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that his ideological austerity agenda is spectacularly failing to achieve what he claimed it was going to when he came to power in 2010.

One of the main problems I’ve faced is that the facts and statistics I’ve presented contradict the almost ubiquitous mainstream media narratives that “George Osborne is doing a good job under difficult circumstances” and that“there is no alternative” to his ideological austerity agenda.

People find it difficult to accept the evidence that I’m presenting because it conflicts so badly with the narratives they’ve been conditioned to accept as true through their endless repetition in the mainstream media.

One of the assertions that people really struggle to accept is that George Osborne has created more new debt than every Labour government in history combined. This one is particularly hard for people to come to terms with because it conflicts with the (totally inaccurate) “folk wisdom” that Labour always spend loads of money, then the Tories have to tidy up the mess“. Further confusion is added by the way that Tory politicians (including the Prime Minister David Cameron) try to conflate the meanings of “the debt” and “the deficit” which are economic terms with completely different meanings.’

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Let’s not fool ourselves. We may not bribe, but corruption is rife in Britain

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Andrzej Krauze on Transparency International's corruption indexIt just doesn’t compute. Almost every day the news is filled with stories that look to me like corruption. Yet on Transparency International’s corruption index Britain is ranked 14th out of 177 nations, suggesting that it’s one of the best-run nations on Earth. Either all but 13 countries are spectacularly corrupt or there’s something wrong with the index.

Yes, it’s the index. The definitions of corruption on which it draws are narrow and selective. Common practices in the rich nations that could reasonably be labelled corrupt are excluded; common practices in the poor nations are emphasised.

This week a ground-changing book called How Corrupt is Britain?, edited by David Whyte, is published. It should be read by anyone who believes this country merits its position on the index.’

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‘We have a national myth… that Britain is not corrupt': Interview with Professor David Whyte

‘David Whyte, professor in the Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology Department at the University of Liverpool, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about corruption in the UK. There is a ‘national myth’ that Britain is not corrupt, and has checks and balances that stop us falling into the traps of other, less developed countries, but that is wrong and we have a ‘serious problem’ with corruption.’ (Going Underground)

Flat CO2 Emissions Not Enough to Curb Climate Change, Experts Say

Shannon Hall reports for Live Science:

‘Global emissions of carbon dioxide — one of the leading causes of global warming — stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years that there was no climb in CO2 emissions during a time of economic growth. The results suggest that efforts to reduce emissions may be on the upswing, but experts say the situation is not so simple.

In fact, some scientists say that the findings, announced last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA), represents only one data point and that the overall trend in carbon dioxide emissions is continuing upward.’

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Cassetteboy: Emperor’s New Clothes Rap

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

Lee Fang writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons SalesCould a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?

That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.’

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China-US Rivalry Front and Center of IMF Reform Debate

UK shift to China and AIIB “extremely worrying for Washington” – Interview with Liam Halligan

‘Liam Halligan, editor at large of Business New Europe and Telegraph columnist, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. He explains it is a rival to not only the IMF but also to the Asia Development Bank, which is Japanese-led. This is extremely threatening to the US as the BRIC countries wield a massive amount of power. There is a difference in the way that America and Britain see China, with the UK seeing them as a trading partner rather than a challenge. It is a symbolic move for Britain to back the AIIB, taking a step away from Washington towards a current that the US sees as a ‘major irritant.’ And he feels there is a growing argument that Britain’s future lies not in the West, with a failing Eurozone, but in a thriving Asian economy.’ (Going Underground)

The London Whale

Patricia Hurtado writes for Bloomberg View:

A recent history of JPMorgan's risk.The trader known as the London Whale lost at least $6.2 billion for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2012. That’s a lot of money until you remember that it didn’t stop the bank from earning a record profit of $21.3 billion the same year. The pain came elsewhere: Two former traders face criminal charges, the bank admitted violating securities laws and agreed to pay fines of more than $1 billion, a U.S. Senate subcommittee wrote a scathing report and the bank’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, took a pay cut. The London Whale case drew a bigger reaction than other missteps by banks since the 2008 financial crisis, partly because of Dimon’s previous rock-star status. More importantly, it raised two worrisome questions: What if the banks are still addicted to risk? And what if regulators haven’t gotten better at spotting that?’

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‘You eat what you kill': Wall Street bonuses keep soaring as profits decline

Suzanne McGee reports for The Guardian:

‘With all the changes that have taken place on Wall Street since the financial crisis hit – the mergers, the new regulations and the lawsuits that continue to take a toll on banks’ bottom lines, not to mention the Federal Reserve’s demands that they continue to prove their health via regular “stress tests” – one thing remains unaltered.

It’s the ritual of the annual bonus check handed out to those lucky folks who have survived the job cuts and who continue to endure the Hobbesian life – nasty, brutish and short – on trading desks and in investment banking groups across Wall Street.

Given the banking industry’s reputation for ruthlessness and its emphasis on the “buyer beware” philosophy, you might expect a difficult environment to be reflected in the size of those bonuses.

Well, not so fast. This is Wall Street, after all.’

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World Bank Admits It Ignored Its Own Rules Designed To Protect The Poor

Ben Hallman, Sasha Chavkin and Mike Hudson report for the Huffington Post and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

The World Bank, created to fight poverty, has admitted that it’s failed to follow its own rules for protecting the poor people swept aside by dams, roads and other big projects it bankrolls.

This conclusion, announced by the bank on Wednesday, amounts to a reversal of its previous efforts to downplay concerns raised by human rights activists and others working on behalf of the dispossessed — people evicted from their land, sometimes in violent ways, to make way for World Bank-financed initiatives.

It comes days after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Huffington Post informed bank officials that the news outlets had found “systemic gaps” in the bank’s protections for people who lose homes or jobs because of development projects.’

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How Reaganomics Changed Corporations

Thom Hartmann comments on a Roosevelt Institute report that corporations today don’t stimulate investment, growth, and wages because, additional funds are funneled to shareholders through buybacks and dividends.’ (The Thom Hartmann Program)

All our mainstream media is tied into corporate interests: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Nafeez Ahmed, former Guardian contributor and currently crowdfunding Insurge, a new media platform, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the paper.’ (Going Underground)

Death, Drugs, and HSBC: How fraudulent blood money makes the world go round

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

‘Recent reporting on illegal tax evasion by the world’s second largest bank, HSBC, opens a window onto the pivotal role of Western banks in facilitating organised crime, drug-trafficking and Islamist terrorism. Governments know this, but they are powerless to act, not just because they’ve been bought by the banks: but because criminal and terror financing is integral to global capitalism. Now one whistleblower who uncovered an estimated billion pounds worth of HSBC fraud in Britain, suppressed by the British media, is preparing a prosecution that could blow wide open the true scale of criminal corruption in the world’s finance capital.’

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The Bleak Science Bankrolled by the Pentagon

Nafeez Ahmed writes for VICE Motherboard:

Minerva Research InitiativeThe ​US military is increasingly concerned about the risk of social, political, and economic collapse due to resource stress and climate change. The Pentagon’s ​latest call for research throws light on where and how the military suspects that resource stress could fuel political grievances on a mass scale.

The call, whose deadline to receive proposals is today [Feb 19th], comes on behalf of the US Department of Defense (DoD) ‘Minerva Research Initiative,’ a multimillion dollar social science program. Minerva is designed so the Pentagon can draw on leading-edge academic expertise outside the military, on issues where it lacks sufficient internal knowledge on specific subjects or regions. By examining its areas of focus, we’re offered a rare glimpse into where and how the Pentagon fears conflict will grip the world in the future.’

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Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

Why I resigned from the Telegraph: Interview with Peter Oborne

IMF: Ukraine to get $40 billion bailout

DW reports:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and embattled Ukraine have reached an initial deal on a new financial rescue package worth $17.5 billion, a potential “turning point” for Kyiv, IMF chief Christine Lagarde confirmed on Thursday.

The IMF’s contribution is part of a total of $40 billion Ukraine is set to receive from the international community.

Talks on the country’s fourth bailout in 10 years had been underway in the Ukrainian capital for days after the last aid program from April 2014 failed to stabilize Ukraine’s finances as it battles pro-Russian separatists in the east.’

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West Coast Port Dispute Threatens U.S. Economy

Somalia: The careless, astonishing cruelty of Barack Obama’s government

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Illustration by Sebastien ThibaultLet me introduce you to the world’s most powerful terrorist recruiting sergeant: a US federal agency called the office of the comptroller of the currency. Its decision to cause a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest, most troubled places on Earth could resonate around the world for decades.

Last Friday, after the OCC had sent it a cease-and-desist order, the last bank in the United States still processing money transfers to Somalia closed its service. The agency, which reports to the US treasury, reasoned that some of this money might find its way into the hands of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. It’s true that some of it might, just as some resources in any nation will find their way into the hands of criminals (ask HSBC). So why don’t we shut down the phone networks to hamper terrorism? Why don’t we ban agriculture in case fertiliser is used to make explosives? Why don’t we stop all the clocks to prevent armed gangs from planning their next atrocity?’

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Greece: The True Face of Golden Dawn

Editor’s Note: This report by Channel 4 News was first published in March 2013.