Posted 4 months ago on July 15, 2013, 10:30 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Act Before the Bail-In: Now Is the Moment to Seize Public Banking
Monday, 15 July 2013 14:41 By Rudy Avizius, Occupy.com | Op-Ed
If you knew someone with a gambling problem, you probably would not give them your money to hold. If you knew that they had placed bets that were 30 to 70 times more than the amount of money they had, you would consider them totally reckless. If you knew that the money they were holding and betting with was borrowed money, other peoples’ money and not their own, you would probably conclude that they are hopelessly addicted to, well, yes: money. Now picture this scenario:
You are a public official, such as a school business administrator, county treasurer, municipal finance manager, pension fund administrator, or anyone who has responsibility for protecting public money. You try to access the money and the transaction is denied. You investigate why you cannot access money you know is in your account and you find out that the bank has failed and has been closed until further notice by the authorities. You also discover that the government will be confiscating part of your money in order to “stabilize” the bank.
You might be thinking, that “cannot happen here,” right? You placed the public monies you are charged with into a large bank because they are properly “collateralized” and therefore you believe these funds are safe. Now let's settle for the truth: your money is at serious risk.
In a nutshell, what happened in Cyprus was that the banks were over-leveraged and the size of the liabilities of the banks exceeded the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire country of Cyprus. Given the fact that the “bail outs” of the large banks in 2008 were so politically unpopular, the European “troika” imposed a “bail in,” where customers with savings accounts were to have some of their savings seized (read: stolen) in order to stabilize the banks.
The losses to some accounts were as high as 60%. The banks were closed for 12 days, so account holders had no access to their money and once the banks reopened, they had only limited access to their money in order to protect the banks.
Was this plan by the “troika” — the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund — just a one-time event, or was it something more? It turns out, in fact, that the "bail in" was actually planned in advance, in 2012, at the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel Switzerland, where the U.S. FDIC and the Bank of England created a joint paper outlining a confiscation scheme.
Under the FDIC/BOE joint paper, accounts could be seized by the failing bank and converted to stock equity as part of a “bail in” scheme — although the stock would be worthless because the bank would have already failed.
Don't be deceived into thinking the "bail in" is a European heist. There is a plan to confiscate savings in New Zealand if necessary to save the banks. Canada also has a confiscation plan in the wings should their banks falter. The European Union has just reached an agreement where shareholders and depositors will be tapped to “bail in” any bank in trouble.
But let's look at the U.S. and imagine what might happen here. Consider that our largest banks have derivative contracts with a notional value of more than $700 trillion (think $700,000 BILLION). The entire world GDP is only $70 trillion, therefore the liabilities of the big banks could not be covered by the entire GDP of the United States.
Does this sound similar to what happened in Cyprus? Does this sound similar to the gambler we discussed at the beginning? What is very important to keep in mind is that Cyprus is a small country and that much larger outside forces came in to “stabilize” the banks there. By contrast, if one (or more) of the large U.S. banks experiences a derivative failure, there is not enough money on the planet to “stabilize” them.
The derivatives are really nothing more than “bets” placed by the banks, and when (not if) these “bets” start going bad, the banks will be on the hook for their value. You need to know that these derivative “bets” have been given super-priority status in case of a bank bankruptcy. What this means is that the holders of these derivative contracts will have first priority for payment and that you as an individual or government entity will be placed at the back of line — as a bank creditor — should a large bank fail. The bottom line is that you will probably get little or nothing back.
Most people do not understand that once you give a bank your money, the money legally is no longer yours. Under the law, you are an unsecured creditor to the bank and are treated as such in any bankruptcy proceeding. As an individual or as a public official, if you have money in one of the big banks, you have essentially given your money to that gambler and now you are a creditor to the gambler. This sort of loss has already happened with the MF Global collapse. While this was a futures trading company and not a bank, the blueprint for confiscations was tested here and with the Sentinel case the legal system upheld the customer losses. These trading accounts were supposed to be “segregated” accounts that belonged to the account holders, not MF Global. As an analogy, think of a “segregated” account as a safe deposit box at a bank: the contents belong to you, not the bank. In the MF Global collapse, the bank essentially gambled with the assets in the customers’ safe deposit boxes, and the legal system placed the creditors of the bank above the safe deposit box holders.
Now let's take JP Morgan Chase, which has $1.1 trillion in deposits, and Bank of America, which also has over $1 trillion. Again, remember the gambler, Chase, has about $70 trillion in bets out there, but is holding only about $1 trillion in deposits and another trillion in assets. It has made bets with a value approximately 35 times all the money it has access to. Again, this is YOUR money the bank is betting with, not their money.
Bank of America also has about 30 times its assets in derivative bets. Citigroup and Wells Fargo each have over $900 billion in deposits and also many times their assets in derivative bets. If any one of these big banks fails, they are so interconnected that it is likely to bring down the other large banks. In fact, both Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase have moved their riskiest derivatives from their uninsured trading houses to the FDIC insured subsidiaries, which are their retail banks, putting the funds in those accounts at a significantly increased risk.
Once even one of these biggest banks experiences a derivatives meltdown, there will not be enough money in the FDIC or probably even the U.S. Treasury to cover the losses. Still think Cyprus cannot happen to you?
If you are a public official who has responsibility for protecting public money, you probably have that money deposited into an account with one of the largest banks. Do you still believe that money is safe? Are you doing your fiduciary duty to protect that money in the public interest? As a government official in charge of finances, what are your options?
One option is to start a public bank such as the Bank of North Dakota. First, public banks do not gamble with derivatives and the Bank of North Dakota thrived during the crisis of 2008. Not only will you get the safety of the money for which you have responsibility for, but other advantages to this approach include: the ability to provide interest free or low interest loans for public infrastructure projects, the ability to create jobs, generate revenue, and build up the local community.
Consider this: if you buy a home for $100,000, by the time you have paid the mortgage in full, the total cost will have been close to $300,000. Paying those who build the home and provide the raw materials $100,000, and paying the financiers $200,000 for money that was not even theirs, makes little sense, right? But the same principle applies if a state, county or municipality wants to build a road, school, bridge or other infrastructure: they need to go to Wall Street for financing at high interest rates.
However, they could just as easily form their own bank and finance the project at zero or near zero interest. With public banking, the projects would cost less than half and the finance costs would not be siphoned out of the community, impoverishing it while ending up on Wall Street or in Cayman Island tax shelters. In short, public banking ensures that the finance costs stay in the community.
Think of the things that could be accomplished if you could eliminate debt service as a line item in your budget. The money deposited in the public bank would be safe and would serve the local community. You could use the public bank to refinance existing debt at zero or near zero percent interest. You could lower tax rates. This idea has such appeal that currently there are initiatives in 20 states to start public banks.
If you are a public official with a fiduciary responsibility to protect public funds, one of these large banks fails and you lose the public's money, think of the consequences once the public becomes aware that you did not heed the warnings of Cyprus. Think of the consequences when the public becomes aware that you did not consider alternatives to the big vulnerable banks.
It is time to bring home the money from Wall Street, where it is at risk. If there is a derivative crash, try meeting your payroll with stock equity (in a failed bank). The impact of not meeting a payroll will be both immediate and forceful. It is vital to get that money out of Wall Street before the next meltdown.