Monday, January 20, 2014

Ed Milliband is right - There must be a 'reckoning' with the criminal banks!

A vast amount of self-righteous indignation is being spluttered by the banks and their media apologists, over Ed MIlliband's, frankly rather unremarkable observations, about the need to begin a re-alignment of our bloated banking sector.

Poor Ed, he is desperately trying to enunciate a sensible policy direction, in the teeth of a gale of hot air being blown at him by every Tom, Dick and Boris in the banking sector.

To listen to these people, and their friends in the City and the Tory party, you would think that everything in the banking garden was rosy, and that there was no need for any form of change or amendment.

And this is the root of the problem.

The banking industry in the UK has become hijacked by a an organised criminal fraternity who see the bank sector as their own personal fiefdom, within which they can manoeuvre to make obscene sums of money, way and beyond any meaningful relationship to the services they provide or the skills they possess.

It is not sufficient that they have good jobs and receive excellent salaries, they demand more and ever more. They view the receipt of million pound bonuses as literally, 'their due', they then demand double that figure and they become very exercised when any sensible individual challenges them and asks "...What do you really do for this return..?"

The fact is that they are nothing more than gamblers. They play the world's markets with other people's money, and their work is no more difficult than choosing whether to be on the red or the black.

We do not hold professional gamblers up as paragons of social virtue, possessing the kind of personal standards that any society needs if it is going to provide a fair and beneficial environment for all its citizens, so why do we feel the need to pay any form of obeisance to these speculators who reside in this moral vacuum?

Why are we not willing to admit that the artificial values placed upon these institutions are merely theoretical prices engineered by the casino market in which they reside! Why are we literally held to ransom by these spivs?

Even when Ed Milliband, the leader of the Labour Party and a putative future Prime MInister, set out a policy initiative for dealing with the bloated banking sector, his words had the immediate effect of moving the financial markets.

A billion pounds was wiped off the value of taxpayer-owned banks the day after he  promised to bring “reckoning” upon the industry. The taxpayer owns 81 per cent of RBS and 33 per cent of Lloyds. The institutions were bailed out following the 2008 banking crisis. The drop in share prices suggests the City believes Mr Miliband has a good chance of becoming Prime Minister in 2015.

So-called 'business leaders', which is nothing more than City apologist writer's speak for another bunch of wide-boys and con-artists, warned Labour’s flagship economic plan to break up the major banks’ dominance of the high street could end in disaster, while the party’s own shadow business secretary admitted taxpayers would lose out.

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, admitted on BBC Radio 4 the plan to cap the banks’ share of the market to stimulate competition would “hit” the value of state-owned institutions. Shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds dived as the Labour leader promised to force the big five high street lenders to shed branches.

Of course they will lose out, as soon as the speculators who are busily playing financial games with the share prices of the publicly-owned banks realise that their games are going to end, they will pull their money out and the share price will weaken. But that is not a reason for not acting soon.

"...Experts..." another spiv shibboleth, warned such a move could trigger a repeat of the doomed attempt by the Co-op to take over hundreds of Lloyds branches. The bid, overseen by the disgraced Methodist minister Paul Flowers, pushed the bank to the brink of collapse.

But why should it? Why should the action of a bunch of flaky gamblers hold the interests of millions of ordinary British people to ransom. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with requiring more banking competition on the High Street, although the real problem is that most banks couldn't care less about retail banking operations any more. In fact for the big players, retail bank accounts are not a means of making money, which is why they are so happy to get customers into debt, or screw them with dodgy products, cheat them with fraudulently offered insurance products, gouge them with interest rate swaps or any of the other many forms of downright criminality that they have committed in recent years.

The banking sector in the UK has lost the plot. They do not serve the interests of British industry any longer, they make it damn near impossible to get sensible lending to help small business develop, and when they do lend money to successful businesses, in so many cases they have then cheated their customers by falsely claiming falls in asset values, or a plethora of other lies in order to foreclose on the business and to take the assets over for their own portfolios.

The vast majority of British banking institutions are literally nothing more than money laundering operations for wealthy foreigners who for reasons of their own wish to relocate capital from their own countries and find some nice cosy safe-haven for their money, much of it of very dubious origin.

These banks will help them achieve their ambitions, and they will accept any money under any conditions. They routinely ignore the laws and regulations regarding the need to 'know their customers', they wilfully avoid engaging with any of the most important checks and balances which help identify Politically Exposed Persons, for fear that such information would require them to undertake more expensive regulatory requirements.

Indeed, so brazen are these institutions now that 'regulatory cost' becomes an excuse for not conforming to the law in the first place, and for providing an explanation for the absence of competitive business change!

An article in the Daily Telegraph, a leading City apologist reports;

"... Despite the advent of online banking, this is an industry which has so far remained largely untouched by the disruptive powers of the internet. Most other consumer-facing industries are being turned upside down; but not so banking, where market shares and established names remain stubbornly entrenched. A few new players are being carved by regulatory diktat out of the old, but this is basically no more than rearranging the deckchairs. As Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has observed, there’s been nothing innovative in banking since the invention of the ATM.

One of the main reasons for this absence of change is the cost and demands of regulation, which stand as an almost insurmountable barrier to entry, deterring even goliaths of the internet age, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, from entering the fray. If they think it not worth the candle, what chance the entrepreneur..?"

Always it is the nonsense talked about the impact of regulation upon innovation. It is almost as if any form of regulatory intervention has to be shouted down and its proponents described as being on a par with drooling imbeciles.

Even Adam Smith recognised the need for financial regulation. One financial blog reports; 

"...Some so-called “free-market” ideologues, who oppose all regulation whatsoever, should recognize, as Smith did (he was no ideologue), that the freedom of the market works best, when protected by laws of justice and when its participants exercise a high degree of prudence in their conduct before they can ruin it for everybody else..."

But still the ranters and free market ideologues continue to downplay the need for financial controls. The Telegraph again;

"...Unfortunately, the politicians haven’t yet got the message. Instead they remain bound by an increasingly oppressive and complex regulatory agenda which doesn’t in truth answer any of the concerns it is meant to address. With just months to go in his role as Europe’s internal market commissioner, the veteran French politician Michel Barnier has begun muttering darkly about “unfinished business”. By this, he means another lorry load of banking regulation, including banning banks from proprietary trading and dealing with hedge funds. It’s just possible he may get his chance. He’s yet to announce formally his candidacy for European Commission president, but it is certainly in his sights..."

The US financial market had the most tightly regulated financial market for 50 years following the Securities Exchange Act 1934. It enabled the US to win World War II and created the environment for the ultimate success of the 'American Dream'. It was badly damaged by the years of greed which followed and the financial ineptitude of Ronald Regan and George W Bush, neither of whom should have been allowed within a million miles of a financial market.

Between them they dismantled a structure that had worked for the protection of the savings of millions of American working and lower class investors, and instead, gave the proceeds to a small group of criminal supporters. The impact of that exercise in wholesale fraud was felt in Europe and the UK as well!

Ed Milliband is right to call for a day of 'reckoning' with the banks. It is vital that the ordinary British people can begin to believe that there literally is a way in which we all share the highs and lows of this era of financial fantasy. It is socially divisive, not to say complicit, to continue to permit this state of affairs where banks and bankers can continue to demand bizarre salaries and bonuses for doing virtually nothing for the benefit of UK and its people, and who simply exist to trouser the proceeds of their vile behaviour, without a thought for the consequences of their dishonesty or their crimes.

I am truly sickened by the rampant greed and the bullying threats that these low-life's exhibit. If you think I am a little hard-edged in my views, well you would be right. I spent too much of my formative years in turn as a Fraud Squad detective and later as a Regulator, and then as a lawyer dealing with City crime, finally as a regulatory consultant, not to have a Baedeker-like knowledge of these people, their dysfunctional moral status and their mafia-like mentality.

We the people of this country own two major banks. We own the bastards because we bailed them out when they were about to collapse, and we propped them up in the belief that we were doing this for the benefit of the UK. We kept a lot of idle, spoiled and grossly overpaid layabouts in work, when by any measure they should have found themselves on the streets, and still, the Government continues to pay heed to their special pleading and their overweening arrogant demands for more and more money.

Well, fuck 'em!

Mr Miliband has said that high street lenders would face a “reckoning” under his Government. He will seek the creation of two new “sizeable” banks to challenge existing high street lending.
By splitting up these errant institutions and creating a more competitive industry, Ed Milliband will do a great deal to create a climate of fairer enterprise and a more just society. Let the whingers whine and bleat, he cannot do any worse than has already been done, and we need to see some real basic common or garden fairness being exercised in the way in which we run our society.

 When the ordinary teacher, health worker, policeman, ambulance driver, fireman or any other person who truly does perform an important and useful socially-valuable service starts to see the bankers being brought to heel, and the worst criminals in their midst being sent to prison, which they richly deserve, then we will begin to feel that we really are all in austerity together.
This has now become a major electoral issue, and David Cameron would do better to recognise it, than by hoping he can win votes with cheap bribes when polling day draws near.

Let me finish with another quote from the Telegraph, never a paper to want to admit any fault on the part of the fat cats!

"...What ought to be the priority of growth has taken second place to the pursuit by posse of the wicked bankers. There are workable alternatives to the present stranglehold of the banks that would both restore market discipline to lending and deposit-taking, and get rid of the “too big to fail” problem. But they are perhaps too revolutionary for current thinking. In any case, almost anything is better than the never-ending drip feed of populist nonsense that passes for today’s financial reform agenda...".

As always, the regulatory model is dismissed as 'populist nonsense'. Such brave words no doubt play well to an audience of bankers and other spivs, but try telling that to the vast majority of decent people whom the banks have failed, defrauded, ripped off, gouged and cruelly damaged, and see if they would not rather prefer a little more regulation and a little less 'laissez faire'!


Big Bill said...

I suspect this blustering and indignation from the banks is to convince people they're being dealt a real blow instead of of suffering a little cosmetic tinkering largely for appearance's sake.

Demetrius said...

Try this one, there is someone who agrees with your thesis.

Robert said...

"We own the bastards because we bailed them out when they were about to collapse." Alas, the " the vast majority of decent people whom the banks have failed, defrauded, ripped off, gouged and cruelly damaged" did not demand nationalization, and the banks are as prepared to demand bailouts in the future as they were in 2008.

Rough Carrigan said...

Rowan, well said but I'm curious as to why you say that the destruction of the reasonably well run U.S. financial system should be laid at the feet of Reagan and Bush. It might seem that they would be the right choices but I don't think the banking system changed much in their administrations. Hell, thousands of bankers went to jail at the end of the Reagan administration and in the Bush administration as part of the S&L cleanup. Glass Steagall was eliminated under Clinton. The advent of derivatives and failure to do anything to keep them in check started under Clinton (and accelerated under Bush and Obama). The whole concept of "Too Big to Fail" really took off at the end of Clinton's regime with the Long Term Capital Management bailout.

Another terrible thing for the U.S. financial system, though this really can't be attributed to any political regime, was the conversion of the big investment banks, like Goldman Sachs, from partnerships to publicly traded companies. This happened from the late 80's through to about 2000. As partnerships they wouldn't take dumb risks because it was THEIR money. As publicly traded companies they don't care if the company's bets, er, investments cause it to fail 3 years down the road. They'll be gone by then and have cashed out their stock options.

Rowan Bosworth-Davies said...

Some very good points here, well made. Thank you!

Anthony Rogers said...

As ever Rowan, you are keen to highlight the wonderful depths both Wall Street and the City of London have plunged too over the course of a generation. Suffice to say, and following on from Rough Carrington's remarks, its correct to say that the rot set in a little earlier than the Reagan/Thatcher era. Indeed, it was President Jimmy Carter who first began to meddle with the financial reforms of Roosevelt enacted during the Depression in the States, it was Richard Nixon who scuttled what remained of the post WWII Bretton Woods arrangements, and it was Ted Heath in his 1970-1974 administration in the UK who first began to deregulate our own financial services sector by allowing high street banks to compete with Building Societies in offering mortgages.

These timelines are important though, because they coincide with the hijacking of international financial oversight bodies by the followers/adherents of Hayek, Friedman and Ayn Rand - Alan Greenspan being one of these "neoliberal" lunatics - better known as the "Chicago Boy's".

As for criminality, and debauchery, one need look no further than the great work being undertaken by William Black in this field - Pity they don't make them like Black anymore,but greed is a strong motivator and the only language our friends in the City will ever understand is "JAIL TIME", and having their assets treated the way we treat drug dealers assets.

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