Hundreds of billions of dollars of additional potential legal liability, much of which likely borne by US banks, yet very few are paying attention. Here's how I see it...
Three weeks ago, before Lieborgate broke and the world finally understood what so many had been warning about for so long, we noted something else: that not only was LIBOR manipulated and fudged daily between 2005 and 2008, but as the chart in the attached post shows, it has been gamed every single day in 2012 as well. More importantly, we noted something else - the transition at the top of the British Bankers Association: the organization responsible for compiling LIBOR submissions from member banks, and reporting what the daily Libor fixing is. Because in the second week of June, the BBA's new head became... the former head of lobbying for none other than Morgan Stanley, Anthony Browne, a firm which itself was just caught red-handed manipulating rating agency "independent ratings" to benefit its bottom line (and which itself miraculous was downgraded by less than what the market expected in order to allow it to avoid several billion in collateral calls). And what did Anthony do at Morgan Stanley until June 12: he was head of Government relations for Morgan Stanley for Europe, Middle East and Africa and was previously an economic and business adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson. That's right - "head of government relations" for a rather prominent TBTF bank, being put in charge of daily Libor fixing. But everyone is shocked, shocked, that gambling has been going on here for years.
With Europe, the BBA, and virtually everyone shocked, shocked, that the global bank cabal schemed and colluded for years to manipulate interest rates, so far only America appears relatively blase, and totally ignorant, about the issue. Perhaps it is because the first bank exposed in the manipulation scheme so far is European, perhaps because it is just tired of all the endless crime coming out of the criminal complex known as Wall Street. It is unclear. Then again, America will soon have its own manipulation scandals to deal with: and if it is not the US BBA member banks, all of whom were just as guilty as Barclays, and the only question is which bank will be the sacrificial scapegoat whose CEO will have to demonstratively depart (to warmer, non-extradition climes), it will be the following story from Bloomberg which will likely pick up much more steam over the next weeks and months, detailing how the bank which just barely avoided a triple notch downgrade (wink wink) has had previous dealings with the very same rating agencies seeking to, picture this, artificially inflate ratings! So to summarize: Fed manipulates capital markets, HFT manipulates bid ask spreads, "self-policing" CDS pricing market groups fudge the prices on trillions in Credit Default Swaps, bank cabals collude and manipulate short-term interest rates, and now banks are confirmed to have manipulated the ratings on tens of billions of bonds using monetary incentives and threats. Is there anything in this "market" that was fair over the past several decades, and was actual price discovery ever actually possible? Because by now it should be very clear going forward all the things that actually make a free and fair market are forever gone, and that without endless fraud and manipulation by all the market participants who realize that anyone defecting the ponzi group means immediate and terminal losses for all, and all those calls for an S&P 400 would actually prove to be overly optimistic.
While the world has known for over two weeks that the Spanish banking system is insolvent and locked out of global liquidity, the country was reticent about formally bowing down to Germany and announcing in proper protocol that it was broke. Until a few hours ago, when Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos Monday sent a letter to Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, as expected, formally requesting aid to assist with the recapitalization of Spanish banks that need it, the ministry said in a statement. Sadly, at this point we can all just sit back and await for the next Spanish bailout letter demanding more cash, because, as we have explained on several occasions, the ultimate funding need of Spanish banks will be well over €100 billion, as further confirmed overnight by another analysis from Open Europe, which notes the patenly obvious: "Up to mid-2015 Spain faces funding needs of €547.5bn, over half its GDP and a large majority of its debt."
Europe's approaching "Madoff Moment"...
America is spending more today drone-striking American citizens in Yemen, drone-surveilling Mexican drug lords and “turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia-Pacific region“ than she was during the cold war when a hostile superpower had thousands of nukes pointing at her. Military contractors have nothing to fear. Whether it is the Pacific buildup to contain Chinese ambition, or drone strikes in the horn of Africa or Pakistan, or the completely-failed drug war, or using the ghost of Kony to establish a toehold in Africa to compete with China for African minerals, or an attempted deposition of Bashar Assad or Egypt’s new Islamist regime, or bombing Iran’s uranium-enrichment facilities, or a conflict over mineral rights in the Arctic, or (as Paul Krugman desires — and what the heck, it’s 2012, why not?) an alien invasion, or a new global conflict arising out of a global economic reset, it’s springtime for the military contractors. It’s everyone else who should be worried.
The rating agencies have lots of problems, but they are not to blame for the financial crisis. The regulators and investors are the ones who deserve the blame. The agencies have too much influence, but it’s been given to them by the regulators. Clearly Europe is trying to get rid of rating agencies to be aggressive, but the situation has to change. For too long, laziness has driven regulatory policy. Too much emphasis has been put on ratings, and the safety at the high end has been dramatically exaggerated. One thing virtually every banking crisis has in common, is when a previously “safe” or AAA asset, that carried minimal capital charges deteriorates. The sub-prime mortgage market and European Sovereign debt are just two of the most recent examples. We need a realistic regulatory framework like the one we discuss in regulatory-capital-size-and-how-you-use-it-both-matter. What the EU is doing is probably even worse than the existing framework, but the idea of diminishing the role of rating agencies is a good one.
What the MSM is missing is that Spain's failings make this real. Spain is big enough to bring down the whole shebang, right now, and its banks cannot be salvaged with just a hundred billion or so.
Just What Is Mario Draghi Hiding? ECB Declines To Respond To Bloomberg FOIA Request On Greek-Goldman SwapsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/14/2012 12:38 -0500
Back in February 2010, in the aftermath of the discovery that none other than Goldman Sachs had facilitated for nearly a decade the masking of the true magnitude of non-Maastricht conforming Greek debt, Zero Hedge first identified the prospectus for a Goldman underwritten swap agreement securitization titled Titlos PLC. We titled the analysis "Is Titlos PLC The Downgrade Catalyst Trigger Which Will Destroy Greece?" because for all intents and purposes it was: at that time a rating agency downgrade of the country would lead to a chain of events which would make billions in assets ineligible for ECB collateral, forcing a massive margin call on the National Bank of Greece, which likely would have precipitated a Greek default there and then. But that is irrelevant for the time being: what is relevant is Titlos itself, and what Bloomberg did after we posted the analysis. It appears that in following in the footsteps of Mark Pittman, Bloomberg sued the ECB under Freedom of Information rules requesting "access to two internal papers drafted for the central bank’s six-member Executive Board. They show how Greece used swaps to hide its borrowings, according to a March 3, 2010, note attached to the papers and obtained by Bloomberg News. The first document is entitled “The impact on government deficit and debt from off-market swaps: the Greek case.” The second reviews Titlos Plc, a securitization that allowed National Bank of Greece SA, the country’s biggest lender, to exchange swaps on Greek government debt for funding from the ECB, the Executive Board said in the cover note. The ECB's response: "The European Central Bank said it can’t release files showing how Greece may have used derivatives to hide its borrowings because disclosure could still inflame the crisis threatening the future of the single currency." Maybe. But what is far more likely is that the reason why the ECB, headed by none other than former Goldmanite Mario Draghi, is desperate to keep these documents secret is for another reason. A very simple reason:
Mario Draghi - 2002-2005: Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs International
And so, the little rating agency that could, just gave Spain the triple hooks, downgrading the country from B to CCC+, negative outlook. As a reminder, the Uganda credit rating is B: it sure is no Spain.
We were wondering how long Europe's insolvent, and very much scorned, banks would take the constant downgrade abuse (or reacquaintance with reality as we like to call it, but that is irrelevant) by the rating agencies without retorting. After all the same organizations that allowed bank "credit analysts" to pretend they did work for years, when they all merely fell in place in some lemming-like procession, patting each other on the back, pocketing record bonus after record bonus and praising groupthink encapsulated by the made up letters AAA, are now largely non-grata first in Europe, and soon, following the imminent downgrade of American banks, in the US as well. It appears that the response is finally coming. Sky News reports that "some of Europe's largest banks are intensifying discussions about a move to reduce their co-operation with the big three credit ratings agencies amid widespread dissatisfaction with their decision-making." After all, when all they do is downgrade, as opposed to the old standby, upgrade, who needs them. In fact, why not just shut their mouths entirely. Sadly, this is precisely what is on the horizon.
Halfway into the year, my warnings on the FIRE sector are starting to come into there own. The first look, banks and bank stock analysts!
The First BRIC to be Downgraded to Junk?
A month and a half after the SEC took a much-deserved break from watching taxpayer-funded pornography, and stumbled on the scene with its latest pathetic attempt to scapegoat someone, anyone, for its years of gross incompetence, corruption, and inability to prosecute any of the true perpetrators for an event that wiped out tens of trillions in US wealth, by suing Egan-Jones for "improperly" filing their NRSRO application in what was a glaring attempt to shut them up, the only rating agency with any credibility has done what nobody else in the history of modern crony capitalist-cum-socialist America has dared to do: fight back. We have only three words for Sean Egan: For. The. Win.