Who Said It? "We Must Buy Government Bonds"

Tyler Durden's picture

"We must buy government bonds" - who said it? No, it wasn't Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan, it wasn't Jean-Claude Trichet or his successor Mario Draghi, nor was it Mervyn King, Carney, Shirakawa, or Hildebrand. The answer, as shocking as it may sound, was... 

 It was Axel A. Weber. The head of the German Bundesbank, big and barrel-chested, with an erect Teutonic posture and slicked-back hair, he looked a little like the television gangster Tony Soprano.


He was suggesting that the ECB use its unlimited supply of euros to go onto the financial markets and buy bonds of Greece and the other nations that were having trouble financing themselves. Many of the others in the room were stunned — not just by the suggestion, but also by its source.

Why is this a shock? Because as everyone who has followed monetary developments in Europe in the past two years knows, it was the German Bundesbank, and its current head, Jens "Uberhawk" Weidmann, who have been the most vocal opponents to debt monetization anywhere in the Eurozone. Or at least theatrically and superficially so.

It is therefore exquisitely surprising and delightfully ironic (certainly to the German population, who may be about to feel quite betrayed by their "prudent" central bankers) to find out that the bank that gave the first idea for outright European debt monetization in 2010 Europe (even if ultimately it was watered down for the gullible public as a "sterilized" intervention even if such a nuance is ultimately meaningless when backstopping sovereign debt and is merely for optical, political and media reasons), thus making it clear to all the other global central bankers that post-Weimar Germany is fine with engaging in precisely the act that led to the most traumatic hyperinflationary incident in modern "developed world" history, was none other than the Bundesbank!

We learn all this thanks to the WaPo's extended narrative, "Three days that saved the world financial system" which focuses on those days in May 2010, presented in great detail on these very pages, when the entire world was about to collapse once more. However, while the direct focus of the WaPo article are the means by which the first instance of global central banker intervention was achieved (primarily through the Fed's currency swaps we first explained were used to bailout the world back in 2009) and the circumstances surrounding said decision which took place in the bastion of modern central planning: the headquarters of the Bank of International Settlements in Basel (another topic very well-known to our readers), all of which are topics beaten to death on Zero Hedge, what did stun us it the realization that it is quite possible that the Bundesbank has been the biggest double agent in the history of central banking, putting on the most elaborate, hawkish ploy imaginable, only to unleash the most dovish episode of monetary policy in Europe in the modern era.

The WaPo provides more color on this:

Weber and the Bundesbank tended to be the staunchest defenders of monetary orthodoxy in the currency union — protectors of the idea that a central bank must never fund governments, lest inflation take hold. The memory of the early 1920s, when runaway inflation rendered savings worthless, was deeply entrenched in the German psyche. Weber, at the helm of the Bundesbank, was charged with making sure that it would never happen again.

And here, immediately, the backtracking for public consumption begins:

Now Weber was suggesting just a little bit of flexibility. The ECB wouldn’t be funding governments directly, he noted that night in Lisbon, just strategically intervening in markets to prevent rampant and irresponsible speculation from bringing down the euro. It wouldn’t be printing money at all, he argued; the ECB could intervene on the bond markets while sucking an identical amount of money out of the banking system, reducing the risk of inflation.

The above is hogwash. What Weber did, now Chairman of perhaps the most systemically unstable bank in Europe after Deutsche Bank: UBS, and thus a prime recipient of the benefits of unleashing monetization in Europe, is to tell his subordinate, ECB's (figure)head Jean-Claude Trichet who was always reliant on Germany to validate and approve his actions in advance, that Germany is now and henceforth ok with direct monetizations of debt.

The backtracking continues:

Maybe, when Weber woke up on Friday, May 7, he reevaluated in the cold light of day ideas he had kicked around in an academic, theoretical way the night before. Maybe he realized how much internal blowback he would face at the Bundesbank and from the German press if he endorsed bond purchases. Maybe the ghost of Rudolf von Havenstein, the German central banker who presided over the 1920s hyperinflation, visited him in the night.


Whatever the case, by morning Weber had changed his mind. And he was not one to keep his opinions to himself. On the three-hour flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt, he typed an e-mail: If the ECB bought government bonds without the governments making an ironclad commitment to back one another’s finances, the central bank would be ultimately responsible for Europe’s financial well-being. Greece was fundamentally insolvent, and ECB lending wouldn’t change that. Further, the purchases would violate the spirit of the treaty that created the central bank in the first place.


If the Governing Council outvoted him and bought bonds, Weber continued, he wanted his opposition to be known publicly, and if Trichet did not tell the world of Weber’s opposition, he would do so himself.


It was an unveiled threat. Weber hit “send” on the e-mail upon landing in Frankfurt, and the 22 council members all knew that if they moved to buy bonds as a strategy to save Europe, it would come at the cost of deep fissures within their central bank.

More hogwash: if the German Central Bank emmisary had indeed "changed his mind", none of what subsequently happened, would have transpired, because it simply would have been halted in its tracks. No: what Weber did was simply covering up his tracks knowing full well the full fallout his action would have in Germany, and the crushing blow it would deal to Angela Merkel if the public suddenly saw her as the person who had agreed to gamble with Weimar 2.0

All of this is circuitously confirmed by the WaPo's conclusion:

For Weber, losing the argument over bond buying wasn’t the end of things. The rules under which ECB Governing Council members operate call for them to keep quiet about how they vote. Unlike the Fed and the Bank of England, which release minutes of their meetings that detail how committee members voted, the ECB keeps such information secret for 30 years. The theory, of course, is that this should make it easier for officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of the euro zone as a whole, rather than represent the interests of their own countries. Another fundamental principle is that the national banks of Europe — the Bundesbank and Banque de France, for example — would carry out the orders of the ECB Governing Council and buy and sell securities accordingly. Like the twelve U.S. Federal Reserve banks, it is these institutions that actually carry out policy set by the committee.


To Weber, the Governing Council had so thoroughly ignored its own rules and orthodoxies that those principles were now in question.


Shortly after the Governing Council meeting Sunday evening, Weber convened a conference call of the Bundesbank Executive Board. He and colleague Andreas Dombret were still in Basel, the other board members in various locations in Germany. Officially Weber wasn’t supposed to tell anyone what the Governing Council had decided, but this was so momentous that he posed a serious question to the board members: Should we do it? Should the Bundesbank follow its marching orders from the ECB and buy billions of euros’ worth of Greek and Portuguese bonds, violating its long-cherished principle of not using the printing press to fund governments?


If they had answered “nein,” it’s nearly certain that the euro would have unraveled within days, the ECB would have lost all credibility and Germany would have been forced to reinstitute the mark as its currency. The global financial markets would have entered a tailspin more dramatic than what followed the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers financial firm in 2008. Staring at that precipice, the Bundesbank leaders decided it was better to hold their nose and violate orthodoxy than to unleash such dangerous consequences.

Indeed, the Bundesbank answered "Ja", and it answered so to a statement posed initially by none other than the person who was running it at the time: a question which in retrospect may have changed the course of European history, and while buying some time in which to kick the can, it has fundamentally doomed Germany (and all its other insolvent European neighbors) to precisely the same fate that Germans living in the 1920s had hoped would be forever avoided.

Perhaps Weber's successor, the just as adamantly defiant Herr Weidmann, will now be kind enough to come out of his good central banker closet finally, and join the rest of the world's central planning 'permadoves' who know that any deviation from the "all in" monetization course the world is set on right now (until the end), will merely spell an immediate end to a failed and imploding status quo.

The shocker, if only to Germans and those who are fascinated by such things, is that when things finally spiral out of control, as they will, and when every Hans and Franz is asking why one needs a wheelbarrow to buy a loaf of bread.... again.... they can look in the mirror, because it was their very own Bundesbank that betrayed them all on that night on May 6 in Lisbon, when a rhetorically inclined German central banker said clearly enough "We must buy government bonds" opening the floodgates.

And so the buying began. Where it ends, only German history books from the 1920s, and those seemingly very few who have actually read them and learned from them, know.

Because this time is never different.

* * *

P.S. There is another excerpt in the WaPo article that deserves substantial attention, if only by all members of Congress. To wit: "In the end, the council was overwhelmingly in favor of buying bonds —  but also in favor of keeping that decision a secret from the finance  ministers and heads of state until they had reached their own deal. If they found out that the ECB had decided to intervene, it would remove the pressure on them to act." Cue the record deadlock three years later that the US House and Senate find themselves in, if for no other reason, than knowing that with Chairman Ben running the show via various monetary levers: why just look at the S&P and DJIA - they are both at record highs so all must be well! In short, there is absolutely no reason for any political party to compromise any more and to budge on ideology. Because the central banks are now fully in control of both Europe and the US, an outcome which removes all accountability from politicians collecting a paycheck and lobby dollars, just as they like it. And as long as the central banks are in control, all shall be well. However, once the Fed loses control, as it will, as it did in 2007 and always has in the past when a bubble ultimately bursts, it will be Ben Bernanke's head that Congress - so very appreciative of Bernanke's efforts to date of course - will demand on a silver platter for public consumption. We wish you all the best, dear Chairman, and hope you make it to your retirement before it all comes crashing down.

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debtor of last resort's picture

Bound by the bonds bitchez.

By the way, it's bondage, not bonds

McMolotov's picture

Makes sense, the Germans are into bondage.

debtor of last resort's picture

They were. The male chanSELLOR is up to a little change in the euro psychics.

Pinto Currency's picture


Last weekend, it was Germany that was responsible for Cyprus.  This turned out not to be true as the IMF and western central banks were advocating deposit theft.

Now the neocon / CIA / Katherine Graham / Averell Harriman rag WaPo is shouting again about the Germans.

It may have been the Germans, but for now take it with a grain of salt until the truth comes out (about 1 week with the power of the internet).


OutLookingIn's picture

Another word for bond? DEBT.


First rule of economics: ALL DEBT WILL BE PAID.

Either by the borrower or by the lender.

Either with pennies worth dollars or with dollars worth pennies.


Either with your money or someone else's!

A Nanny Moose's picture

No thank you. Fifteen is my limit on schnitzengrubens

useless_fact's picture

American Indians used to carry around strings of clamshells to use as money, which they called wampum. Wampum was the most common form of money in North America. By 1637, the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared wampum legal tender, which meant it could be used as money.

debtor of last resort's picture

American Indians used to scalp imperial fuckups.

Debeachesand Jerseyshores's picture

The way things are going,we may be going back to "wampum - strings of clamshells".

Diogenes's picture

The most valuable wampum was made of purple spots found on some spondylus shells. The origin of the name spondulix for money. Obsolete slang from the twenties. Who gives a shit.

Hoppingpot's picture

Thanks D. A term my late mother often used to describe the necessary. Mystery solved.

Sudden Debt's picture

banks aren't safe
bonds aren't safe
stocks aren't safe
cobra's aren't safe
Processed meats aren't safe


Motorhead's picture

Whew, I was afraid it wasn't dolphin-free.

Bullionaire's picture

Ifs ye don't holds the precious, ye don't ownz the precious.

Cacete de Ouro's picture

In 1983, President of the BIS, Karl Otto Pohl, then also President of the German Bundesbank, complained "about the repetitiousness of the meetings during the 'Basel weekend.'" Pohl says: "First there is the meeting on the Gold Pool. Then, after lunch, the same faces show up at the G-10".

Yes, "Gold Pool", said Pohl...

Sudden Debt's picture

every meeting in europe since ever always turned about topics that should be handled in the future... not now... not tomorrow... but later...


you put out the trash now....


Same goes for European unions...

CuriousPasserby's picture

Now? If a man tells his wife that he will do something, he will. She doesn't have to nag him every six months aout it.

knukles's picture

I am so fucking glad that information such as this finally comes to light, full vindication, proof of ideas, hints, gut feelings, gotta bees and high probabilities oft scorned as nut fuck cases, conspiracy theories and tin foil haters prove real.
Prove real.

Just imagine the worst and its already been planned for. We the peasantry are not the conspiracy theorists, the Conspirators are Them in Power.

Recently I have come to truly understand, have true empathy with why down through the generations older people have oft just looked at the world and decided it is time to die, for life's prospects have become so ever dim.

Happy Easter.

Heavens, how can I even be a righteous man attempting to live a good fair responsible life based upon principles handed down through the ages when surrounded about on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and tyranny of evil men? It becomes ever so difficult.
It is fully understandable why at times down through history, leaders have been overthrown and punished in the ultimate manner.

How have we come so far in such a short span of time?

Caviar Emptor's picture

The King was in the counting house counting out his money

The Queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey

TeamDepends's picture

Ciaucescu was still barking out orders while they led him outside to reshuffle his brain.

Bullionaire's picture

"How have we come so far in such a short span of time?"


Cheap oil.


PS: love your avatar

Ned Zeppelin's picture

Well God is in his heaven
And we all want what is His
But power and greed and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is.

- Bob Dylan, "Blind Willie McTell"

Hulk's picture

Shit man, that was good !!!

Svendblaaskaeg's picture

".. how can I even be a righteous man attempting to live a good fair responsible life based upon principles handed down through the ages when surrounded about on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and tyranny of evil men?.."

Dear Knukles, to know that there are people like you around is what keeps me going, Thank You, see you in Valhalla


Waterman Jim's picture



I think most people are scared of freedom, too many choices, to much responsibility, too much work. Most prefer the comfort of their mothers arms, even if she beats them once in a while.  few are willing to peer into the abyss and dive in. You want to swim in the ocean or relax in the heated pool by the bar?  I can tell you want to swim in the ocean!


you my kind of guy, thanks for the enlightening posts, your the best on ZH!





de3de8's picture

Scared of what it will take to get our freedom back.

Yen Cross's picture

    Who said it?  "Never let a good crisis go to waste."

    lewnamE mhaR

Sudden Debt's picture

could also have been my ex...

Yen Cross's picture

     I have my 'All Seeing Eye' on you. 


       Robo Signed, Your Wife

ekm's picture

It reminds of Kyle Bass saying that when he spoke with congressmen in 2010, they told him that they expect the Fed to fix everything.

That was in 2010.

I think congress has already ordered the silver platter. The head will rest there soon.

Pareto's picture

Talk to your friends and family and learn that absolutely nobody has a fucking clue about any of this and what it means to/for them.  Seems like a big short in the making if you ask me.

Abraxas's picture

Nobody I know gets it. That's why I'm coming here.

RafterManFMJ's picture

Your wilfully ignorant friends and family are about to be 'naturally selected.' Evilotion can be a bitch.

bank guy in Brussels's picture

An especially terrible aspect of the ECB buying those Greek bonds - covered by ZeroHedge at many points - is that the ECB gave itself a fat, evil 'secure priority' when Greece had the managed default and the bond owners were 'haircut'.

The ECB owning so many bonds, meant that the various non-Troika bondholders, like the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, got an even BIGGER haircut. ECB buying bonds further subordinated all the other bag-, er, bond-holders.

And meanwhile the ECB not only maintained its own Greek bonds on its books, but has continued to collect interest from the poor ravaged Greeks who now are short of medical supplies ...

The ECB wouldn't even reduce or postpone the fat interest payments, leading the awful Angela Merkel to tell German voters 'See, vee are even making a profit on zee PIIGS bonds!'

Meanwhile Greeks go without hospital care and medicines, as the money has been stolen to pay interest at the ECB

Total criminal shite

CDSMonkey's picture

So true. ECB could have been generous. Their actions helped drag Cyprus down

Diogenes's picture

The decision was made when the greek government borrowed billions of Euros and pissed it away. Now the people are stuck with paying it back. Some of them got cushy government jobs and never paid their taxes. Some got nothing.

RafterManFMJ's picture

Those with government jobs by definition pay no taxes; they consume the labor of others, extracted at the point of a bayonet.

sun tzu's picture

They let it happen because the government had guns and they don't. We have 100 million gun owners in America.

When the 65 year old gun owner can't get his heart medicine anymore, guess what he'll do? When the father can't feed his kids anymore, guess what he'll do? When they steal 60% of our bank accounts, 401k and pensions, and tell us to eat dog food, guess what we'll do? Ok, 75%  will eat dog food, but the other 25% will go hunting for banksters and politicians.

schatzi's picture

but the other 25% will go hunting for banksters and politicians


To eat them?


People underestimate that the vast majority will simply try to carry on as best as possible within the rules of society. The only way a larger society can persist is if the majority thereof conform. It's been inbred over thousands of generations. Too much fantastical wishful thinking going on here.

bunnyswanson's picture

Finding a person to blame is the first thing a society which has an infrastructure in place (funded by tax payers) does.  The blame game.  It's the "buck stops here."  \\

And the politicians will be who will be faced with the neighbors on a local level, they will point to the upper politicians right on up to the WH.  Then, if it is very nasty and fear is running through their blood, they will turn on bankers by writing tell out books and giving interviews.

So, we shall see how ugly this gets.  Ever been hungry and not have any money to buy food?  Thanks to a greedy bastard, I was.  It's a feeling that is all encompassing.  Can't get away from it.  Turns you into an animal in search of food in order to survive.

ekm's picture

If the article is true, which means if it is true that Weber and Bundesbank board made a very important decision without Merkel's approval, again if that is true, when the shit hits the nuclear reactor soon, Merkel will "leak" to the media everything and blame them for everything.


I do not belive that the board took the decision without Merkel's approval, they are not that brave.

The article itself seems to me as a "leak" to harm Bundesbank and help Merkel, if Merkel was actually kept in the dark. It's quite fishy.


Question: Is Weber helping Merkel to be re-elected?

reload's picture

If you play chess, I bet you are very hard to beat.

Webber=fall guy, unwittingly in a corner his own hubris helped to build.

ekm's picture

I have played chess since 6 yr old.

Not very much recently, though.

moneybots's picture

" it will be Ben Bernanke's head that Congress - so very appreciative of Bernanke's efforts to date of course - will demand on a silver platter for public consumption. "


Wasn't his head already on the platter for 2008?  Does it really matter whether he gets a second platter after he pulled in the slosh to crash the market when congress was debationg the 700 billion dollar bank bailout bill?  Isn't extortion supposed to be a crime?  Yet congress doesn't care.

Harbanger's picture

Bankers are the dealers, politicians the addicts and voters are the enablers.  It took time to get here, few people understand liberty or personal responsibility, most people get talked into expecting equality and fairness, there's no such thing.  So we bend economic and natural law until it breaks.

css1971's picture

You can't have freedom without responsibility.

Wakanda's picture

What's with the "wish you all the best" and "hope you make it to retirement" for Ben B?

Ben does not wish me the best and is certainly not looking out for my retirement.

What comes around, goes around - even for bald, bearded central banksters.

The Second American Revolution - gettin' comfy in a neighborhood near you.