Monsignor Nunzio Scarano - dubbed "Monsignor 500" after his favorite bank-note - who is already on trial for allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland to Italy, was arrested Tuesday in a separate case for allegedly using his Vatican accounts to launder a further 7 million euros. As AP reports, police said they seized 6.5 million euros in real estate and bank accounts Tuesday, including Scarano's luxurious Salerno apartment, filled with gilt-framed oil paintings, ceramic vases and other fancy antiques. A local priest was also placed under house arrest and a notary public was suspended for alleged involvement in the money-laundering plot. Police said in all, 52 people were under investigation. Have no fear though, for his lawyer, "has good faith that the money came from legitimate donations."
With over 1,000 new merchants adopting Bitcoin every week, it is perhaps not surprising that, as NY Post reports, the first Bitcoin ATM is about to debut in New York City. Following success in Canada and Europe, Brooklyn native Willard Ling, 30, is set to introduce the first bitcoin ATM to New York City at the East Village bubble tea shop 'Just Sweet'. State regulators with the Department of Financial Services are expected to hold hearings later this month to discuss how the digital currency should be regulated; and until then, Ling’s bitcoin ATM will sit in his apartment.
- J.P. Morgan to Pay Over $1 Billion to Settle U.S. Criminal Probe Related to Madoff (WSJ)
- Ford board aims to pin down CEO Mulally's plans (Reuters)
- Raising Minimum Wage Is a Bad Way to Help People (BBG)
- Japan Lawmakers Demand Speedy Pension Reform (WSJ)
- EU reaches landmark deal on failed banks (FT)
- In which Hilsenrath repeats what we said in August: Fed Moves Toward New Tool for Setting Rates (WSJ)
- Senators Vow to Add to Iran Economic Sanctions in 2014 (BBG)
- Centerbridge in $3.3bn LightSquared bid (FT)
- Banks, Agencies Draw Battle Lines Over 'Volcker Rule' (WSJ)
If you thought you had seen it all when it comes to sob stories of the “super rich” following the comparison of the criticisms of banker bonuses to the lynching of black people in the south by AIG’s CEO in September, think again. The latest groveling, inane defense of the “super rich” comes from none other than the gatekeeper of the largest oligarch whorehouse on planet earth. The Mayor of London, Mr. Boris Johnson. Now we warn you, do not read the following Op-Ed on a full stomach. The vapid, nonsensical, Onion-like prose may very well induce fits of nausea and uncontrolled regurgitation. This is quite frankly one of the worst things we have ever read. It echoes like a sort of grandiose ass-kissing ritual one would have encountered in a Middle Age court from an aspiring manservant of the realm, desperately trying to rapidly advance a coupe of notches up the social strata of some decadent feudal kingdom. Simply put, Boris Johnson should be ashamed to show his face in public after writing such disingenuous garbage.
From consumer and retailer surveys to quantitative data such as household spending and private jet bookings, ConvergEx's Nick Colas has amassed a collection of 10 clues about this year's holiday shopping season. On the plus side, disposable personal income and consumer spending on discretionary items are rising, and travel to Palm Beach via private jet is quite popular this Christmas season. However, consumer confidence surveys are particularly weak, and consumer debt has ballooned to a 5-year high. Roughly equal parts good and bad, Colas' collection of holiday spending indicators points to a mediocre (at best) 2013 shopping season (as we noted earlier).
Ah Silvio, never change or, if possible, resign: the comedic world of Italian politics will never be the same without you. The latest soundbite by the billionaire with a penchant for easy, underage women comes by way of an interview conducted by Italian television journalist Bruno Vespa for his latest book, and summarized by Reuters. To wit: "Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said his children feel persecuted just as Jewish families did in Nazi Germany because he is being hounded by the country's magistrates who want to eliminate him politically."
- So no great rotation into EM? Capital Flows Back to U.S. as Markets Slump Across Asia (BBG)
- Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt (Reuters)
- Allies Thwart America in Egypt: Israel, Saudis and U.A.E. Support Military Moves (WSJ)
- Dear Bloomberg: when you buy the loans of a distressed retailer, you are not betting on a rebound, you are betting on being the fulcrum security in a bankruptcy: Kyle Bass Said to Bet on J.C. Penney Comeback With Loan Purchase (BBG)
- Bubbles Bloom Anew in Desert as Buyers Wager on Las Vegas (BBG)
- Britain rejects Spanish request for Gibraltar talks (Reuters)
- U.K. Mortgage Lending Rises to Highest Since Lehman Collapse (BBG)
- Pension Funds Dispute Math in Detroit Bankruptcy (WSJ)
- Christie Says Gayness Inborn as He Signs Therapy Measure (BBG)
For the past five years Greece, stuck in its worst depression in history with two-thirds of work eligible youths unemployed, has been actively blaming all of its problems on "(f)auxterity" even as we said all along that the Greek problems have nothing to do with how much money its government spends and everything to do with corrupt, complicit and frequently criminal politicians. Today we got the latest confirmation that we were correct after the Greek finance minister Stournaras asked for the resignation of the Greek privatisation agency chief, Stavridis, following a newspaper report that he traveled on the private plane of a businessman who just bought a state company with Stavridis' blessings.
- Obama Says Bernanke Fed Term Lasting ‘Longer Than He Wanted’ (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Critical Of Japan's Credit Policy In Meeting With Abe (Nikkei)
- China Wrestles With Banks' Pleas for Cash (WSJ)
- Biggest protests in 20 years sweep Brazil (Brazil)
- Pena Nieto Confident 75-Year Pemex Oil Monopoly to End This Year (Bloomberg)
- G8 leaders seek common ground on tax (FT)
- Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure (Reuters)
- Former Trader Is Charged in U.K. Libor Probe (WSJ) - yup: it was all one 33 year old trader's fault
- Draghi Says ECB Has ‘Open Mind’ on Non-Standard Measures (BBG)
- Loeb Raises His Sony Stake, Drive for Entertainment IPO (WSJ)
A quick glance at the Larnaca runways, also known as the Russian (and perhaps even other, but that would impair the media narrative that "only Russian tax-evading oligarchs are evil") private jet parking lot, shows that things are as heated as ever, although maybe just a tad less heated. Channel 4's Faisal Islam observes that while there are 12 private jets on the tarmac, this is one less then ten days ago. When this number drop to zero, the Cypriot depression has officially begun.
First domestic fiscal policy, and now global monetary policy has become an utter circus:
- G7 OFFICIAL SAYS G7 STATEMENT WAS MISINTERPRETED, STATEMENT SIGNALED CONCERN ABOUT EXCESS MOVES IN JAPANESE YEN
- G-7 OFFICIAL: G-7 CONCERNED ABOUT UNILATERAL GUIDANCE ON YEN
- G7 OFFICIAL SAYS G7 IS CONCERNED ABOUT UNILATERAL GUIDANCE ON THE YEN, JAPAN WILL BE IN SPOTLIGHT AT G20 MEETING IN MOSCOW
We already mocked the G-7's original stupidity... and now they say it was not what they meant. Because what the G-7 clarification really means it that while the G-7 will supposedly "allow the market to set rates", the G-7 was not happy with how the market set rates following the G-7 statement. And... #Ref!
Regardless if the Fiscal Cliff is resolved tomorrow (impossible), on December 31 (unlikely), or in tandem with the debt ceiling hike some time in March 2013, after all the government fund buffers have been soaked dry as they were back in August 2011 (most likely), one thing is certain: America's wealthiest are about to see their taxes soar - that's more or less a given. The question is what happens then. Will, the wealthiest - those who have access to and can buy banking, incorporation, citizenship and legal services in any global jurisdiction in a world that has never been this decentralized and this , take it all quietly up until that point on the Laffer curve says they will commit mass suicide, or maybe, just maybe, because they don't feel like being force to pay uncle Sam even more than they currently do with the proceeds not used for something constructive like paying down debt, but instead to fund government corruption and inefficiency, they will pick up and leave without saying goodbye or even looking back, and in the process crush future US government tax revenues even more and send the deficit soaring more. "No risk in that", many will say - after all where can they go? Well, apparently many places. Because if the UK, where as the Telegraph reports a stunning two-thirds of domestic millionaires opted to leave the country than pay a "punitive" 50% tax, is any indication it is possible that the imminent tax hike on America's wealthiest is going to be one of the most destructive things that can happen to America's already unsustainable budget deficit.
- So much for that: Obama to fast track southern portion of Keystone XL Pipeline (1600 Report)
- French Police Say They Have Cornered Suspect in School Shooting (NYT); French shooting suspect had been arrested in Afghanistan (Reuters); Suspect in French shootings says he’ll surrender to end standoff (Globe & Mail), Toulouse suspect escaped from Kandahar jail in mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008 (BBC)
- Bernanke Says Europe Must Aid Banks Even as Strains Ease (Bloomberg)
- Monti faces clash with unions over reform (FT)
- UK budget to balance tax breaks with austerity (Reuters)
- Romney scores big win over Santorum in Illinois (Reuters)
- U.S. Exempts Japan, 10 EU Nations From Iran Oil Sanctions (Bloomberg)
- Bernanke Says Fed Failed to Meet Goals During Great Depression (Bloomberg)
- Revised tax deal reached on Swiss accounts (FT)
As the following update from the World Gold Council reminds us, at the end of October, Italy had 2,451.8 tonnes of gold, or roughly $140 billion dollars at today's price. We doubt we are the only ones keeping track of all this gold (most of it almost certainly 'safe and sound' about 150 feet deep under the infamous LIberty 33 location). We also doubt we are the only ones curious about its future, which we see as have five distinct possible outcomes: i) nothing; ii) it is currently being shipped quietly from The New York Fed to Italy for "general corporate purposes); iii) it has already been shipped and is currently being loaded up in Silvio's private jet; iv) the G-20 is already preparing to launch a formal demand that in order to remain in the Eurozone and to find the EFSF, which will be used to buy Italian bonds, Italy will have to do its patriotic duty and remit it to the ECB, an extortion attempt which was tried with Germany last week and which failed spectacularly; or v) it is being lent out to other countries who have long since sold their gold and continue to pretend they have some hard asset backing to the currencies issued by their own central banks. We hope to get an answer shortly.
According to the German edition of the FT, G-Pap is once again using the R-card (that would be resigning-cum-retiring) - the last time he did this was back in early July when he had to persuade the government to vote for the July 21 Greek bailout #2. He was bluffing then. He is likely bluffing now, although if he isn't, it means game over for Greece and probably for the European dream, not to mention united currency. From FT: "[G-Pap] has been trying for months to keep his country from bankruptcy - Tens of thousands of Greeks are against the austerity policies of the government on the barricades. No wonder the prime minister is thinking of throwing the rocks." Since this is google translation, we assume "throwing rocks" is loosely translated as getting the f#*$ out of Dodge while the getting is good, while the private jet still has fuel and while the gold is still in the cargo hold.