Over the past month America's ever vigilant law enforcers have taken to task not one but two foreign (domestic bank lobbies are sufficiently large to make Congress muppets perfectly eager to look the other way as noted previously) banks: HSBC and now Standard Chartered, for money laundering. Yet, when it comes to the true elephant in the room, which is not foreign and is fully domestic, they continue to ignore events such as this one just described by the Wall Street Journal: "A Florida home that originally listed for $60 million has sold for $47 million, a record for a single-family house in Miami-Dade County. The home, in Indian Creek Village, had been on the market since early 2011, when construction was still being completed. The asking price was reduced to $52 million this year." And the punchline: "The identity of the buyer, a foreigner who purchased the home in the name of a U.S.-based limited-liability company, couldn't be learned." In other words a foreigner who may or may not have engaged in massive criminal activity and/or dealt with Iran, Afghanistan, or any other bogeyman du jour at some point in their past, and is using US real estate merely as a money-laundering front perhaps? Sadly, we will never know. Why? As explained before, it is all thanks to the National Association of Realtors - those wonderful people who bring you the existing home sales update every month (with a documented upward bias every single time) - which just so happens is the only organization that actively lobbied for and received an exemption from AML regulation compliance. In other words, unlike HSBC, the NAR is untouchable, even if it were to sell a triplex to Ahmedinejad on West 57th street.
As a reminder, here is where the NAR stands on the issue of its most generous clients possibly being some of the worst criminal known to man, courtesy of Elanus Capital:
Many of you reading this will undoubtedly have spent time in an international bank and been forced to sit through countless hours of “know your client” and AML training. Fascinating to note that the National Association of Realtors lobbied for and received a waiver from such regulation. That’s right, realtors actually went to the U.S. government and said: we want to be able to help foreign business oligarchs and other nefarious business people launder money through the real estate markets of the United States – and prevailed.
Here's their official position:
"NAR supports continued efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism through the regulation of entities using a risk-based analysis. Any risk-based assessment would likely find very little risk of money laundering involving real estate agents or brokers. Regulations that would require real estate agents and brokers to adopt anti-money laundering programs may prove to be burdensome and unnecessary given the existing ML/TF regulations that already apply to United States financial institutions."
Hat’s off to the NAR – that is some serious doublespeak. My translation: We’ll support you as long as we don’t have to support you.
If after skimming the above, readers are still confused what the reason is for the luxury segment of the US housing market continuing to rise in price even as all other segments of the quadruplicate US housing market as explained here languish, we suggest rereading it as many times as necessary.
Some more on where the world's criminal come to launder their cash, with the express permission of the NAR and the US government:
The high-end market in South Florida has picked up in recent months, with a number of sales well above the $10 million mark. The previous county record was broken in March when another home on Indian Creek sold for nearly $40 million to hedge-fund manager Edward S. Lampert, according to local brokers. In May, a South Beach penthouse apartment owned by the family that controls the Birkenstock shoe company sold for $25 million, a record price for an apartment, according to local brokers.
"The market has changed dramatically for the super high end," said Jill Eber, one of the property's Miami-area listing brokers. "These are prices that we've never, ever seen before."
But why does the NAR and the government ignore the fact that some of the biggest marginal buyers are precisely those peope who HSBC and Std Chartered are being punished for transacting with? Why because by laundering their blood money, they are allowing the Fed and Congress to say that "housing has bottomed" and the US economy is now improving.
Readers should now be quite clear why the various segments of the US regulatory and enforcement authority will perpetually turn a blind eye to the one true transgressor when it comes to encouraging money laundering on US soil - the NAR, and its massive lobby - and instead will scapegoat this bank in London, or that bank in Hong Kong.
At least until such time as no readily available scapegoats are available, and the cannibalization begins.