Bankers want still more power

This video from the USA says about itself:

Former VP of HSBC: “We were laundering 100’s of millions for drugs & terrorism

27 March 2014

The global banking giant HSBC is a “criminal” operation, charges a former officer for the company’s southern New York region in this interview with Russell Scott.

John Cruz, a former vice president and relationship manager, has turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents, including customer account ledgers for dozens of companies through which, he charges, the financial institution was laundering money each month.

As a relationship manager, it was his responsibility to look up various accounts in the HSBC computer system and visit the account holders in person to offer additional banking products and services.

“I pulled these documents because I thought they were evidence of suspicious activity taking place. These same documents I brought to bank security and my managers in the bank.”

To his surprise, HSBC management and security did not welcome his reports of suspicious activity.

“My managers told me I was crazy and I didn’t know what I was talking about,” he said. “They told me it was none of my business what goes on in transactions. But that’s my job.”

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Revenge of the bankers

Friday 8th August 2014

New Labour failed to cut the banks down to size — but they are still trying to wriggle out of even mild regulation, says SOLOMON HUGHES

Whatever happened to banking reform? The banks threw the world economy into crisis in 2008. Thousands lost their jobs, their homes and their health. But HSBC boss Douglas Flint has just launched a “fightback” against the limited post-crash reforms.

Announcing HSBC’s 2014 results, Flint said his staff had “growing fatigue” with regulation and that the new rules caused “disproportionate risk aversion.”

Flint also sent a secret note to George Osborne and the Bank of England asking them to suspend the main, already-watered-down post-crash banking regulation.

After 2008 there was a real chance to reform the banks rather than simply bailing them out. But it looks like they are just going to take the subsidy without offering any change, mostly thanks to Labour.

In his August chairman’s statement, Flint says that thanks to regulations there is a “danger of disproportionate risk aversion creeping into decision-making,” warning that “unwarranted risk aversion” will stop loans and “risks unwinding parts of the eco-system of networks and relationships that support global trade and investment.”

Basically Flint is saying that unless regulators stop prosecuting banks for cheating customers or investing in mad schemes, they are going to stop lending altogether. UK banks are already bad at investing in the productive economy, thanks to the terms of Gordon Brown and Ed Balls’s bailout.

Banks were given government cash to stop them going bust but weren’t forced to agree to lend to job-creating industries as part of the deal. HSBC didn’t get the direct investment that went into RBS and Lloyds, but it did get short-term loans from the special liquidity scheme.

Without the general taxpayer support of the financial system, they wouldn’t be in any kind of condition to try to bully us out of bank regulation. We saved the banks that now want to slash the rules.

Worse, Flint has written to Osborne asking him to suspend the rules establishing “ring fences” between investment and retail banking.

These rules are supposed to stop the banks demanding further bailouts. In 2008 governments thought banks were “too big to fail,” leaving them no choice but throw our cash into their coffers, even though their failure was the fault of their bad investments.

Governments worried that failing investment banks would destroy people’s individual savings, because the same banks that invested in the “collateralised debt obligations” and other “derivatives” that turned out to be a house of cards also ran high-street “retail” banks.

So there was a post-crash pressure to separate “investment” and “retail” banking. In future, an investment bank that backed the wrong numbers in the casino would be allowed to go bust.

Or it would have been if investment and retail banking had really been separated.

The Vickers Commission, the main inquiry into bank reform in Britain, was nobbled by banking pressure, so it merely argued for internal “firewalls” between investment and retail branches.

But the scandals over banks lying over Libor rates, over “pump and dump” schemes where banks offloaded dodgy investments and over simple cheating of customers through PPI scams show that banks don’t respect “firewalls” or “Chinese walls” or any other internal rules.

Labour’s second failure, after the unconditional bailouts, was to accept the Vickers report and not argue for full separation.

New Labour fell head over heels in love with capitalism at precisely the point capitalism became most rotten and so was unable to press for reform in office or opposition.

It has recovered a little under Ed Miliband’s little shuffle away from new Labour. But not enough to make a difference.

The Tories, stuffed with City cash, will not reform the City. But the chance that a Labour government will do much more is slim.

Labour’s current policy to deal with big risky banks that cheat customers, won’t invest and might go bust again is to encourage new small “challenger” banks. The “free market” failed massively but Labour hopes another dose of a “freer market” will help.

Compare this to Labour’s previous responses to banking failure. The 1945 Labour government thought the City didn’t invest in British industry enough. So it set up its own state-run investment bank.

In the 1970s Harold Wilson didn’t like the way banks would only open accounts for middle-class people so he set up Girobank. Faced with banking failure, Labour didn’t just wait for new “challenger” banks, it set them up.

The 1945 Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation was very successful in funding British industry and Girobank revolutionised high-street banking with computerisation.

The Tories hated both initiatives for challenging the City and hated them more when they were successful, so both were privatised. But Old Labour didn’t just rely on “the market.”

The left outside Labour also did much more to press for banking reform. Labour was so in love with the City that it gave Douglas Flint a CBE in 2006.

But at the same time the “anti-capitalist” movement was developing a critique of neoliberalism.

This tended to focus on the financialisation of “our” bits of society — on PFI, trade deals and privatisation of public services — rather than regulating “their” bit — the banks. It was a little defensive but it was real and much more productive than Labour’s thinking.

When the crisis hit, the Occupy movement pressed for change. It changed the language about the crash, making it an issue about the “1 per cent” versus the “99 per cent” instead of just a “natural” disaster.

Occupy was often accused of being unrealistic. But Kalle Lasn, the founder of Adbusters magazine, who more or less founded Occupy, was very coherent.

At the start of the protests in 2011 he recommended “a Robin Hood tax on all trades … bring back the Glass-Steagall Act … ban high-frequency flash trading, implement banking reform, clean up corruption in Washington.”

This is a much more coherent approach to banking than Labour’s. Glass-Steagall is the law brought in under President Franklin Roosevelt separating retail and investment banking.

“Robin Hood” taxes levied on international finance depress speculation and raise revenue. His other recommendations are equally sound.

The lesson here is the “respectable” political opposition can’t offer “reasonable” reform without pressure from the “unreasonable” opposition in the streets.

11 thoughts on “Bankers want still more power

  1. First – thanks you for the award nod, I saw it and apologize for my tardiness – it means a lot coming from you 🙂 Second – this story doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. That’s not to say it doesn’t make me hopping mad – because it does. Not a day goes by that news like this doesn’t rear its ugly head – anyone clinging to fuzzy illusions of reform, accountability or (perish the thought) consequences, needs to take their head out of the sand. The system is so far gone and bloated – waiting for politicians to implement change is laughable.


    • Your award is well deserved 😉 And most people, including me, are a bit late sometimes 🙂

      Indeed, mild paper “reforms” are hardly enough when dealing with people like the HSBC bosses.


  2. Bankers, financiers, are suffering the Mike Jagger syndrome, they need to have a audience to validate their existence, the lyrics of the Stones may sum up the problem with those who how ever much they have, I refer to, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.money is the least understood commodity in terms of a drug, the knee jerk of having drugs such as hashish, and so on is deplorable, the constant thirst for money of those who have no compunction to thieve, over come all sense of conscience, death, destruction in the name of profit, from say war and so, is mind boggling.
    The normality of living in a culture whereby military is the settlement of conflict as opposed to reason, is endemic.
    The worst aspect of human beings is their stupidity of having the inability of not knowing or learning through experience, after two major wars in the last century, wars since the those times are alive and well, we still have our critics who are marking papers as to correct English. grammar, how is this so? the perfection of language is so much more important than the destruction of cultures, people, and infrastructure, Why?


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