NY’s Superintendent of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, yesterday dropped the hammer on the UK’s Standard Chartered Bank, accusing it of doctoring financial documents to facilitate the laundering of Iranian money through its US banks.
Like Yves, I think one of the most striking details about this story is that SFS–and not Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls–is making the accusation.
But it also appears that Lawsky has end run, as in embarrassed, the Treasury and the New York Fed. As part of its defense, SCB contends it was already cooperating with Federal regulators:
In January 2010, the Group voluntarily approached all relevant US agencies, including the DFS, and informed them that we had initiated a review of historical US dollar transactions and their compliance with US sanctions…The Group waived its attorney-client and work product privileges to ensure that all the US agencies would receive all relevant information.
The agencies in question are “DFS, the Department of Justice, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Federal Reserve Group of New York and the District Attorney of New York.”
The lack of action by everyone ex the lowly New York banking supervisor is mighty troubling. The evidence presented in Lawsky’s filing is compelling; he clearly has not gone off half cocked. Why has he pressed forward and announced this on his own? The Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has supposedly been all over terrorist finance; the consultants to that effort typically have very high level security clearances and top level access (one colleague who worked on this effort in the Paulson Treasury could get the former ECB chief Trichet on the phone). For them not to have pursued it anywhere as aggressively as a vastly less well resourced state banking regulator, particularly when Iran is now the designated Foreign Enemy #1, does not pass the smell test.
Normally, we’d see accusations like SFS released today from Treasury’s OFAC, perhaps (for charges as scandalous as these) in conjunction with the NY DA and/or a US Attorney. And yet OFAC has had these materials in hand for 2 years, and has done nothing.
In fact, we have a pretty good idea what OFAC’s action would look like, because earlier this year it sanctioned ING for actions that were similar in type, albeit larger in number (20,000 versus 60,000) and far larger in dollar amount ($1.6 billion involving Cuba versus $250 billion involving Iran). Both banks were doctoring fields in SWIFT forms to hide the source or destination of their transfers.
Beginning in 2001, ING Curacao increasingly used MT 202 cover payments to send Cuba-related payments to unaffiliated U.S. banks, which would not have to include originator or beneficiary information related to Cuban parties. For serial payments, up until the beginning of 2003, NCB populated field 50 of the outgoing SWIFT MT 103 message with its own name or Bank Identifier Code, Beginning in the second quarter of 2003, NCB populated field 50 with its customer’s name, but omitted address information. ING Curacao also included its customer’s name, but no address information, in field 50 of outgoing SWIFT messages.
Rather than institute [a required to ensure the funds didn't come from Iran], SCB instead conspired with Iranian Clients to transmit misinformation to the New York branch by removing and otherwise misrepresenting wire transfer data that could identify Iranian parties. For example, regarding necessary wire transfer documentation, SCB instructed CBI/Markazi to “send in their MT 202‟s with a [SCB London‟s business identifier code] as this is what we required them to do in the initial set up of the account. Therefore, the payments going to NY do not appear to NY to have come from an Iranian Bank.” (emphasis added). SCB also accomplished this subterfuge by: (a) inserting special characters (such as “.”) in electronic message fields used to identify transacting parties; Continue reading
As I noted earlier, the Tax Justice Network just released a study showing that there is somewhere between $21 and 32$ Trillion that tax cheats have hidden in tax havens. Really obscenely rich people like Mitt Romney make up for $9.8 trillion of that–or about 18% of the total liquid net worth in the world, hidden away in tax havens.
But there are two other tables from the study that bear notice. The study suggests that the money stashed in tax havens has been growing steadily at a rate of 16% a year.
Our analysis finds that at the end of 2010 the Top 50 private banks alone collectively managed more than $12.1 trillion in cross-‐border invested assets for private clients, including their trusts and foundations. This is up from $5.4 trillion in 2005, representing an average annual growth rate of more than 16%.
But that’s sort of misleading. As the table above makes clear, the amount in tax havens grew by 67% between 2002 and 2004, then grew by 40% in the following two years, then by another 23% in the last year of the bubble. Then it crashed, basically losing that 23% and plateauing for a year. And then it started growing again, 18% between 2009 and 2010. And who knows how much in the last year?
The banksters paid a price for 2 years, but the looting has begun again.
What I find particularly interesting–though I’m not sure what to make of it–is the changing share of looter service the big banks are doing. While UBS’ tax shelter dollars continued to grow, they lost market share among tax cheats. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs’ tax shelter dollars almost quadrupled in that time. Bank of America and Wells Fargo made big gains too (though Morgan Stanley’s tax cheat business shrank and JP Morgan’s was somewhat flat.
Like I said, I don’t know what to make of it. But it sure seems like since the crash at least some of the banks have decided to recover by catering to tax cheats.
Lovely. Some of the same banks that are still in business because tax payers bailed them out are increasingly some of the biggest players in facilitating the looting of our own–and every other–country.
Update: This Title was changed.
Reuters reports this morning that Japan’s lower house of parliament has passed a law authorizing creation of a new nuclear regulatory agency. The second paragraph of the story stands out to me:
The 2011 Fukushima disaster cast a harsh spotlight on the cozy ties between regulators, politicians and utilities – known as Japan’s “nuclear village” – that experts say were a major factor in the failure to avert the crisis triggered when a huge earthquake and tsunami devastated the plant, causing meltdowns.
The underlying cause of the “nuclear village” where regulators are captured by the industry they regulate and the politicians also are owned by the same system applies equally as well to the situation that enabled the meltdown of global financial markets in 2008. There is far less recognition of the village aspect of Wall Street’s lack of regulation in the financial crisis, and where there have been moves ostensibly toward regulation or even prosecution of crimes, they have been a sham:
On March 9 — 45 days after the speech and 30 days after the announcement — we met with Schneiderman in New York City and asked him for an update. He had just returned from Washington, where he had been personally looking for office space. As of that date, he had no office, no phones, no staff and no executive director. None of the 55 staff members promised by Holder had materialized. On April 2, we bumped into Schneiderman on a train leaving Washington for New York and learned that the situation was the same.
Tuesday, calls to the Justice Department’s switchboard requesting to be connected with the working group produced the answer, “I really don’t know where to send you.” After being transferred to the attorney general’s office and asking for a phone number for the working group, the answer was, “I’m not aware of one.”
The promises of the President have led to little or no concrete action.
In fact, the new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group was the sixth such entity formed since the start of the financial crisis in 2009. The grand total of staff working for all of the previous five groups was one, according to a surprised Schneiderman. In Washington, where staffs grow like cherry blossoms, this is a remarkable occurrence.
We are led to conclude that Donovan was right. The settlement and working group — taken together — were a coup: a public relations coup for the White House and the banks. The media hailed the resolution for a few days and then turned their attention to other topics and controversies.
But for 12 million American homeowners, collectively $700 billion under water, this was just another in a long series of sham transactions.
Perhaps in homage to the Schneiderman and other sham units, the Reuters article on Japan’s new agency does show a bit of caution regarding the new agency:
The legislation, however, swiftly came under fire for appearing to weaken the government’s commitment to decommissioning reactors after 40 years in operation, even as it drafts an energy program to reduce nuclear power’s role.
Under a deal ending months of bickering by ruling and opposition parties, the new regulatory commission could revise a rule limiting the life of reactors to 40 years in principle.
“Does this reflect the sentiment of the citizens, who are seeking an exit from nuclear power?” queried an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun daily. “Won’t it instead make what was supposed to be a rare exception par for the course?”
And as for the coziness between politicians in the US and the financial industry, we need look no further than Wednesday’s appearance by Jamie Dimon before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. One of Marcy’s tweets during the hearing says all we need to know about that “hearing”:
BOB CORKER WIPE THAT SPOOGE FROM YOUR CHIN RIGHT NOW!
Japan’s response to its meltdown has been to shut down all nuclear plants while the framework for how they will operate if they are allowed to restart is debated. Imagine how much better off the world would be if JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs had been shut down while a proper regulatory framework for them was developed.
Two weeks ago, Treasury fired the guy in charge of FinCEN (the part of Treasury that enforces and tracks Suspicious Activities Reports), Jim Freis, reportedly (pay wall) because he wanted to focus on law enforcement and financial crimes, rather than a more focused counterterrorism focus.
The issue wasn’t Fincen’s speed or personality conflicts, but more about control. To put it simply, Treasury wants more oversight of Fincen’s activities, including additional focus on international areas such as terrorist financing. “Fincen ought to be better integrated and tethered to the policy issues that relate to money laundering, terrorist financing and economic sanctions on behalf of the U.S. government. It’s not as well integrated as it should be,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Freis saw Fincen’s role as more independent, and was primarily concerned with the agency’s role in supporting law enforcement agencies as well as tackling other financial crimes such as mortgage fraud.
And if that isn’t enough to make you wonder about this Administration’s commitment to making banks obey the law, consider that the apparent leading candidate to replace Freis is JP Morgan’s anti-money laundering VP, William Langford.
In December 2009, when JPMC extended a $2.9 million loan to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping lines, in violation of WMD sanctions, Langford was the VP at JPMC in charge of money laundering. He was there, too, when JPMC decided not to self-disclose the loan until they had almost been repaid.
In the months before March 2011, when JPMC repeatedly claimed it didn’t have 20 documents relating to a wire transfer with Khartoum? Langford was at JPMC for that too.
The 9 wire transfers since April 2006 in violation of a range of sanctions? He was there for most of those.
And he was probably at JPM–though just barely–when JPMC transferred $20M in gold bullion–a ton of gold!–for an Iranian bank?
Now, presumably all this money laundering and sanctions violating happened in remote corners of JPMC, far from Langford’s views (though you would think his office would be involved in the non-responsive answers about the Khartoum documents and decisions about when and whether to self-disclose some of these violations). There is no reason to believe Langford facilitated any of this money laundering and sanctions violating.
Still, even aside from the whole revolving door problem, from the centrality of JPMC in both the MF Global and JPMC’s won Fail Whale investigations, it seems like Treasury might hire someone who couldn’t keep one bank in line, much less all of them.
I’ve got that wonderfully satisfied yet mildly sick feeling I used to get after eating too many sweets as a kid, what with all the schadenfreude directed at Jamie Dimon and his $2 billion loss.
But I’m particularly struck by this story, in which Gretchen Morgenson recounts how Jamie DImon called Paul Volcker and Richard Fisher “infantile” at a party a month ago, for warning about Too Big To Fail banks. That piece of news, like all the rest, added to my sugar buzz. But I was struck by this passage, describing Morgenson’s sources.
The party, sponsored by JPMorgan for a group of its wealthy private clients, took place at the sumptuous Mansion on Turtle Creek hotel. Mr. Dimon was on hand to thank the guests for their patronage and their trust.
During the party, Mr. Dimon took questions from the crowd, according to an attendee who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating the bank. One guest asked about the problem of too-big-to-fail banks and the arguments made by Mr. Volcker and Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Dimon responded that he had just two words to describe them: “infantile” and “nonfactual.” He went on to lambaste Mr. Fisher further, according to the attendee. Some in the room were taken aback by the comments.
That is, Morgenson’s source(s) is not some entry level trader. He or she is a private client, a very rich person, whom Dimon was brought in to suck up to. Not just suck up to, but “thank … for their trust.”
Here we are a month later and Dimon and JPM generally have proven that trust was misplaced. If it were me, I’d be pulling my money out of JPM before Dimon pulls an MF Global with it. Yet even still, this very rich person is afraid of “alienating the bank.”
Not that that’s surprising. After all, Goldman Sachs still commands the kind of fear that leads people to invest with it, even after it became clear it was suckering clients to buy shitpile that it could then short.
Still, if there’s a sign of just how perverse our finance system is right now, it’s that the rich people Dimon is supposed to be sucking up to actually fear him, even after he has been disgraced.
The bridge on 82 in this picture is the bridge a bunch of purported “anarchists” have just been arrested for threatening to blow up.
You’ll note the idyllic parklands through which it travels You’ll note the presence of two bridges in the immediate vicinity (not to mention the major freeway bridges not far away), to which traffic could easily be diverted if an attack succeeded. You’ll notice the almost complete lack of traffic on the bridge, at least when Google took its satellite picture.
In short, it makes zero sense for anyone to want to target the bridge. It would have almost no visibility. It would do almost nothing to disrupt traffic.
It would be, at best, an expensive curiosity.
It makes a far more implausible target for terrorists than the one the alleged plotters originally considered: bank signs in downtown Cleveland. The signs would have visibility. They would strike at a logical anarchist target. It would create news.
As one of the plotters said, “The signs are the most important part because they need to make sure everyone knows the action was against corporate America and the financial system, not just some random acts.”
The bridge, on the other hand, has just two advantages. First, as the affidavit notes, the bridge “has support columns within the boundaries of the National Park” and also (being not that far from the PA border) occasionally has cars with out of state plates drive over it. Those things–in spite of this being a little-used bridge on a state road–make blowing the bridge up interstate commerce, something the FBI can pursue.
And, the bridge, unlike some signs, would require an explosive like C4 to bring down.
So well before you get to the parts where a paid informant was offering to find money to get the C4 that the plotters said would otherwise be too expensive, you really have to wonder what purpose this plot serves.
Besides to give the FBI something to point to on May Day to justify arresting peaceful protestors.
Jamie Dimon’s got his whine on again (or should I say “still”), wishing we all could just move on from the catastrophe Dimon and his buddy banksters caused.
Dimon’s strategy here is rather amusing. He twice suggests that the media and the banks are both unfairly denigrated, as a “class.”
You’ve criticized others for an ongoing vilification of Wall Street and bankers?
I would say it differently. This indiscriminate scapegoating and finger-pointing. I don’t think it’s a good thing if you do it to banks or media. The point is there is some decent media and not decent; some good businesspeople and some not so good. My belief is this indiscriminate blame of both classes denigrates our society, destroys confidence — it certainly can’t boost it — and damages us.
Is it surprising that people lash out after such a severe recession in which we’ve seen these polars of wealth creation and destruction?
I can give you all the reasons why. But whenever anyone says to me, “All media,” I turn it off. “All politicians.” I turn it off. I don’t think it’s the right way to have discourse. Abe Lincoln didn’t do it. George Washington didn’t do it. It shouldn’t be done.
You don’t justify it because you’ve had a tough time. As a matter of fact, in a tough time, the best people stand tallest. They’re the ones who discriminate between the right and wrong. They’re the ones who stick to the true blue. … Not the ones who out of convenience scapegoat and finger-point.
And, having appealed to the journalist’s sense of common angst and suggested those seeking precisely to distinguish between right and wrong are “fingerpointing,” Dimon gets a piece that focuses on the number of people Chase has hired locally rather than his patently false claim that none of Chase’s foreclosures were improper and “we don’t know of any where the actual information in the affidavit about the foreclosure itself is wrong.”
Where Dimon’s latest whine says something new, however, is where he tries to suggest that the people who deposit their money with Chase–effectively loan Chase their money–are just freeloading.
Let’s talk about fees. We’ve seen some fees like the debit charge go away at the same time others are surfacing. Has it gone too far?
More than 80 percent don’t pay the monthly fee (on checking). Here’s the issue: It costs $300 to give you a checking account. What’s the cost of that? Branches, ATMs, online bill pay, Smart systems, checking account, a debit card. Any business has a cost. If you want a customer, you care, but you have to make a fair profit to survive.
But even after the debit fee went away, banks were still profitable.
Very often people will see us as having a profit, and I’m saying it’s really suboptimal results. Because we’re big and have a lot of capital, it sounds like a lot. But these are huge services and huge risks these banks take. We want to be fairly paid for services we provide. Just like a newspaper or anybody else.
Is the issue one of degree? For instance, that $5 ATM fee you were testing?
If you’re a client, we don’t charge you for ATMs. We charge nonclients. I think we charge $2 now. It costs us $50,000 a year to have an ATM. It’s not a gift. It’s for our clients. [my underline]
Right. The $50,000 ATM is a big risk. Dumping loads of money into derivatives? That’s apparently not where Chase’s big risk lies. Rather, it’s in replacing human tellers with machines that require relatively little maintenance, no health benefits, and no days off to give customers a reason–convenience–to loan Chase their money.
Or maybe now that Chase has made billions in the casino, they expect their $50,000 ATMs to be just as profitable. So Dimon will call a simple computer, an ATM, a huge risk, and demand exorbitant fees. Because banks shouldn’t have to pay the cost of doing business anymore, I guess. Asking them to do so is treating them unfairly as a class.
Someone gave Mitt Romney a shovel just in time to dig
shit snow in MI for the next two weeks. There’s a lot that is fact-impaired in this op-ed doubling down on the “let GM go bankrupt” (starting with the lack of funding for a bankruptcy, meaning a managed bankruptcy was impossible).
By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.
Thus, the outcome of the managed bankruptcy proceedings was dictated by the terms of the bailout. Chrysler’s “secured creditors,” who in the normal course of affairs should have been first in line for compensation, were given short shrift, while at the same time, the UAWs’ union-boss-controlled trust fund received a 55 percent stake in the firm.
He’s complaining, of course, that VEBA (the trust fund run by professionals that allowed the auto companies to spin off contractual obligations–retiree healthcare–to the unions) got a stake in Chrysler while Chrysler’s secured creditors took a haircut.
So, in part, he’s basically complaining that the bailout preserved the healthcare a bunch of 55+ year old blue collar workers were promised. He’s pissed they got to keep their healthcare.
He’s also complaining that banks took a haircut, as would happen in any managed bankruptcy.
But it’s more than that. He’s complaining that a bunch of banks that themselves had been bailed out had to take a haircut. He’s complaining, for example, that JP Morgan Chase, Chrysler’s largest creditor at the time and the recipient, itself, of $68.6B in bailout loans, had to take a haircut on $2B in loans to Chrysler.
Mitt’s op-ed makes him sound a lot like Jimmy Lee, Chase’s top negotiator on the auto bailout, who,
demanded to know why, if the government thought banks important enough to give them tens of billions in TARP money, it wanted to squeeze them on [the Chrysler] deal.
I guess Mitt, too, thinks the banks are so important they should take precedence over retiree healthcare, too.
But as the kind of bankster who, at Bain, relied on government subsidies to fund his “restructurings” that ended up taking people’s jobs and healthcare, that’s not all that surprising.
Still, the UAW retirees who still have healthcare today instead of Jamie Dimon having another yacht probably don’t feel the same way as Mitt does.
Can you think of any major public figure–or even any ill-tempered toddler in your own life–that whines more than Jamie Dimon?
Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said President Barack Obama’s decision to expand investigations into home lending and sales of mortgage securities could stop settlement talks with the states over foreclosure practices.
“It has a pretty good chance of derailing it,” Dimon said in a televised interview with CNBC from Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.
Whining Dimon is effectively warning Obama that if any real investigation takes place, JP Morgan will walk away from Obama’s effort to make pension funds pay to bail Dimon’s company out. And–as Michael Whitney noted on Twitter–he’s doing so from the safe harbor of Davos, where presumably his fellow-MOTUs won’t throttle him for such arrogance.
It’s not enough, I guess, that Obama wants to excuse JPMC for its crimes. Dimon will only accept such help, he says, so long as Obama also refrains from even peeking at what crimes JPMC committed.
Fresh off the Friday news dump that its profits stalled in the last quarter (after it had to stop laundering money for Iran and inheriting the lost money of MF Global customers), fresh off the news that JPMorgan Chase might lose $5 billion in the Europe crisis, and, it should be said, fresh off the departure of a JPMC Exec from the White House Chief of Staff position, Jamie Dimon is calling for a real solution to the housing market.
“I would convene all the people involved in the business, I would close the door, I’d stay there until we resolved a bunch of these issues so we could have a more healthy mortgage market,” the 55-year-old chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. said today.
The patchwork of U.S. and international regulatory policies governing the housing and mortgage markets are hampering recovery here and abroad, Dimon said on a conference call with analysts after the New York-based bank released fourth-quarter earnings. In the U.S., state foreclosure laws conflict with a variety of federal policies on refinancing or modifying loans to troubled borrowers, Dimon said.
Leadership is needed to overhaul the industry, including reviving the market for private-label residential mortgage bonds and reforming regulations governing mortgage repurchases and foreclosures, he said.
“You could fix all this if someone was in charge,” Dimon said, tapping on the table for emphasis. “No one is in charge.”
Which is pretty funny, since a bunch of Attorneys General just did show some leadership.
Attorneys general or representatives from nearly 15 states met in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss and share different enforcement options and strategies around various mortgage-related issues, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
The meeting was prompted by the slow pace at which a national foreclosure settlement led by the Obama administration is progressing, and is likely to be the first in a series, said these sources.
“This past Tuesday, a group of like-minded Attorneys General met in D.C. to discuss ongoing and future investigations into the mortgage finance and foreclosure industries,” said Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ian McConnel.
“The talks weren’t just about investigations,” said a source with knowledge of the discussions. “They were also about the attorneys general offices feeling uninvolved in a process by which their federal colleagues have been negotiating on their behalf.” [my emphasis]
Or maybe it’s this show of leadership that’s got Dimon whining?
But what I find most amusing about this ubercapitalist begging for government intervention is this: Dimon says he’s gonna lock “all the people involved in the business” in a room until they come up with a solution. But note who he’s going to invite?
Jamie Dimon has a plan to fix the U.S. housing market: lock mortgage lenders and regulators behind closed doors until they figure it out. [my emphasis]
Because if you realized that homeowners, too, were a fundamental part of the housing business, you might lose your cred as a psychopath.