A day after Credit Suisse killed the Chinese bank sector saying that the equity of virtually the entire space may be worthless if NPLs double, as they expect they will to about 10%, the Swiss bank proceeds to kill European banks next. Based on the latest farce out of Europe in the form of the third stress test, which is supposed to restore some confidence, it appears that what it will do is simply accelerate the flight out of everything bank related, but certainly out of anything RBS, Deutsche Bank, BNP, SocGen and Barclays related. To wit: “In our estimation of what could be the “new EBA stress test” there would be 66 failures, with RBS, Deutsche Bank, and BNP needing the most capital – at €19bn, €14bn and €14bn respectively. Among the banks with the highest capital shortfalls, SocGen and Barclays would need roughly €13bn with Unicredit and Commerzbank respectively at €12bn and €11bn. In the figure below we present the stated results. We note RBS appears to be the most vulnerable although the company has said that the methodology, especially the calculation of trading income, is especially harsh for them, negatively impacting the results by c.80bps.” Oops. Perhaps it is not too late for the EBA to back out of this latest process and say they were only kidding. And it gets even worse: “We present in this section an overview of the analysis which we published in our report ‘The lost decade’ – 15-Sep 2011. One of our conclusions was that the overall European banking sector is facing a €400bn capital shortfall which compares to a current market cap of €541bn.” Said otherwise, we can now see why the FT reported yesterday that banks will be forced to go ahead and proceed with asset firesales: the mere thought of European banks raising new cash amounting to 75% of the entire industry’s market cap, is beyond ridiculous. So good luck with those sales: just remember – he who sells first, sells best.
And the scary charts:
1. Capital Shortfalls under Stress Test part Trois (9% min. CET1 ratio)
– Market crash ‘could hit within weeks’, warn bankers (Telegraph, Aug 24, 2011):
A more severe crash than the one triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers could be on the way, according to alarm signals in the credit markets.
Insurance on the debt of several major European banks has now hit historic levels, higher even than those recorded during financial crisis caused by the US financial group’s implosion nearly three years ago.
Credit default swaps on the bonds of Royal Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Intesa Sanpaolo, among others, flashed warning signals on Wednesday. Credit default swaps (CDS) on RBS were trading at 343.54 basis points, meaning the annual cost to insure £10m of the state-backed lender’s bonds against default is now £343,540.
The cost of insuring RBS bonds is now higher than before the taxpayer was forced to step in and rescue the bank in October 2008, and shows the recent dramatic downturn in sentiment among credit investors towards banks.
YouTube Added: 22.08.2011
– Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Fed’s Secret Loans (Bloomberg, Aug 22, 2011):
Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC) were the reigning champions of finance in 2006 as home prices peaked, leading the 10 biggest U.S. banks and brokerage firms to their best year ever with $104 billion of profits.
By 2008, the housing market’s collapse forced those companies to take more than six times as much, $669 billion, in emergency loans from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The loans dwarfed the $160 billion in public bailouts the top 10 got from the U.S. Treasury, yet until now the full amounts have remained secret.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. The largest borrower, Morgan Stanley (MS), got as much as $107.3 billion, while Citigroup took $99.5 billion and Bank of America $91.4 billion, according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress.
– Two Examples of Fascism Run by Banks (Activist Post, July 18, 2011):
The United States and other countries of the world are becoming more fascist as New World Order globalists rush to complete their fascist world government by late 2012. According to Italy’s former fascist dictator and MI5 asset, Benito Mussolini, “fascism should rightly be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.” The following examples demonstrate fascism/corporatism within the banking structure of the United States.
JP Morgan and Bank of AmericaJP Morgan and Bank of America obtain profits by issuing government funded food stamps/subsidies.JP Morgan is the largest processor of food stamp benefits in the United States. JP Morgan has contracted to provide food stamp debit cards in 26 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. JP Morgan is paid for each case that it handles, so that means that the more Americans that go on food stamps, the more profits JP Morgan makes.
Not to be left out, Bank of America and Visa struck a deal with the State of California:“The Employment Development Department (EDD) Debit CardSM from Bank of America is the new and more efficient way of delivering California State Disability Insurance (Disability Insurance [DI], Paid Family Leave [PFL]), and beginning July 8, 2011 Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit payments…The EDD Debit CardSM can be used everywhere Visa® debit cards are accepted.”
Of course, using the fascist debit card is subject to bank fees. Therefore, rather than issuing checks directly to recipients, California chose a debit card system that will guarantee fees and profits paid to B of A and Visa.
– Greek Central Bank Accused of Encouraging Naked Short Selling of Greek Bonds (Financial Times)
And remember that the biggest Greek CDS speculator has been the state-controlled Hellenic Post Bank with help from (Yes, you’ve guessed it!) Goldman Sachs:
– State-controlled Hellenic Post Bank (TT) bet against Greece (Kathimerini)
– Fragwürdige Finanzgeschäfte Griechen wetten auf eigene Pleite (Sueddeutsche Zeitung)
The state-controlled Hellenic Post Bank was betting on Greece going bankrupt!
What will happen if Greece defaults:
The following article will be constantly updated at ‘Covering Delta’, so please visit the link and read the article there.
– Accusations of Treason in the Greek Parliament (Covering Delta):
Leaving aside for a moment the obvious questions of criminality and treason that have arisin from the details of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Greek government and the Troika (IMF/EU/ECB), which concedes total sovereign authority of the Greek state over the fate of its own citizens to foreign banks, let us turn to recent allegations made in Parliament against the Prime Minister of Greece himself, George Papandreou.
Recently, in an interview on Greek television, Member of Parliament for New Democracy, Mr. Panos Kammenos, made allegations that if true, could very well constitute treason for the Greek Prime Minister, members of his staff and possibly members of his own family. These allegations were repeated by Mr. Kammenos on the floor of parliament and given support by the leader of LAOS, Mr. George Karatzaferis. These allegations are therefore, not made lightly, and have now been plainly put forth before the Greek people. They can no longer be ignored, and the Prime Minister is obliged to respond to them.
The gist of the allegations rest on the charge by Mr. Kammenos, that the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. George Papandreou and members of his team, presided over the sale of 1.3 billion dollars worth of credit default swap contracts (CDS on Greek sovereign debt) on or around December of 2009, shortly after coming to power. The 1.3 billion dollars worth of insurance protecting against a Greek default was bought during the spring and summer of the same year, by the Hellenic Postbank, a public banking arm of the Greek government. It is unclear what the intentions of the Postbank were when it purchased the credit protection. Clearly, the previous government that was in power at the time (New Democracy or N.D.) understood that Greece was headed towards a fiscal crisis, otherwise they would not have purchased the insurance. However, we do not know if the move was initially made with the intention of reaping private profit, or simply as a hedge by the government itself against it’s own default.
[*Note: I have been made aware of a possible discrepancy between the numbers cited by Mr. Kammenos and those cited by Mr. Tombras in his law suit. Specifically, the subject at issue is the notional value of the CDS purchased and then sold by Hellenic Postbank. The size of the bank’s balance sheet would not warrant as large a hedge as the 60 billion in notional CDS (implied by Kammenos), which would imply that either the bank was net-short it’s own government’s debt, or that some mistake has been made by those looking over the books. This would affect the profit potential for the position, but would not change the fundamental fact that insurance protection was sold from public to private hands. – i.e. it has no bearing on the allegations]
Back in March of 2009 Zero Hedge, once again a little conspiratorially ahead of its time, solicited reader feedback on a key topic: CDS pricing manipulation, involving in addition to key cartel banks, such “independent” pricing services as MarkIt. We said: “Zero Hedge has received some troubling info (like there isn’t enough) regarding major pricing discrepancies between certain securities pricing services.
The services include companies such as IDC, Advantage Data, Markit and others. While I will not disclose which one may be a culprit, the allegation is that one (or more) are providing substantially above market pricing levels, specifically as pertains to distressed securities.” Then back in August 2010, we followed up by explaining that it is the ongoing price manipulation scheme, in addition to other factors, that allows Goldman Sachs (and other CDS dealers to a much lesser extent) to constantly generate massive profits from trading an opaque off-exchange product like CDS. It took two years and a month for others to take notice of this inquiry, although naturally not in that slum of corruption and market manipulation, the United States of America, but in Europe. Bloomberg reports: “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and other 14 other investment banks face a European Union antitrust probe into credit-default swaps for companies and sovereign debt, regulators said. …The European Commission said it opened two antitrust probes. It will check whether 16 bank dealers colluded by giving market information to Markit, a financial information provider.” So while some post flow charts explaining the hilarity behind conspiracy theories, others actually expose the facts that today are a conspiracy and tomorrow are a full blown criminal investigation.
From Bloomberg Apr 29, 2011:
“Lack of transparency in markets can lead to abusive behavior and facilitate violations of competition rules,” said the EU’s antitrust chief, Joaquin Almunia, in an e-mailed statement. “I hope our investigation will contribute to a better functioning of financial markets.”
Global regulators have sought to toughen regulation of credit-default swaps saying the trades helped fuel the financial crisis. Lawmakers in the EU plan to encourage the use of clearinghouses and transparent trading systems. CDS are derivatives that pay the buyer face value if a borrower defaults.
JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Barclays Plc (BARC), BNP Paribas (BNP) SA, Citigroup Inc. (C), Commerzbank AG (CBK), Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN), Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Goldman Sachs, HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), UBS AG (UBSN), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Credit Agricole SA (ACA) and Societe Generale (GLE) SA will be investigated for possible collusion in giving “most of the pricing, indices and other essential daily data only to Markit.”
Union brands share awards by loss-making bank a ‘disgrace’
Bailed out Royal Bank of Scotland has handed shares worth £28m to nine of its top executives in the latest round of multimillion pound bonus awards by the high street banks.
The precise scale of the payouts at the loss-making bank, 83% owned by the state through £45bn of taxpayer funds, will become clearer next week when the annual report is published.
But stock exchange announcements showed that the nine key staff – including chief executive Stephen Hester – had been handed bonuses for 2010 of £10m in shares with a further £18m in long-term incentive plans that run until 2014 when their exact value will be known.
Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, branded the payments by the bank – which lost £1.1bn in 2010 – a “disgrace”. The RBS disclosures came just 24 hours after Barclays lifted the lid on the pay deals it makes to its highest earners – handing five of them £110m.
• Loss an improvement on £3.6bn last year and £24bn in 2008
• Bailed-out bank increases part of revenue paid to bankers
• Unite ‘baffled’ by handsome rewards
More than 100 bankers at Royal Bank of Scotland were paid more than £1m last year and total bonus payouts reached nearly £1bn – even though the bailed-out bank reported losses of £1.1bn for 2010.
The chairman, Sir Philip Hampton, said the number of millionaires was lower than a year ago and said a quarter of the group’s 18,700 investment bankers would not receive a bonus from the £950m payout pool agreed with UK Financial Investments, which controls the taxpayer’s 83% stake in the bank. Unions were baffled that any bankers were getting bonuses.
The 2010 figure is an improvement on the loss of £3.6bn a year ago and the record-breaking £24bn loss in 2008. Even so, the shares were down 3.6% to 45.7p as the losses were bigger than expected and profits in the investment bank fell to £3.4bn from £5.7bn a year ago.
As recovery starts to stall in the US and Europe with echoes of mid-1931, bond experts are once again dusting off a speech by Ben Bernanke given eight years ago as a freshman governor at the Federal Reserve.
Entitled “Deflation: Making Sure It Doesn’t Happen Here”, it is a warfare manual for defeating economic slumps by use of extreme monetary stimulus once interest rates have dropped to zero, and implicitly once governments have spent themselves to near bankruptcy.
The speech is best known for its irreverent one-liner: “The US government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”
Bernanke began putting the script into action after the credit system seized up in 2008, purchasing $1.75 trillion of Treasuries, mortgage securities, and agency bonds to shore up the US credit system. He stopped far short of the $5 trillion balance sheet quietly pencilled in by the Fed Board as the upper limit for quantitative easing (QE).
Investors basking in Wall Street’s V-shaped rally had assumed that this bizarre episode was over. So did the Fed, which has been shutting liquidity spigots one by one. But the latest batch of data is disturbing.
The ECRI leading indicator produced by the Economic Cycle Research Institute plummeted yet again last week to -6.9, pointing to contraction in the US by the end of the year. It is dropping faster that at any time in the post-War era.
The latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau shows that world trade slid 1.7pc in May, with the biggest fall in Asia. The Baltic Dry Index measuring freight rates on bulk goods has dropped 40pc in a month. This is a volatile index that can be distorted by the supply of new ships, but those who watch it as an early warning signal for China and commodities are nervous.
Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS, is advising clients to read the Bernanke text very closely because the Fed is soon going to have to the pull the lever on “monster” quantitative easing (QE)”.
“We cannot stress enough how strongly we believe that a cliff-edge may be around the corner, for the global banking system (particularly in Europe) and for the global economy. Think the unthinkable,” he said in a note to investors.
When all of Europe rushed into its rescue package two weeks ago (first half a trillion, market red, then a full trillion, market green), the one thing that struck us as odd was the conflicting data on the conditionality of the package, with various sources both confirming and denying that the “package” was revocable. It did seem somewhat shortsighted of the Germans, whose political leadership would soon be on the verge of a series of electoral routs, to tie its fate without even one exit hatch, to a country that is a financial toxic spiral. Sure enough, the Telegraph’s Evans-Pritchard has uncovered what may be the two loopholes in the European bailout agreement. While the first one is not surprising, the second one explains why the biggest sellers of European government debt (and/or buyers of Euro sovereign CDS), are likely the governments of the distressed, and core, countries themselves.
Markets have been rattled by reports in the German media that the Greek rescue deal contains two secret clauses. The package will be “immediately and irrevocably cancelled” if it is found to breach the EU Treaty’s “no bail-out” clause, either in a ruling by the European court or the constitutional courts of any eurozone state. While such an event is unlikely, it is not impossible. There are two cases already pending at Germany’s top court in Karlsruhe, perhaps Europe’s most “eurosceptic” tribunal.
The second clause said that if any country finds it cannot raise funding for the rescue at interest rates below the 5pc charge agreed for Greece, it may opt out of the bail-out. BNP Paribas said this would escalate quickly into a systemic crisis if Spain were in such a position, because the other countries cannot carry an ever-rising burden. The bank warned the euro project itself may start to disintegrate rapidly if these rescue provisions are ever seriously put to the test.
Maybe the headline should read:
‘Tories plan to bribe voters, by selling bank shares to the taxpayers, that they already own’
The government bought the shares with taxpayers money and now the Tories plan to sell those bank shares back to the taxpayers, who already own them?!
Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!
What is the alternative?:
(The Sunday Times) — THE Tories are planning a bank shares bonanza for millions of families as they fight to save their lead in the polls, which has slumped to just 6%.
Cheap shares would be offered to small investors when the government’s £70 billion stake in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group is sold, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, said last night.
The “people’s bonus” plan comes as a Sunday Times/YouGov survey today reveals that the Tories’ lead over Labour has slipped to the narrowest gap in more than a year.
The poll, the first in a series of weekly surveys which will be conducted between now and the general election, puts the Conservatives on 39%, down one point on January’s figure, and Labour on 33%, up two. The Liberal Democrats drop one point to 17%.
Standard & Poor’s blames move on Britain’s weak economic environment and banks’ dependence on state support
Northern Rock, one of the banks in which the British government has a majority stake. Standard & Poor’s said reliance on state support contributed to its move to downgrade the banking industry’s rating
Britain’s banking industry was downgraded by the international credit rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, as a result of the country’s “weak economic environment” and the banks’ “high” dependence on state support.
In its second major intervention in Britain in the past year, the agency announced that it was demoting Britain’s banking industry by one tier to its Group 3 out of 10. Banks in Canada, France and Germany are in the first and second groups.
The agency, which placed Britain on “negative watch” last May, said it had acted in light of Britain’s “weak economic environment, the reputational damage we believe has been experienced by the banking industry, and what we see as the high dependence on state-support programs of a significant proportion of the industry”. The government has a majority stake in two banks – RBS and Northern Rock.
Here is what I said in October:
“Fear won! The New World Order won. The people will lose.”
It was an absolute insult that the people had been forced to vote again:
Aren’t you glad that you’ve got the ‘correct answer this time’ and voted ‘YES’ Ireland?
– Ireland Votes 67% In Favor Of Lisbon Treaty -Final Count (Wall Street Journal)
Now you will pay!
Hester stirs diplomatic row by using EU rules to force Dublin into accepting £7bn bad loans
ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND is poised to spark a diplomatic row with Ireland by attempting to dump £7 billion of toxic loans into the Irish “bad bank”.
Stephen Hester, the RBS chief executive, is expected to lodge an application to join Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (Nama) within the next few weeks through its Ulster Bank subsidiary.
Irish officials are said to be furious about the plan, however. The Treasury had previously reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with its Dublin counterpart over their bailout plans.
The Treasury had agreed that no British banks would apply to use the Nama as long as no Irish banks tried to join the parallel UK programme, the Government Asset Protection Scheme (Gaps).
This was agreed to make it easier for taxpayers in both countries to stomach the deal. Under EU rules, Ireland is legally obliged to consider RBS’s application to join the scheme.
The Irish officials had no idea RBS was considering using the Nama scheme until Hester alluded to the possibility in a conference call with analysts two weeks ago. His comments came after the bank confirmed plans to place £282 billion of assets into Gaps — some £40 billion less than originally planned.
Darling warns RBS could still need more money after £33.5bn bailout
Royal Bank of Scotland may need more taxpayer funds to nurse the state-controlled lender back to health, Alistair Darling said yesterday hours after announcing a £33.5 billion bailout package for the bank — the biggest of its kind in the world.
Unveiling details of increased bailout funds for RBS and Lloyds Banking Group, the Chancellor told MPs that RBS “may need more capital” in order to help the bank to return to stability.
The Treasury said that it would inject a further £25.5 billion of taxpayers’ funds into RBS to prop up the lender, along with a new £8 billion pot of reserves intended for emergencies only. Mr Darling also announced a new capital injection of £5.7 billion for Lloyds, in which the Government holds a 43 per cent stake. The total bailout for the two banks now stands at £76 billion, the equivalent of almost 17p in the pound for every taxpayer.
George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, said: “They [the Government] went around boasting that they had saved the world, and they are still trying to save the British banks and they haven’t got on to saving the British economy.” He added that the extra financial help for RBS represented a “new world record” as the single biggest bailout.
Every family in the country is now facing a tax liability of £4,350 to prop up Britain’s banking system after Alistair Darling announced the biggest bail-out in history.
The Chancellor confirmed that the Government would pump an extra £25.5 billion into Royal Bank of Scotland, and declared that it was the only way to keep the business alive.
Taxpayers have poured a total of £53.5 billion into RBS, including the £20 billion part-nationalisation last year and another £8 billion that was set aside as insurance against further trouble in the future.
In total, the Government has put £74 billion of taxpayers’ money into the banks, including RBS, Lloyds and HBOS, since the start of the financial crisis last year.
The Conservatives claimed the latest bail-out equated to an extra tax liability of £2,000 for every one of the 17 million families in the country. This comes on top of the £2,350 to which every household is already exposed as a result of previous attempts to prop up the financial system.
I told you that “I expect the next leg down in the markets any time soon” and that the Baltic Dry Index is an excellent indicator for that.
Three-month slide could hit record lows, Royal Bank of Scotland chief credit strategist Bob Janjuah predicts.
He expects the S&P 500 index of US equities to reach the “mid 500s”.
A bear market is being forecast for after the summer Photo: REUTERS
Britain’s Uber-bear is growling again. After predicting a torrid “relief rally” over the early summer, Bob Janjuah at Royal Bank of Scotland is advising clients to take profits in global equity and commodity markets and prepare for another storm as winter nears.
“We are now in the middle of a parabolic spike up,” he said in his latest confidential note to clients.
“I expect this risk rally to continue into – and maybe through – a large part of August. What happens after that? The next ugly leg of the bear market begins as we get into the July through September ‘tipping zone’, driven by the failure of the data to validate the V (shaped recovery) that is now fully priced into markets.”
The key indicators to watch are business spending on equipment (Capex), incomes, jobs, and profits. Only a “surge higher” in these gauges can justify current asset prices. Results that are merely “less bad” will not suffice.
He expects global stock markets to test their March lows, and probably worse. The slide could last three months. “A move to new lows is highly likely,” he said.
Mr Janjuah, RBS’s chief credit strategist, has a loyal following in the City. He was one of the very few analysts to speak out early about the dangerous excesses of the credit bubble. He then made waves in the summer of 2008 by issuing a global crash alert, giving warning that a “very nasty period is soon to be upon us” as – indeed it was. Lehman Brothers and AIG imploded weeks later.
This time he expects the S&P 500 index of US equities to reach the “mid 500s”, almost halving from current levels near 1000. Such a fall would take London’s FTSE 100 to around 2,500. The iTraxx Crossover index measuring spreads on low-grade European debt will double to 1250.
Mr Janjuah advises investors to seek safety in 10-year German bonds in late August or early September.
To fresh up your ‘RBS memory’:
– RBS chiefs handed £5m in bonuses, paid by the taxpayer
– Sir Fred Goodwin received £2.7m pension lump sum tax-free
– Ministers ‘to sue’ RBS directors over Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension
– RBS avoided £500m of tax in global deals
– The 1.3 trillion pound bank job
– RBS posts record £40bn pre-tax loss
– Bailed-out banks to add £1.5 trillion to public debt
Ruthless Banksters of Scotland
• Profits rise from £1bn to £5bn in Royal Bank of Scotland’s investment banking division
• Chief executive insists taxpayers will get £20bn share investment back at a profit
Taxpayers will lose out if Royal Bank of Scotland is unable to pay bonuses, its chief executive, Stephen Hester, claimed todayas he lamented the intense public scrutiny faced by the bailed-out bank.
As the bank’s shares fell 12% to 46.99p, Hester defended the bank’s need to pay bonuses after losing more of its best staff. “We must pay competitively because we must have good people and every taxpayer in the country should care about us having good people because without that we won’t have the outcome that everyone needs,” Hester said.
An increase in profits from £1bn to £5bn in the investment banking arm prompted speculation that RBS bankers were on track for big bonuses by the end of the year. Investment banking dominated the interim profits, which showed a £15m statutory profit, although Hester focused on the “poor” net attributable loss to shareholders of £1.1m.
ROYAL Bank of Scotland has handed four of its senior executives share bonuses worth close to £5m, risking fresh accusations of excessive executive pay at banks that had to be rescued by taxpayers.
Ellen Alemany, the head of the bank’s American business, could receive close to 6m shares in RBS under the bonus deal – worth £2.4m based on Friday’s closing price.
Three other senior executives have been promised shares under the scheme, including corporate banking bosses Alan Dickinson and Chris Sullivan, and the bank’s chief administration officer, Ron Teerlink.
Vince Cable, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, described the awards as “completely unjustifiable” and “utterly unacceptable”.
“Without the billions poured into RBS by the taxpayer there would be no company,” Cable said. “This is not the right time for the bank to be awarding such bonuses – especially to senior staff.
“It was the senior executives who were ultimately responsible for RBS’s collapse. It’s the money poured in by the taxpayer that make these share awards so valuable.”
A new row erupted over the pension for Sir Fred Goodwin today when MPs were told the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive had taken a £3m lump sum from his £16.9m pension pot – and the bank had paid 40% tax on the payment.
The City minister, Lord Myners, told the Treasury select committee that the board of RBS was “in denial” and had “bent over backwards” to be generous to Goodwin, its departing chief executive, last October when the bank was on the brink of collapse.
Myners revealed that Goodwin had agreed to repay the lump sum, provided his pension entitlement was increased.
It later emerged that the exact sum withdrawn was £2.7m, at a cost to RBS of £4.5m when the tax payment is taken into account, and that Goodwin had not yet returned the sum because there was no agreement with the Revenue that he would not be liable for tax.
Related article: Ministers ‘to sue’ RBS directors over Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension (Telegraph)
Myners, who was accused by MPs of being “bloody naive”, revealed more details of Goodwin’s “extraordinary” pension agreements. The bank treated Goodwin as though he had joined the pension scheme at the age of 20, rather than at 40 when he actually joined. None of his pension savings from previous employers were included in the scheme and 50-year-old Goodwin was allowed to choose his 12-month earnings figure from the best year in the previous decade.
Documents released by the committee show that Peter Cummings, the HBOS executive who ran the division which caused record-breaking losses at the bank, has also been allowed to retire immediately even though he is only 53. He is receiving £352,000 a year after HBOS, now part of Lloyds Banking Group, treated departing executives as if they were made “redundant”.
State-supported bank admits billions were put into schemes to cut tax bill
Royal Bank of Scotland tied up at least £25bn in complex international tax-avoidance schemes during its boom years, costing the British and US treasuries more than £500m in lost revenue, the Guardian can disclose.
It is the first time that a major bank has admitted the existence of such deals on this scale. The new management at RBS, mindful of the fact that it is now 70% owned by the taxpayer, has disbanded the department responsible and will put an end to the controversial practice.
David Leigh on how RBS avoided £500m of tax Link to this audio
“The idea that we could take support from the Treasury with one hand and somehow pick their pocket with the other would be wrong on every level. We have always sought to avoid this sort of stance and that’s more important now than ever. It’s not a sustainable way to do business,” said an RBS source.
The previous management, led by Sir Fred Goodwin – who is now retired with a £700,000-a-year pension – presided over a massive expansion of so-called “structured trades”. These are huge deals across national borders, to make profit out of tax avoidance. They are not illegal, but secretively exploit gaps in different countries’ tax laws.
The Guardian has identified at least 13 such deals, many using the offshore facilities of the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, in ingenious ways.
The deals involved “investments” of as much as £6bn at a time. The cash was moved in circles between RBS and other banks. One former British official close to the US revenue’s intelligence efforts said tax deals such as this were an important factor in driving the “securitisation” boom which led to the worldwide financial calamity.
The furore over Sir Fred Goodwin’s massive pension worked as an effective smokescreen for far worse financial news that the Government was happy to keep out of the public eye.
As scapegoats go, Sir Fred Goodwin is straight out of Central Casting. He’s a banker; he’s mucked up big time, cost the taxpayer sums still too large to calculate properly, and he’s walked away from the mess with riches beyond the avarice of a Premiership footballer. All he lacks, as a media villain, is a pair of staring eyes and record of cruelty to animals.
If Alastair Campbell were still around, Sir Fred might have been saddled with even that. But this week, as loomed the handing to banks of further barrels of public cash on what the furniture stores used to call easy terms, the Government had no need for nudge-nudge rumours of scuttlebutt to create a diversion. It had information even more incriminating and instantly unpopular: the size of Sir Fred’s pension pot.
It was huge; it was blood-pressure raisingly indefensible; and, above all, it seemed politically useful. Ministers had known the scale of it for months; something pretty close to its size had been reported on City pages as far back as 14 October last year. But it had never become An Issue. Now the time for it to do so had arrived. And so, on Wednesday evening, the exact magnitude of it was leaked to Robert Peston of the BBC. He went on air and could barely get the numbers out for hyperventilating: Sir Fred’s pot of gold was worth £16.9m; the man – so the story went – whose megalomaniac regime of compulsive acquisitions had brought down the Royal Bank of Scotland was now retired, at the age of 50, with a pension worth £13,000 a week for the rest of his life.
The ploy worked. By the following day, Fred’s Pension was dominating the news and provoking all the anti-banker indignation that a government spin-doctor hoped it might: “These fat cats must have their fortunes neutered” (Daily Mail), “Obscene: I won’t give up a penny” (Daily Express), and “No shred of shame; RBS boss Fred” (Daily Mirror). Yet all the while, behind this smokescreen, hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ cash was being committed to the banks on terms that seemed bewildering. This – the biggest leap in the dark in British economic history – is what the row over Fred’s pension concealed. It is a story that should now be told.
For a long time, it has been known that the big scheduled domestic event of last week would be RBS’s results. Their gargantuan size was widely expected, and the final figures didn’t disappoint: £24.1bn in the red – bigger than any American bank could manage, vastly outscoring some of the week’s other losses (such as housebuilder Barratt’s £592m), and relegating to barely visible footnotes the other depressing statistics of the week, such as household spending declining at its fastest rate since 1991; house prices down 15 per cent in a year; and service sector job losses at a 10-year high.
RBS’s losses, and those of Lloyds HBOS the following day, meant a further extension to the Government’s bailout, and taxpayers’ exposure. The size of the potential commitment to the banks is estimated at £1.3 trillion, equivalent to the value of the British economy for a whole year, and a burden equal to possibly as much as £36,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. And there could yet be more unpleasant discoveries. Looming rather less large in the public consciousness than Sir Fred’s pot was the appearance before the Treasury Select Committee of Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England. Fully five months after the present crisis began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, he told MPs that it is still not known just how big the liabilities of British banks are. In his evidence to the Treasury Select Committee last week, he said it would take “many months” to establish the scale of toxic assets held by banks, requiring a detailed assessment contract by contract.
Also overshadowed by Sir Fred’s pot was the size of the latest government support for the banks. For a fee of £6.5bn, RBS will place £325bn worth of toxic assets in the Government’s newly created Asset Protection Scheme. The bank will then be liable for only the first £19.5bn of these dodgy assets, with the taxpayer accepting the risk of the rest. The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, said: “The British taxpayer is insuring the car after it has crashed.” Lloyds Banking Group’s participation is not yet finalised, but is expected to involve about £250bn worth of toxic assets.
Gordon Brown helped fuel Britain’s banking crisis by pressuring the City regulator not to intervene and stop reckless lending, Lord Turner, the head of the Financial Services Authority, said.
The authority’s chairman claimed the regulator was under political “pressure” not to be “heavy and intrusive” with banks such as HBOS and Northern Rock.
Instead, it was told to operate a “light touch” approach, which had now been proved to be “mistaken”, he told a Commons committee.
The failure of the regulator to intervene earlier has been blamed for the banking crisis, which has led to the near-collapse of several of the country’s biggest banks.
Lord Turner’s remarks, made to MPs, are deeply embarrassing for the Prime Minister, who oversaw the FSA while he was Chancellor.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has reported a £40bn loss before tax – the biggest in UK corporate history. Net losses, which come after tax and interest and other charges, came in at £24.1bn.
The pre-tax loss in 2008 compares with a £9.8bn pre-tax profit in 2007 and comes after £32.6bn writedown of assets, mostly related to its ill-fated decision to buy ABN Amro for €71bn (£63bn).
Some £16bn of the losses relate to ABN assets bought by Belgian bank Fortis that RBS consolidates in its accounts under the terms of the 2007 acquisition of the Dutch bank by the RBS, Fortis and Spain’s Santander. Stripping those out, RBS made a £24.1bn loss.
– Tax payers to insure £300 billion of Royal Bank of Scotland ‘toxic’ bad debt (Telegraph)
– RBS record losses raise prospect of 95% state ownership (Guardian)
– The worst business loss in UK history (Independent)
The previous record annual loss for a UK company was £14.9bn.
Banks in Europe and the US face a new wave of losses linked to contracts issued to insure against companies going bust and defaulting on their loans, City analysts have warned.
After the billions lost over the US subprime market and leveraged loans, investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, UBS and RBS face losses on credit default swaps (CDS) – contracts that allow an investor to be repaid if a company loan or a bond defaults.
CDS contracts became a favourite tool of speculators, mostly hedge funds, which bought the contracts without having any link to the original lending. They bought the contract to trade or in the expectation the company would in fact default, meaning they could claim back the full value of a loan they never made.
The CDS market exploded to be worth as much as $50 TRILLION, many times the size of the underlying assets. Each loan could have thousands of protection contracts, even if there were only a few lenders. Hedge funds accounted for about 60% of CDS trading, according to ratings agency Fitch.