Now so many of you sent me various versions of this article it would be impossible to thank you all, but the really interesting thing about it is, that it occurred when there were two other significant international stories about what our "good friends" in the world of high international
mafia .... er... finance have been up to.
The first story is that it only took 18 days into the new year before there was yet another suspicious banker death. The trouble here is, which banker one is talking about. We could, for example, be talking about Michael Flanagan, a United Kingdom/New Zealand banker found in the U.K.'s lake district. Oh, did we mention that he used to work for the Royal Bank of Scotland and for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation(HSBC)?
Or was that suspicious death that of First Global banker Kirt Adlam, found shot to death in his car in Jamaica's capital, Kingston?
Or was it the death of Omar Meza, a vice president for (please note) AIG(Body of missing exec., San Diego native, found in Palm Desert), who was
"...found Thursday in a pond at a Marriott resort where he had been staying, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said Friday."
So that's three bankers in a week.
Ok... "Nothing to see here, move along folks..." So let's move along to the second bizarre story about banking to hit in more or less the same time period. Germany, you'll recall, was "a tiny bit miffed" when it learned that not only was the USA spying on Frau Merkel's cell phone, but that the New York Federal Reserve was reluctant to return some of Germany's gold, which the latter had requested be repatriated. (And, as I've pointed out, the episode has a curious resemblance to a similar episode in 1928, recounted[no doubt only in part] by then Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht in his memoirs. For those who don't know the episode, Hjalmar was visiting his good friend Mr. Strong, Governor of the NY Fed, who was taking him on a tour of the facilities, when Hjalmar asked to see the vault with the Reichsbank's gold. Oddly, the Fed's staff came up empty, unable to locate it[!], and Herr Schacht simply smiled at his friend, and said, "That's ok, I know you're good for it.")
Well, to make a long story very short, you'll recall that the popular movement in Germany to repatriate its gold from the NY Fed stalled, and finally the Bundesbank revealed that it had only been able to repatriate about five tons. Well, not so, according to the latest stories. The repatriation went ahead, but quietly and secretly, to the tune of about 120 tons:
This comes, as the article notes, at a time when the "European" central bank is considering its own round of "quantitative easing" to help stitch together another patchwork repair to the European Union quilt. But, as the Zero Hedge article avers, the German gold repatriation may be connected, not just to issues of mistrust of the NY Fed, but to that "quantitative easing" itself:
"And the punchline:
"The Bundesbank assures the identity and authenticity of German gold reserves throughout the transfer process - from when they are removed from warehouses abroad until they are stored in Frankfurt am Main. As soon as the gold was removed from the warehouse locations abroad, Bundesbank employees cross-checked the lists of bars belonging to the Bundesbank against the information on the bars removed. Finally, once they arrived in Frankfurt am Main, all the transferred gold bars were thoroughly and exhaustively inspected and verified by the Bundesbank. When all the inspections had been concluded, no irregularities came to light with regard to the authenticity, fineness and weight of the bars.
"A curious amount of precautions and safeguards when transporting the "safe" and "untainted" gold held at the NY Fed to Frankfurt. Almost as if the Bundesbank, gasp, did not trust the quality and content of the NY Fed-held gold, nor its well-meaning intentions.
Which leads us to the only relevant question: now that the "diplomatic difficulties" have been overcome and the Bundesbank is back on track to repatriating precisely the right amount of gold from the NY Fed to indicate that it has far less faith in the US central bank than it did when it was barely conducting any transfers in 2013, just how worse as the diplomatic difficulties now? We expect to get at least a partial answer on Thursday when Mario Draghi finally announces his long-overdue €500 billion QE program, with Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann, sitting quietly in a corner, and ignored by the ex-Goldman head of the ECB, contemplated just how much more, if not all, gold (there is still some 517 tonnes of gold left to be repatriated to Germany from NY and Paris) he should withdraw now in preparation for the "next steps"?"(boldface Zero Hedge's emphasis, italicized emphasis mine)
Then there's story number three, which follows our earlier blog this week, about Russia and China opening their own credit ratings agency, being fed up with S&P, Moody's, and Fitch, for not only are the two largest BRICSA nations fed up with the clear signs of fraud and favoritism at work in the Western system, Russia is going one step further:
To put it in Russian Bureaucratese:
"On dates of credit ratings’ use for the purpose of Bank of Russia regulations
"In line with scope of authority established by Bank of Russia Ordinance No. 3453-U, dated 25 November 2014, ‘On the Specifics of Credit Ratings’ Use -to Implement Bank of Russia Regulations’, the Bank of Russia Board of Directors determined the dates when credit ratings shall be assigned to implement Bank of Russia regulations.
"Under this Ordinance, should any Bank of Russia regulation contain information on credit rating assigned by Standard&Poor’s or Fitch Ratings or Moody’s Investors Service to credit institutions or other Russian legal entities, constituent territories, municipal entities, their issued securities or other financial instruments, the date when the mentioned rating is assigned (hereinafter, the rating date) may be determined by the decision of the Bank of Russia Board of Directors in the corresponding regulation.
"According to Bank of Russia Board of Directors’ decision, the rating date for credit institutions and their issued financial instruments, including securities, to implement Bank of Russia regulations, shall be 1 March 2014; as for other entities, listed in the Ordinance, and their issued securities, this rating date shall be 1 December 2014."(Boldface emphasis Zero Hedge's)
Or, take your ratings and go, and don't let the door hit you on the way out. One suspects that Russia and China's move to form their own credit ratings agency might be followed by similar moves this year from other countries, perhaps even in Europe.
The real temptation here is to view all these things as connected, and indeed, I suspect the second and third stories are related in a very simple way via growing mistrust of the "stable" institutions and corporations of western, i.e., American, finance. The real question, though, is whether there's a connection to the sad story of more dead bankers. In my high octane speculation of the day, I suspect there is, and its revealed by a few "bland" statements in the wikipedia article about AIG:
We note first its gigantic scale of business:
"AIG’s corporate headquarters are in New York City, its British headquarters are in London, continental Europe operations are based in La Défense, Paris, and its Asian headquarters are in Hong Kong. The company serves 98% of the Fortune 500 companies, 96% of Fortune 1000, and 90% of Fortune Global 500, and insures 40% of Forbes 400 Richest Americans. AIG was ranked 40th largest company in the 2014 Fortune 500 list. According to the 2014 Forbes Global 2000 list, AIG is the 42nd-largest public company in the world. As of June 1, 2014, it had a market capitalization of $78.48 billion, per Google Finance."
And secondly its little "accounting problems":
"In 2005, AIG became embroiled in a series of fraud investigations conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Justice Department, and New York State Attorney General's Office. Greenberg was ousted amid an accounting scandal in February 2005. The New York Attorney General's investigation led to a $1.6 billion fine for AIG and criminal charges for some of its executives.
"On May 1, 2005, investigations conducted by outside counsel at the request of AIG's Audit Committee and the consultation with AIG's independent auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP resulted in AIG's decision to restate its financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000, the quarters ended March 31, June 30 and September 30, 2004 and 2003 and the quarter ended December 31, 2003. On November 9, 2005, the company was reported of delaying its third-quarter earnings report because it must restate earlier financial results to correct accounting errors."
And finally, what a great deal of its business is in:
"Expansion to the credit default insurance market
"Martin J. Sullivan became CEO of the company. He began his career at AIG as a clerk in its London office in 1970. AIG then took on tens of billions of dollars of risk associated with mortgages. It insured tens of billions of dollars of derivatives against default, but did not purchase reinsurance to hedge that risk. Secondly, it used collateral on deposit to buy mortgage-backed securities. When losses hit the mortgage market in 2007-2008, AIG had to pay out insurance claims and also replace the losses in its collateral accounts.
"AIG purchased the remaining 39% that it did not own of online auto insurance specialist 21st Century Insurance in 2007 for $749 million. With the failure of the parent company and the continuing recession in late 2008, AIG rebranded its insurance unit to 21st Century Insurance.
"On June 11, 2008, three stockholders, collectively owning 4% of the outstanding stock of AIG, delivered a letter to the Board of Directors of AIG seeking to oust CEO Martin Sullivan and make certain other management and Board of Directors changes. This letter was the latest volley in what the Wall Street Journal called a "public spat" between the company's board and management, on the one hand, and its key stockholders, and former CEO Maurice Greenberg on the other hand.
"On June 15, 2008, after disclosure of financial losses and subsequent to a falling stock price, Sullivan resigned and was replaced by Robert B. Willumstad, Chairman of the AIG Board of Directors since 2006. Willumstad was forced by the US government to step down and was replaced by Edward M. Liddy on September 17, 2008. AIG's board of directors named Robert Benmosche CEO on August 3, 2009 to replace Mr. Liddy, who earlier in the year announced his retirement."
In other words, AIG is a major player insuring all those quadrillions of dollars in credit default swaps and derivatives that seem to have fallen right off the financial radar in recent years. AIG, to put it somewhat simplistically, is not only "too big to fail" it's also "too big to bail."
Perhaps, just perhaps, the story of the dead bankers is related, not simply to bank owned life insurance, as some have speculated, nor simply to the possibility that some of these bankers may have discovered anomalies in the high frequency trading mechanisms conducting much international commerce within the west(anomalies that may have led them to conclude there may be some "outside factor" at work in those trading networks, revealing its footprint in those algorithms, as I myself have speculated), but perhaps, just perhaps, it is also related not simply to banking, to but insurance, the real hidden power and player, and to the insurance of derivatives. If so, then this puts Germany's, Russia's, and China's financial moves in the past few years into a new interpretive context, for perhaps those nations and their financial and intelligence services have connected some unusual dots, and reached some unusual conclusions, conclusions that require them to build a parallel redundancy into international financial clearing, and to establish their own credit ratings agencies.
It's going to be an interesting year.
See you on the flip side...
(My thanks to all of you who sent so many articles concerning these stories).