New U.S. Data Reveals Billions in Foreign Bailouts

Among bailed-out banks are the Central Bank of Libya, the Bank of China, Societe Generale and JP Morgan

By Christopher J. Petherick
April 12, 2011

Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul announced on April 4, as head of the powerful House Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee, he will be initiating congressional hearings into reports the Federal Reserve made hundreds of billions of dollars worth of sweetheart loans to foreign banks.

Fed officials had tried desperately to keep the details of these transactions under wraps by repeatedly appealing a lawsuit that was brought by two reporters working for the New York-based Bloomberg News. They argued that, if the details of such deals are released, the public would lose confidence in the banking system.

In late March, however, the Supreme Court upheld previous rulings by lower courts that the Fed must comply with the information requests. So, the Fed dumped hundreds of pages of records onto the public. Over the course of the April Fools Day weekend, AFP’s editors were able to examine a portion of the Fed’s documents, only to learn that the joke has always been on the American people.

In 2008, banks around the world were struggling to stay solvent as their risky trading in complex derivatives weighed heavily on their balance sheets. As a result, the Fed, at varying times, made hundreds of billions of dollars worth of emergency loans at its “discount window.”

Such transactions are usually only reserved for lending of last resort to institutions that could not get funding from anywhere else, such as by floating more stock or selling bonds.

Some of the largest banks, such as Wachovia and Morgan Stanley, repeatedly hit up the Fed for short-term loans worth billions of dollars. From Sept. 18, 2008 to Sept. 24, 2008, Washington Mutual borrowed $2 billion every day until its collapse on Sept. 25, 2008. It was eventually bought out by JPMorgan in a now-infamous fire sale.

But what shocked Fed watchers the most was the volume of transactions the private central bank conducted with foreign banks. In thousands of “emergency loans,” foreign banks repeatedly came to the Fed asking for U.S. dollars at near-zero percent interest rates.

At varying times, some of the top borrowers included Brussels-based Dexia Bank ($33.5 billion), Dublin-based Depfa Bank ($24.5 billion), Parisbased Societe Generale ($5 billion), Tokyo-based Norinchukin ($6 billion), Bank of China ($198 million) and two Deutsche Bank AG divisions ($1 billion each).

One of the most controversial was the Arab Banking Corp., which borrowed more than $35 billion. Arab Banking Corp. is 35 percent owned by the Central Bank of Libya. Regardless of what readers may think of Libya, the Federal Reserve made an estimated 73 loans to the Central Bank of Libya—the national bank of a country the U.S. military is currently bombing.

In an official statement on the Fed’s data dump, Rep. Paul said: “These lending activities provided no benefit to American taxpayers, the American economy or even directly to American banks. . . . It is becoming more and more obvious that the Fed operates for the benefit of a few privileged banks, banks that never suffer for bad decisions they make. Quite the opposite—as we have seen since October 2008, under our current monetary system politically connected banks are paid to make bad decisions.”

Corporate Media Bailed Out with Taxpayer Money

Not only foreign and local banks hoarded the cash.  Private industry got their share, too.

There are still people who think QE2 is a great idea.

Washington Post

The financial crisis stretched even farther across the economy than many had realized, as new disclosures show the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009.

The Fed’s efforts to prop up the financial sector reached across a broad spectrum of the economy, benefiting stalwarts of American industry including General Electric and Caterpillar and household-name companies such as Verizon, Harley-Davidson and Toyota. The central bank’s aid programs also supported U.S. subsidiaries of banks based in East Asia, Europe and Canada while rescuing money-market mutual funds held by millions of Americans.

The biggest users of the Fed lending programs were some of the world’s largest banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Swiss-based UBS and Britain’s Barclays, according to more than 21,000 loan records released Wednesday under new financial regulatory legislation.

The data reveal banks turning to the Fed for help almost daily in the fall of 2008 as the central bank lowered lending standards and extended relief to all kinds of institutions it had never assisted before.

Fed officials emphasize that their actions were meant to stabilize a financial system that was on the verge of collapse in late 2008. They note that the actions worked to prevent a complete financial meltdown and that none of the special lending programs has lost money. (Some have recorded healthy profits for taxpayers.)

But the extent of the lending to major banks – and the generous terms of some of those deals – heighten the political peril for a central bank that is already under the gun for a wide range of actions, including a recent decision to try to stimulate the economy by buying $600 billion in U.S. bonds.

“The American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America,” said Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime Fed critic whose provision in the Wall Street regulatory overhaul required the new disclosures. “Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations. As a result of this disclosure, other members of Congress and I will be taking a very extensive look at all aspects of how the Federal Reserve functions.”

The Fed launched emergency programs totaling $3.3 trillion in aid, a figure reached by adding up the peak amount of lending in each program.

Companies that few people would associate with Wall Street benefited through the Fed’s program to ease the market for commercial paper, a form of short-term debt used by major corporations to fund their daily activities.

By the fall of 2008, credit had frozen across the financial system, including the commercial paper market. The Fed then purchased commercial paper issued by GE 12 times for a total of $16 billion. It bought paper from Harley-Davidson 33 times, for a total of $2.3 billion. It picked up debt issued by Verizon twice, totaling $1.5 billion.

“It is hard to say what would have happened without the facility, and how its absence might have affected GE, but overall the program was extremely effective in helping stabilize the market,” GE spokesman Russell Wilkerson said by e-mail.

Verizon spokesman Robert A. Varettoni said that it was “an extraordinary time,” adding that there was no credit available otherwise at the time.

The data revealed that the Fed continued making purchases into the summer of 2009 – after the official end of the recession – showing that it was still concerned about a fundamental part of the financial system even as economic growth was returning.

The disclosure shows “how really profound the financial crisis was in the fall of 2008 and the firepower the Fed mustered in response,” said analyst Karen Shaw Petrou of Federal Financial Analytics.

Foreign-owned banks also benefited from the Fed’s commercial-paper facility. The Korean Development Bank, owned by the South Korean government, used the program to the tune of billions of dollars, including a $407 million short-term loan on a single day. Many foreign banks, including the French BNP Paribas, the Swiss UBS and the German Deutsche Bank, took extensive advantage of various programs. Even a major bank in Bavaria benefited, as well as another one headquartered in Bahrain, a tiny island country in the Middle East.

Another Fed program allowed investment banks for the first time to borrow directly from the Fed as officials sought to stem the panic that had taken down Wall Street titan Bear Stearns. The central bank assisted 18 companies through this program. Among the biggest beneficiaries was Citigroup, which in a single day in November 2008 borrowed $18.6 billion from the Fed.

The data also demonstrate how the Fed, in its scramble to keep the financial system afloat, eventually lowered its standards for the kind of collateral it allowed participating banks to post. From Citigroup, for instance, it accepted $156 million in triple-C collateral or lower – grades that indicate that the assets carried the greatest risk of default.

Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher defended the Fed’s actions during the financial crisis, saying the central bank “stepped into the breach” in its role as a lender of last resort.

“That’s what we are paid to do,” he said. “We took an enormous amount of risk with the people’s money,” he acknowledged. But the crisis lending programs are now all closed, he said, “and we didn’t lose a dime, and in fact we made money on every one of them.”

The banks universally hailed the Fed on Wednesday.

“In late 2008, many of the US funding markets were clearly broken,” Goldman Sachs said in a statement, echoing similar comments made by Bank of America and Citigroup. “The Federal Reserve took essential steps to fix these markets and its actions were very successful.”

By 2009, Goldman and other Wall Street firms were reporting their best profits ever. That allowed these banks to pay out huge salaries again, but it also drew the ire of lawmakers and ordinary Americans.

Sanders, for one, said these banks got off easy while receiving extraordinary aid. In rescuing these firms, the Fed never required them to lend to small businesses, modify the mortgages of homeowners or invest in a way that would create jobs.

“We bailed these guys out, but the requirements placed upon them had very little positive impact on the needs of ordinary Americans,” Sanders said.

Basel Banking Committee Ready to “Strangle” Economy

real-agenda.com

The World Financial Order is almost complete. New measures will keep bailout monies in banks’ coffers, increase interests on loans while reducing credit availability.

A group of un-elected regulators has come to an agreement on how to strangle the global economy even further, while presenting their package of measures as “saving” policies” for a coming financial crisis.  The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision -current owners-  established more rules to exercise tighter controls on banks and the very financial system they managed to break by design.

At the top of the list, Jean Claude Trichet, warns that the no implementation of these policies would let banks free to do anything they want -he himself is a banker- and that the new rules would secure bank reserves for difficult financial times.  The package of rules was adopted on Sunday, and it has a very clear goal: “To protect International Economies”.  This confirms the group’s intention to establish a global financial system headed by no other than themselves.  Such Order would abide by their rules no matter what effects such rules have over individual national economies.

According to their published document, banks will have to triple their cash reserves -from 2 to 7 percent- which in their minds would act as a cushion for difficult times or when banks invest in junk financial products.  That amount is in itself ridiculous, if one takes into account that banks’ investments in dubious financial products is many times larger than 7 percent.  What this measure will do is to give banks an excuse to increase interest rates on loans and reduce their loan spending programs.  The reduction in available credit will achieve a goal the bankers had yearned for and that could not accomplish through the failed cap & trade fraudulent scheme: to bring global economic activity to a halt.

“The agreements reached today are a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards,” said Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank and chairman of the banking supervision group.  Trichet commanded the group dismissing some bankers concerns that these new measures will require them to curtail credit, which in turn would cripple economic growth. He said the new rules would “contribute to long-term financial stability and growth will be substantial.”  Other bankers sided with Trichet, saying the modest effect on growth or borrowing would be a small price to pay for a less explosive financial system.

What these new rules would achieve -if anything- is the legalization of bad investments, as banks will not have to worry about how to pay for loses.  They will have large amounts of money from investors to cover their backs.  In addition, banks will continue to count on nation states to make up for any shortfalls, as more bailouts for troubled banks have not been taken off the table.  The new rules issued by the group that includes former Goldman Sachs executive Ben Bernanke, will be approved in November by the G-20 before they are handed over to individual countries before they become binding.  Nation-states will have until January 1, 2013 to adapt to the new rules.

“Banks will unarguably be safer institutions,” said Anders Kvist, representative of SEB, a bank that operates out of Stockholm.  Shouldn’t Nation-states have the prerogative to regulate banks operating in their territories?  Meanwhile, bankers continue to point out the new measures will reduce the amount of available credit for borrowers but were not bothered by the other side of the coin: Centralized Control.  That is what this is all about.

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, again, a group of un=elected bankers mandates banks to “protect themselves” when they invest in financial instruments of dubious origin.  How about letting banks operate freely and collapse if they have to, due to their irresponsible investment practices?  The new provisions, called a leverage ratio, will obligate banks to hold reserves against all their money at risk.  That is like the nanny global order telling their children not to pick their noses in public.

Of course, there are those to whom global financial regulation is never enough.  Some G-8 countries were pushing for an additional 2.5 percent increase, during “good times” of economic overheating. According to the document released by the group, the rules would be adopted gradually to give banks time to adjust.  Some of the measures will not take effect until 2019, with banks having to start raising cash in 2013.  Too little too late?

The Basel Regulators left the door open to imposing stricter rules on “important” banks, whose problems -irresponsibilities- can infect the whole financial system.  The banksters’ representatives in the US -The FED, FDIC- issued a common statement saying the agreement is a significant step towards reducing the occurrence of future financial crises.  Although Nation-states still have the ability to reject these new regulations and create and approve some of their own, the international financial order has been clear that failure to adopt their newest package of rules will be punishable with harsh changes in credit availability, large increases in interest rates and overall restrictions for financial aid.  Once the new polices are adopted they become binding and countries cannot abandon them.

In the meantime, the Basel group will allow banks to continue to receive government bailout money to raise capital through 2017.  Those banks that are not capable of raising enough cash may be obligated to merge or perish as part of the consolidation and control package the regulators have in mind.  Only in the US, it is estimated that some 400 banks are on the brink of failure.

Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt said it intends to sell shares for 9.8 billion euros to increase its reserves.  Other banks that will do the same include Société Générale -a bailed out bank- in France and Lloyds in Britain. The rules imposed by the Basel Group also include paying banks -with taxpayer money- to dispose of toxic assets such as derivatives.