Senator David Norris' address to Seanad Eireann (the Irish Senate)

In Sept. 2007, fourteen months before Ireland's bank bailout, I resigned from my position as the Risk Manager of UniCredit Bank Ireland. I did that in order not to incriminate myself. I have spent the last 4 years seeking justice. On Feb. 23rd., 2010, I was fortunate to have Senator David Norris raise the matter in Seanad Eireann (the Irish Senate), and request a response from the Minister of Finance, Mr. Brian Lenihan. Senator Norris concluded by stating that:
"...there is ministerial responsibility in this matter. This is a grossly serious matter which has been reported to the Financial Regulator. A man has lost his job as a result. He honourably resigned. The degree of breach was 40 times the accepted margin. This is a disaster. If we are not prepared to face the issue and investigate it when it has been laid before the House, there is absolutely no hope for the financial system or its reputation worldwide...How can the Financial Regulator investigate himself? He was in breach of his responsibility."
In Nov. 2011, Emma Alberici, Europe correspondent for ABC TV, told my story as part of her documentary 'Going Rogue' which featured Nick Leeson and Sir John Vickers among other interviewees. It is ironic that at a time when the Irish tax-payer is bailing out un-secured bond holders, my story which occurred in Dublin, is deemed of interest to the Australian TV license payer. Please click on 'play video' on the following link:
VRT, Belgian state-TV, aired this interview with me on March 6th., 2013. My Interview begins in minute 27:
Het verdriet van Europa: Zeepbellen blazen (The sadness of Europe: Bursting bubbles)
VRT, Belgian state-TV, released extra footage of my interview on March 8th., 2013. (in English):

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Some news from across the pond:

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? - Rolling Stone magazine
"A whistle-blower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals."  

I suppose there is some hope in the fact that US authorities have the stamina and courage to investigate such allegations against the august Secuirites & Exchange Commission. The article sates that "As a federally protected whistle-blower, Flynn is not permitted to speak to the press." This is quite different to my own situation where I am threatened by the Central Bank of Ireland with criminal proceedings if I proceed to inform them of what they allegedly do not know.

UniCredit Bank Ireland's EX Risk Manager

Friday, 12 August 2011

A week in August - the 'March of Folly' continues

When looking back at the headlines of the last week, I can not help but wonder what Barbara Tuchman were to write if she were still alive. Her book The March of Folly dealt with:

"...the pervasive presence of folly in governments through the ages. Defining folly as the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interersts, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, Tuchman details four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly in government: the Trojan War, the breakup of the Holy See provoked by the Renaissance Popes, the loss of the American colonies by Britain's George III, and the United States' persistent folly in Vietnam. "

What have we learned? very very little by looks of it. In Britain, land of the Magna Carta, we have a government threatening to call in its military forces to deal with civil unrest. In the US we have a president who has allowed corporate banking corruption to go unpunished declaring 'war' on rating agencies. Apparently, their methods did not irk him until now. A London thug will face prosecution for looting a flat-screen television. Sir Fred (the Shred) Goodwin goes unpunished for the biggest banking collapse in British history; but he is not a thug, he is Knight of the British empire. How many people will be held accountable at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for 'supervising' RBS' monumental collapse into the lap of the tax-payers?!? How many employees at the Federal Reserve and the Securities & Exchange Commission will be held accountable for failing to spot the imminent collapse of Lehman Brothers & Merrill Lynch?

In an era of comfortable relationships between bankers and politicians, the wholesale criminals do not go to court. They go golfing.

Peter Oborne of The Telegraph wrote yesterday:

The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the entire British political class came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. They were of course right to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support.
But there was also something very phony and hypocritical about all the shock and outrage expressed in parliament. MPs spoke about the week’s dreadful events as if they were nothing to do with them.
I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.
...These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. It should be stressed that most people (including, I know, Telegraph readers) continue to believe in honesty, decency, hard work, and putting back into society at least as much as they take out.
But there are those who do not. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians.

The folly continues. Merkel and Sarkozy are due to meet on Tuesday for another round of discussions about the Euro crisis. Undoubtedly, this umpteenth act in this play will end with the usual declarations about how they 'have it under control' and that there is 'nothing to worry about'. Soon enough it will be followed with another declaration by Ollie Rehn, of the European Commission that 'Markets did not react as we expected' and rendez-vous umpteen-plus- one will take place in Berlin/Paris/Brussels.
Last weekend we had the dubious pleasure of seeing America fight for its AAA rating; this weekend La France is providing that spectacle - 

PARIS | Fri Aug 12, 2011 2:40pm BST
(Reuters) - It was the week the euro zone debt crisis reached France, one of the twin pillars of the European currency alongside Germany.
As jitters over Paris' prized top-notch AAA credit rating took hold, President Nicolas Sarkozy returned from the beach to order up new austerity measures. Then panic selling of French bank shares and an abrupt halt to economic growth added to France's plight.
The sight of the euro zone's number two economy buffeted by rumors and investor anxiety in the midst of the holiday season raised existential questions about European monetary union that will confront Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel when they meet in Paris next Tuesday.

Switzerland, that naturally fortified independent nation state in the heart of Europe, might also discover soon enough that Geography, like Death, can not be cheated:
NEW YORK, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The dollar and euro jumped 6 percent against the Swiss franc on Thursday after falling to record lows this week, as the Swiss National Bank said it could peg the franc to the euro to rein in a soaring currency.
SNB Vice Chairman Thomas Jordan, when asked about temporarily pegging the franc said the bank was open to exchange rate measures consistent with long-term price stability. 

It would seem that the proud descendants of the Helvetic Republic are about to have their monetary independence relinquished courtesy of their central bank by a simple act of 'pegging'. What makes this even more scary is that the 'pegging' is to the Euro - a currency fighting for survival. The Euro patient is now depending on a German Chancellor hoping to stave off having to tell her populace the truth about the rot that is German banking and a French President realising that his country's economic future depends on the opinions of rating agencies in New-York.
As always, Golem XIV has provided wonderful insights into the reality behind the headlines:

The Swiss will decide how long this rally lasts

This headline in MarketWatch this afternoon has got to be one of the most fatuous in financial history.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stocks soared on Thursday after a surprising fall in jobless claims curbed worries about the economy.
I'm really supposed to believe that because the US  jobless claims decreased by a whole 7000, in a nation where 43 million are on food stamps, that this was the cause of the Dow regaining 293 points?  I cannot bring myself to believe this piffle...

Bank losses and Fire sales confirmed and spreading.

Quick update - (Thursday)

Banco Pupular, Spain's third largest banking group, has just announced that it will sell "non-strategic assets".

In Italy All three of Italy's big banks (UniCredit, Intesa and Banca dei Monte Pasci) have had their stocks stopped yet again this morning.

While in France Soc Gen which already fell 15% on Wednesday is down another 4.24% this morning and PNB Paribas is down 4.18% at time of writing noon GMT.

Fire Sale of Bank Assets beginning?

Earlier today in "Bank Blood Letting" I wrote,
Bank of America has lost lost $33 billion of its market value in a single week. Unless these losses are magically erased by spectacular gains, and soon, we will see forced selling of assets as banks try to raise capital.
A few hours later this from Reuters,
HONG KONG/DUBAI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) has held exploratory talks with the principal investment funds of Kuwait and Qatar about selling part of its stake in China Construction Bank (0939.HK), sources with direct knowledge of the talks told Reuters.
Bank of America, which owns about 10 percent of CCB's (601939.SS) Hong Kong-listed shares and is scurrying to raise capital for its mortgage-scarred balance sheet, will be contractually free to sell the bank shares after Aug. 29. They are valued at about $17 billion
The same article goes on to say that estimates are that BoA will need $50 billion to shore up its Tier One capital.

As ZeroHedge notes,
There are several problems with this approach: first, the petrodollar sovereign wealth funds just lost over 20% of their AUM courtesy of the global equity rout and of the plunge in oil by more than 20% in less than 2 weeks;
Quite. I would say we are seeing the beginnings of a fire sale.  And the thing about fires, is they spread....

Bank blood letting.

RBS has lost a quater of its share value in the last two weeks. Not far off 10% in the last two days. The British tax payer has so far lost 50% of the money, our taxes, that the government invested in it.

Commerzbank in Germany just announced a 93% drop in profts due to 'impairments' on exposure to Greece.  Can't wait to see what 'impairments' they declare in a couple of months time due to exposure to Italy and Spain.

Intesa Sanpaolo in Italy is down 11.74% on the day on massive trade volume. A share of Intesa is now worth 1.16 euros which is lower than in October 09.

UniCredit in Italy is down 8.81% on the day, trading now at less than 1 euro.

In France:

Credit Agricole        - 14.12%
Societe Generale      - 13.82%
PNB Paribas            - 10.42%

In America:

Bank of America has lost lost $33 billion of its market value in a single week.  Unless these losses are magically erased by spectacular gains, and soon, we will see forced selling of assets as banks try to raise capital.

Happy Summer Holidays everyone.

Monday, 8 August 2011 / UK Daily Mail - SocGen, Unicredit On "Brink Of Disaster"?

Over the past 48 hours we had heard pervasive rumors that at least one, maybe more, banks in Europe are on the verge of collapse. Our thought was, naturally, Dexia, which is the modern equivalent of AIG, not to mention the bank most rescued by none other than the Federal Reserve. Well, we were wrong. And if the Daily Mail is correct, the two banks about to kick the bucket are French SocGen and Italy's UniCredit. While the fact that these two banks are in trouble has not been lost on the market, which has been sending their CDS to near record highs, the speculation that they are far closer to implosion likely means that the equity value of the European banking sector is about to be decimated. As the News reports: "The merest hint a major bank might fall is likely to reignite panic tomorrow in the stock market, which is already feared to react badly to the credit downgrade of the U.S. by rating agency Standard & Poor’s." Well, it's now tomorrow.
More from the UK mag:
Fears are growing this weekend that two of Europe’s largest banks may require a bailout, having been hugely damaged by the worsening crisis across the eurozone.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is having to confront the possibility that the country’s second-biggest bank, Societe Generale -commonly known as SocGen - is on the brink of disaster after huge losses over loans made to Greece.

The chilling possibility of the largest bank in Italy, UniCredit Banca, suffering a similar collapse if a bailout is not implemented comes as Silvio Berlusconi already faces an increasingly dangerous national economic situation.
Next up: bank runs.
In Britain, a senior Government source described the position of the two banks as ‘perilous’, although an official Treasury spokesman declined to comment. Should either bank collapse, British customers with deposits of up to about £85,000 would be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Naturally, no depositors will wait for this to happen, or for these news to be confirmed or denied. They will merely walk up to the teller window, submit a withdrawal ticket and proceed to close their accounts.
And here is where the story gets downright surreal:
David Cameron last night broke off from his holiday in Tuscany to talk to President Sarkozy about the crisis in the markets.

News of the planned talks emerged as Business Secretary Vince Cable appeared to back calls from China for the dollar to be eventually replaced as the main global reserve currency by a new international currency unit to be based around the IMF.

He said: ‘It would be a sensible way for the world to move but it’s not something to do overnight.’

But Mr Cable added: ‘In the short run, the U.S. dollar is the key international currency and although, frankly, the American legislators made a terrible mess of things a few weeks ago, they have now got back on track. They have undertaken to manage their debt in a prudent way.’
Remember where we said that the last thing left is for China to float the CNY? Well, pushing for the SDR is pretty much the same thing.
In the meantime, keep an eye on the price of Unicredit and SocGen tomorrow. Despite SocGen's and UniCredit's repeated statements that the article in Mail on Sunday was “false, irresponsible” the damage may have already been done. And something tells us the downside limits will be hit very quickly, leading to a Lehman-like self-fulfilling prophecy.
We wonder if in addition to PIIGS bonds, the ECB is ready and prepared to buy stocks of insolvent European banks...

Europe Crisis Deepens - Golem XIV

The show does indeed go on. Our dear leaders in Europe & the US are determined to keep us on the road to destruction. After all, they can hardly start telling the truth now; where would they start?!?

This is Golem XIV's posting this morning:

Europe Crisis Deepens

According to Bloomberg, The Euribor, the European equivalent of the Libor (remember that from 2008?) is locking up as banks decline to lend to each other. Those European banks that do have money are putting it in the ECB overnight in preference to lending it to the European banks that desperately need it - such as Santander in Spain and all the Italian Banks led by UniCredit.

Once the Euroibor starts to freeze that is the signal for non-European banks to stop lending to European banks altogether. Why should they trust European banks if fellow Europeans don't. Banks have to have overnight funding or they die.

I think we are now closer to the edge of then cliff than we have been at any time since AIG and Lehman's collapsed.  Without short term and overnight funding Europe's banks will die within the week, so the ECB will now certainly step up its overnight lending to any and all not as a matter of prudent banking but of political panic. That however will be merely the response to the weekend's Euribor freeze. I say response because it is not a solution. The banks can't stay addicted to ECB methadone. The amounts would simply run out of control.

But even before the Euribor crisis happened there was already a larger the problem which had, along with the US downgrade, caused a great part of last weeks massive sell-off and panic in Europe. Namely that the EFSF cannot, unless it is vastly increased - some are saying 2 trillion euros would be the sort of figure -  bail out Italy and Spain.

As I wrote in Fanfare of Failure the EFSF doesn't have enough money or credibility to be seen as a credible back stop for Italy or Spain. Particularly because when it was set up just last year, as the bail out fund that would save Europe's banks, Spain and Italy were two of its larger backers. Now they are no longer backers but desperate customers.

Once Spain and Italy ceased to be backers and turned to insolvent customers the EFSF is over as an effective force. The only solvent backers it now has of any size are France and Germany. And lots of people are just waiting for France to suffer a downgrade similar to America's. Which leaves Germany holding the entire bill.  That won't fly on the markets and certainly won't in Germany. So the EFSF is over unless Merkel and Germany can be blackmailed. I don't think that is going to happen.

What this means is the the ECB will have to start buying massive amounts of Italian and Spanish bonds - the bonds those countries now cannot sell on the open markets. And that is what we rumoured on Friday and led to a modest claw back of 50 points on the Dow. Reports now are that the ECB is going to buy significant amounts. The ECB is talking of 'dysfunctional markets' is an all too familiar replay of 08-09.  Nothing has changed. Same debts being hidden, same banks being saved, saved calls for more austerity cuts. From MarketWatch,
Frank Engels, head of asset allocation strategy at Barclays Capital, said in a conference call Sunday that an announcement of further fiscal austerity by Italy and Spain and possibly France is needed to stabilize investor sentiment with regards to Europe.
My question is how will the ECB now step up its buying and keep it rolling forwards so that in effect ceases to be short term loans and liquidity and become a stand in for the failed EFSF for long term transfer of private bank debts to the public (ECB) vault?

You see the ECB is not tied to any particular nation, nor Treasury nor tax base. The ECB works by governments or more recently banks (who do it through their nation's central bank) depositing 'assets' in the ECB against which the ECB issues Euros. The idea is that the ECB issues Euros but always against high quality assets. By regulating how much is on deposit, it controls how much euro cash is out there. And since it was all supposed to be short term (essentially Repo arrangements - Repurchase agreements where assets are 'bought' by the bank under agreement to resell at a fixed later date and price) it is not a bail out because the assets are going to be re-purchased by the bank which originally deposited them.

That's how it was. But it's easy to see that all you have to do is keep rolling over one repo to a new one and those 'assets' can remain in the ECB and the bank or nation that put them there can keep a permanent bail out.

That is what I suspect is now going to vastly expand. The ECB will say any expansion will be only temporary while the markets are 'dysfunctional'. But that will be a knowing lie because the markets aren't dysfunctional, they are reacting to the fear that Europe's banks can no longer rely on nations to hide and pay off their losses for them.

One interesting detail before I go. The UK is not a backer of the EFSF. A fact the UK government has made much of in the sense of saying how Europe must solve its own problems and the UK will not have to pay. BUT, the UK IS a backer of the ECB. Here are the three largest plus GB.

Bank                                      % Capital   Paid up Capital

Deutsche Bundesbank   18.94      1,406,533,694.10

Banque de France         14.22      1,056,253,899.48

Banca d'Italia                12.50         928,162,354.81

Bank of England           14.52           58,580,453.65

The BoE figures look wrong. The BoE 'owns', has as large a percentage of investment in the ECB as France. Almost as large as Germany.  But the actual amount seems far too small. That is because Non-EU members, like the Uk don't have to actually pay up theirn full amount.

BUT... I wonder if as part of an emergency measure the BoE would be asked to step up along side the Bundesbank and the Bank of France (especially if France faces growing rumour of its own downgrade) and pay up its full amount?

If it did - and this is 100% speculation - what assets would it put up?

You see to expand its 'lending' to Italy and its banks, the ECB must get large new deposits of assets in to its vaults to back the Euros's it lends out. But what sort of worthless junk can Italy or Spain offer. Their own debt is in trouble and the debt of their private banks is the problem in the first place. Of course the ECB will accept their junk as it has already been doing for months from Greece and Portugal already. But the more it does the more it endangers its own credibility. At some point the ECB will need some real collateral. If all it can do is turn to Germany and Franc then has the same sort of problem as the EFSF.

I wonder if the BoE would be asked to dip in to the immense pile of hundreds of billions on US debt that the BoE has been buying up over the last two years.

The BoE has had all those hunderds of billions of US debt/bonds on its books as AAA rated assets. Could the ECB use them for a while? You can see where I'm going with this.  Once again, but now on the ultimate scale, we would have one lender of last hope (the ECB) using the IOU's of another Lender of last hope (the US) to prop up its solvency.

We are once again close to the edge and the crime of it is that the problems we have now are the same as we had three years ago only now made bigger and more painful by having had three years of yet more debt creation and transfer of public money to pay off private debts.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Freedom of Speech in Ireland?!?

In response to a blog posting on Bocktherobber titled 'David Norris and the Troll', a comment was made which I would like to respond to.

Here is a link to the Bocktherobber piece:

Here is the comment:


29. ObsessiveMathsFreak August 2nd, 2011 2:24 pm

Here’s a prime example of the kind of unfollowed scandal I mentioned in my previous post.
This story may as well not exist as far as the Irish Media are concerned.

My response:
The Irish Times decided for reasons only known to itself not to make any reference to the fact that David Norris had raised my issue in the Seanad (Irish senate) two months earlier. The fact of the matter is that the Time's interest in my story came on foot of the debate in the Seanad; why did they neglect to mention this in the article? I have some ideas, but I shall keep them to myself.

The so called 'Irish Independent' is part of the INM group. INM and UniCredit Ireland have had a very comfortable relationship at board-room levels. Hence every approach that was made to me by journalists from the INM group of papers (The Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday World and The Star) soon fell very silent. So while Kevin Myers was justifiably calling clearly and loudly for board-room level accountability in Ireland, he probably did not realise that this applied to his home turf, just as it did to the Central Bank, Anglo-Irish, AIB etc'.
The lone voices reporting on my story have been Kathleen Barrington in the Sunday Business Post and Michael Smith who dedicated the cover story of last December's Village magazine to my story. Michael Smith had to delay printing of the magazine on account of telephone threats made to his office by one of Dublin's leading law firms. Obviously, the threats were made on behalf of the firm's client - UniCredit Bank Ireland.
Here are some examples:

One does wonder why it is that a debate in the Austrian parliament about my story and its relevance to the meltdown of the Irish banking system, never got mentioned in any of Ireland's daily press. 'Free speech & informed journalism' anyone?!?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Golem XIV's post yesterday - Fanfare of Failure - American debts and European contagion

So the ignoble wrangling over the American debt ceiling is over. An agreement is reached and the market reaction was to promptly sell everything. The Dow fell 2.19, the Nasdaq fell 2.75 and the S&P fell 2.56. So that's what 'victory' over the debt ceiling looks like. Both sides were after all claiming a victory and a good deal for America. I'm tempted to ask, whose America?

The markets know this was not any kind of solution. It was the opening salvo in a re-election campaign. The Republicans have merely ensured that the whole crisis can be visited upon the White House again closer to the elections.

And after all what was all the wrangling when one clears away the shameful deceits of party political posturing? Each side, Democrat and Republican with the Tea Party in there to add extra zest and drama, claimed to be fighting for a noble principle and a vision of America's future. All sides were lying. There was no great principle at stake nor any differing visions. On one side were those who wanted to pile yet more debt on the backs of America's tax payers - and not in order to support the tax payers particularly, but to pay for more QE for the banks.  And on the other side were those who felt the proper use of the American tax payer was to cut all services to them, such as welfare, but still expect them to pay their taxes and for a cherry on the top to cut taxes for the wealthier.

So any way I look at it what I see is two groups broadly agreed on who to help and protect - the bankers and financial class (themselves and their friends) - and agreed on who should pay - the broad base of America's working and lower middle class, their only disagreement was over how to extract the money and where to place the burden. Should it be via more debt to be paid off or via savage cuts to any social or infrastructure programme. Should we flog the lower classes or drown them? Decisions decisions.

The slight problem is that while the two political teams will fight for the right to be Betrayer in Chief, Wall Street and its rulers do not much care which party is in charge since they will buy the services of whichever gimp is elected.

And so while it makes all kinds of political in-fighting sense to re-run this battle again when even more political capital can be made from it, it makes less sense in Wall Street. Sure there will be opportunities for those with the best inside knowledge to make a killing, but the risks of volatility spilling over and getting out of control are already far too high.

The currency markets internationally are dangerously out of control.

Meanwhile in Europe we are playing our own fanfare of failure.

What was always going to happen is now starting. We were a badly holed ship but instead of closing the bulk heads, flushing the debt out of the flooded compartments of Greek, Irish, Spanish, German, French and Italian banking, and then repairing the holes, our leaders, those living it up on the upper decks, decided that the loss of those valuable compartments would curtail their party and opted instead to pump the ingress of debts from the banks to other larger rooms. The section of the ship from which we pumped seemed to rise fractionally, or at least the water level, it was claimed, was going down, and the ship, we were assured could deal with the extra cargo now being 'safely' stored for later disposal in two private rooms marked ECB and EFSF.

Sadly the holes, unfixed, are larger than was admitted, the flood is still coming in, the pumps are at capacity and the new store rooms, the ECB and EFSF, are filling up rapidly. In fact the EFSF is now flooded.

OK enough of the tortured analogy.

The EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) is in trouble. Double trouble in fact.  In an attempt to calm the debt markets by words alone (the European way) the rules of the EFSF were changed recently. The new rule said,

"To improve the effectiveness of the EFSF and address contagion, we agree to increase the flexibility of the EFSF, allowing it to intervene in the secondary markets on the basis of an ECB analysis recognizing the existence of exceptional circumstances and a unanimous decision of the EFSF Member States."
First the "exceptional circumstances" have been exceptional now for over a year at least and show absolutely no signs of ever returning to 'normal'. Simply because nothing is being done to address the root cause. The flood of bad debts. Pumping them into larger and larger rooms in the ship was never a solution.

Second their non-solution is a failure even in its own stupid terms. The extra ability to intervene has to be agreed unanimously, and so the markets have quite logically concluded it would never actually happen until the disaster was too overwhelming for it to make a difference anyway. This is why, I think, the cost of insuring Italian and Spanish debt has shot up to record levels in the last week. It seems clear that the markets don't believe the EFSF will work.

Third you have to look at how the EFSF is funded. These things get created, given names and buildings, their functionaries get titles, plush offices and salaries paid from our taxes, and their words are duly reported as edicts from some new power in the land. But the EFSF has no money nor any power of its own.

The EFSF exists on the basis of promises made by EFSF's backers and with the amounts of money they have pledged. It is their pledges, promises and their financial strength which gave the EFSF its AAA rating and allow it to act as Europe's version of the IMF. Here is a list of the EFSF's backers with the amounts they have pledged.

EUR (millions)
Kingdom of Belgium                             15,292.18
Federal Republic of Germany          119,390.07
Ireland                                                       7,002.40
Kingdom of Spain                                 52,352.51
French Republic                                   89,657.45
Italian Republic                                     78,784.72
Republic of Cyprus                                    863.09
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg               1,101.39
Republic of Malta                                       398.44
Kingdom of the Netherlands              25,143.58
Republic of Austria                              12,241.43
Portuguese Republic                          11,035.38
Republic of Slovenia                             2,072.92
Slovak Republic                                     4,371.54
Republic of Finland                               7,905.20
Hellenic Republic                               12,387.70
Total Guarantee Commitments      440,000.00

You'll note that some of those backers are also the same countries who are bankrupt. Problem number three. I have highlighted those countries already bankrupt and those whom the world knows are one short step away from needing rescuing.

You can see that Ireland and Greece are not major backers and so their relegation form backer to beggar is not erminal for the EFSF. But take out Spain and Italy from the list of backers and have them take money out rather than putting money in and "Berlin, we have a problem."

This is what is meant when people say the cost of bailing out Europe is going to fall increasingly upon Germany and France. Ireland is not going to stump up more money for the EFSF. Nor is Greece nor Cyprus. And who is going to be so stupid as to think that all is well if Spain and Italy give money with one hand and "stand fully behind" the EFSF while also nipping round the other side of the counter to stand in line in order to take far more money out, with the other hand?

The EFSF has €440 billion. Everyone inside and outside the EFSF has already admitted this is not enough. And that was before Italy joined the general collapse. Who will give the EFSF the hundreds more billions teh banks are saying will be a necessary minimum?

Contagion is not an 'if' nor even a 'when'. It is already a fact. The only questions are who's already infected, how badly and who is next?

Contagion is the dark twin to 'We're all in this together".  Let's just take one example but a relevant one - UniCredit. I could just as easily use Santander but not today.

UniCredit is in all kinds of trouble. Its vast US subsidiary, Pioneer, is the Marie Celeste. I do not believe it is long for this world as a going and profitable concern. But it is in Europe that the infection is most advanced.  UniCredit has had trading in its shares suspended time after time on the Italian Bourse because of massive and unstoppable losses in the last few weeks. In the last few days the other main Italian banks also had trading in their shares suspended. Why now?  Because of what I wrote about a few days ago - Support Uplift - the support a bank has from its national government. Italy's government is in a bad way. There is talk of the head of the Italian Central Bank, Mr Draghi, being asked to head a new government of national unity to steer a perilous course through the present crisis. How this would work with him also becoming the new head of the ECB I have no idea.

UniCredit and the Italian Financial sector will not survive if Italy is perceived as not being able to support them. But if Italy itself has to go with a begging bowl to the EFSF then how much confidence can investors have in the future stability of UniCredit? The answer is there every day on the Italian Bourse - and it is "Not much."

But if UniCredit were to implode and need rescuing would this be Italy's problem only?

UniCredit own Austria's largest bank - Bank Austria.  I know that there are already political concerns in the Austrian Parliament that UniCredit's troubles would hammer Austria. And they're correct. It would.

It would also hammer Ireland and Bavaria because UniCredit also owns what was HVB (HypoVereins Bank). HVB is big in both Ireland where it has a major part of its operations and in Bavaria where it came from.

Bank Austria is also perhaps the largest player in banking in Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Were UniCredit to collapse it would set off a line of depth charges from Greece , through the Balkans, further East and up the Adriatic as well.

The plan is failing, as it was always going to. It is starting to pick up speed. Can the European powers regain control? How much longer before the German voters rebel? How much more uncertainty and fear will the coming Spanish election create? How much stronger will the Swiss franc become as a 'safe haven' alternative to the Euro before no level of Swiss Central bank intervention has any effect and the franc gets so strong it kills countries like Hungary stone dead?

And before I go, transfer what we have said about the EFSF to the IMF. The IMF has been around, hurting people, for so long it almost seems a fixture. It has also recently been given the power to issue its own bonds.  Both of which make the IMF seem like a power in this world in its own right. But it is not.  The IMF is actually not unlike the EFSF - it is not a country with a tax base of its own - it has to be funded and most of that funding relies on the assurance that behind the IMF lies real power and real financial clout. The IMF's sugar daddy has always been America. The IMF's power was that it was seen as a projection and arm of American power.

But America is broke and living off a parabolic rail gun trajectory of increasing debt.  At what point in the ruination of America will the IMF be seen for what it is, America's version of the EFSF?

The IMF is not the lender and  disciplinarian of last resort. It is the ideological bully of last resort paid for principally by America. If America itself starts to lose control of its own debts (which I think it already has) then the IMF is just another larger hollow colossus and its guarantees of help will be questioned and discounted exactly as may soon happen to the EFSF.

Here some of the comments that followed:

steviefinn said...
...On another point, David Norris has been forced out of the Aras election, am I right in thinking he was someone who took WhistlebowerIRL seriously ?

Golem XIV - Thoughts said...

Hello Steviefinn,

Yes, Norris was the onoly one who actually tried to do something about the WhistelblowerIRL situation. Norris was also the ONLY one who tried twice to get the Irish government to discuss who the Bond holders of Anglo Irish Bank actually were. Twice he tried to read out the list of Bond holders and twice was silenced.

Whatever else, he was one of the very few to stand up and fight for the ordinary people of Ireland.

Whistleblower IRL said...

@ Steviefinn

Here is the link to one of the Irish Seanad (Senate) debates in which Senator Norris tried to read out the list of Anglo bond holders. What a weird idea?!? trying to discuss the burning issues of the day in our houses of parliament. No wonder the powers that be dug out everything they possible could to ensure he would change his mind about running for presidency (he withdrew yesterday). After all, David Norris single-handedly challenged the Irish State in the European Court of Human Rights in 1988; the last thing our puppet parliament would want now would be a strong-minded man in as the president of country. Good heavens, NO!