Grand Theft Auto – UK and EU Bank Depositor Bail-In Regime Implemented
Shares and stocks are tumbling around the world, with investors worried that the next global crisis has already begun. There is considerable uncertainty and nervousness amongst economists and trend forecasters. Government’s sooth jittery markets with misinformation in the hope that confidence does not evaporate and their legitimacy with it.
If another crisis gets underway – do you think that the money you have earned, paid tax on and put in a bank for a rainy day or for an unexpected bill is safe? Because if you do, you’re wrong.
Automated grand theft on an unprecedented scale has been agreed with unelected EU officials, the Bank of England and US authorities.
In a Joint paper issued by the US Federal Deposit Scheme and the Bank of England dated 10th December 2012 a statement included the words; “deposit schemes may have to contribute to the recapitalisation of a failed bank”.
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“The U.K. has also given consideration to the recapitalization process in a scenario in which Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI) liabilities do not include much debt issuance at the holding company or parent bank level but instead comprise insured retail deposits held in the operating subsidiaries. Under such a scenario, deposit guarantee schemes may be required to contribute to the recapitalization of the firm“.
This 2012 paper puts in place procedures in the event of the failure of a systemically important bank. It clearly states that depositors are to be protected – that is, until options have ceased to exist. Next time, the state will be last in line, not first. Depositor bail-in schemes are now a reality.
The issue at hand is the scale of the bank failure. US and UK authorities have now admitted that all deposits are subject to potential ‘haircuts’ involving any major bank failure. This is an admission by the British government that the £85,000 deposit guarantee scheme is flawed and that the British depositors protection promise is simply a sound bite and not financially supported.
Paul Tucker, Bank of England Deputy Governor stated that ‘it is not enough to have just a Deposit Guarantee Scheme’ to save a major bank. He went on “if the losses are vast enough, then the haircuts imposed by the resolution authority can in principle permeate to any level of the creditor stack. In the case of insured deposits, that means Deposit Guarantee Schemes (DGS) suffering losses”.
Although Paul Tucker had given notice to retire the previous November, straight after this speech given to the Institute of International Finance on October 12th 2013, he retired and left the Bank of England, leaving that grim warning.
The G-20 met last year in Australia to make new banking rules for the next financial calamity. Financial reform advocate Ellen Brown says these new rules will allow banks to take money from depositors and pensioners globally.
Brown says – “They use words so that it’s not obvious to tell what they have done, but what they did was say, basically, that we, the governments, are no longer going to be responsible for bailing out the big banks. There are about 30 (systemically important) international banks. So, you are going to have to save yourselves, and the way you are going to have to do it is by bailing in the money of your creditors. The largest class of creditors of any bank is the depositors.”
Around the same time the new EU Bail-In Agreement was signed 12th November 2013 giving notice to member countries to prepare.
The European Commission has just ordered 11 EU countries to enact the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) within two months or be hauled before the EU Court of Justice. Notably, rules include; Bail-in legislation aimed at removing state responsibility when banks collapse and Rules placing the burden on creditors – among whom depositors are counted
Austria abolished bank deposit guarantee in full in April with the full sanction of the EU and little fanfare.
The news was not covered in other media despite the important risks and ramifications for depositors and savers throughout the EU and indeed internationally. The countries were Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France and Italy.
The rules, or BRRD ostensibly aim to shield taxpayers from the fall-out of another banking crisis. Should such a crisis erupt governments will not be obliged to prop up the banks. Most countries are far too deeply indebted to play such a role anyway.
Instead, the burden is being placed on the creditors. As Reuters put it “The rules seek to shield taxpayers from having to bail out troubled lenders, forcing creditors and shareholders to contribute to the rescue in a process known as “bail-in”.
Emergency legislation can be drawn up over-night – as was the case when Ireland was “bailed-out” or rather Ireland’s banks were bailed out and Ireland’s tax payers were bailed in. The developing bail-in regimes, means that soon individual and corporate depositors will see their savings and capital ‘bailed in’ in the event of a bank collapse.
In the ongoing meltdown of the European Union, perhaps the greatest single bump in the road, as far as banking is concerned, so far took place in Cyprus, although the EU has demonstrated an amazing skill set to change the rules at will depending on the scale of the disaster – AKA Greece. This gave the world a glimpse of the future banking landscape of the EU.
In the immediate aftermath of the dramatic bank holiday and bail-in events of Cyprus, many in the financial media began asking whether Cyprus represents a template for future bail-ins across the European Union or elsewhere around the globe. The answer is emphatically YES. A 60% haircut lay in waiting for some in Cyprus.
Each country will enact its own version of the BRRD. How vulnerable savers are in specific countries is difficult to tell at this time. The drive towards a cashless economy which has accelerated in recent months makes deposit holders and savers ever more vulnerable.
Britain is particularly perilous as noted in the FT – The Bank of England’s stress tests of the banking sector have been attacked as “fatally flawed” saying they are utterly useless for setting hurdles that are too easy to clear and giving false comfort about the safety of the financial system.
The bail-in legislation which is being driven by the BIS through the Bank of England, ECB, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) appears designed to protect banks by allowing them to confiscate deposits to prop them up rather than the noble stated objective – “to shield taxpayers”.
The new EU system will take effect from January 2016 but emergency resolutions can be brought forward in the event of banks failing in the interim period. The “bail-in” will require that shareholders, bondholders and importantly now depositors will all suffer ‘haircuts’ if a financial institution is in trouble.
The European parliament confirmed in a statement that depositors with more than 100,000 euros (£84,185/$137,000) would be bailed in after shareholders and bondholders. It is important to note that the 100,000 figure is an arbitrary figure and there is a possibility that this figure could be reduced by an insolvent government faced with an imploding banking system. Think Cyprus again.
The agreement was spun as a victory for taxpayers, however the risks and ramifications of bailing in savers including families with their life savings and the deposits of already struggling small and medium size enterprises has already been seen in Cyprus.
Gunnar Hoekmark, who steered the legislation through the European parliament, said: “We now have a strong bail-in system which sends a clear message that bank shareholders and creditors will be the ones to bear the losses on rainy days, not taxpayers.”
Gunnar forgets that savers are taxpayers too and have paid taxes – on their income, on goods and services, on capital gains etc – on their hard earned savings already. Indeed, many are already paying punitive deposit interest rates giving banks ever more.
There also appears to be a failure to realise that deposits – including family’s life savings, retirees pension incomes and businesses – are a vital part of the economy. You cannot have consumption without saving. You cannot have business growth and expansion and a consequent growth in much needed employment without capital.
The Bank of England recently extended the Financial Stability Board’s Key Attributes guidelines and added four practical steps to follow when bailing-in a financial firm.
These four steps are; Stabilisation, Valuation and Exchange, Relaunch, and Restructuring. Although the Bank of England’s four step bail-in approach is quite detailed, it does not address the capital controls that would be needed so as to prevent a bank run. This is where the Cyprus example becomes useful.
Capital controls were widely implemented in Cyprus during a theoretical two week long ‘Resolution Weekend’. Authorities knew that depositors would act rationally and attempt to close their accounts or transfer their funds abroad, thereby causing capital flight. To prevent this happening, draconian capital controls were imposed and banks were kept shut for two weeks.
This was the first time that capital controls had ever been imposed within the Eurozone. Greece followed. Many EU countries already have some controls over the movement of money.
When capital controls are imposed on economies, they usually remain in place for some time, for example, Icelandic capital controls imposed in 2008 have only just been lifted. Cypriot capital controls have only just started to be relaxed. Controls on international fund transfers are envisaged as being the final piece of the controls to be lifted.
The lessons from the Bank of England and EU plan and from Cyprus and Greece are essentially that depositors will not get any notice that their bank is about to be bailed in. The bail-in would probably happen during a weekend it would not re-open on the following Monday. Capital controls would be imposed on the country’s banks during the bail-in and for a lengthy follow-on period.
From January 1st 2015, Britain’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), that protects £85,000 per person per institution was reduced to £75,000, under the absurd pretence of the strength of the pound. So absurd was this move that it caused considerable suspicion as to its motives. The Bank of England has just reduced bank liabilities and integrated the depositor bail-in scheme at a reduced level. One has to ask – Why?
Graham Vanbergen – TruePublica