Enemies of the State: How The Financial Services Industry Is Destroying Democracy
The top ten banks in the U.S., along with their European counterparts have racked up over $300bn of fines, metered out by regulators since their egregious criminality caused a global crisis that unfolded in 2008. Its lingering influence is felt by billions of people worldwide nearly a decade later in a recovery slower than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Jails are devoid of the Armani suited mobsters employed by the financial services industry that are now causing the breakdown of the rule of law, threatening democracies and even statehood itself in the countries they operate in.
This is no better demonstrated than through a WikiLeaks release last October where we learn that the banking giant Citigroup, having played a pivotal role in bringing America and the West to its knees, received the largest U.S. taxpayer bailout to resuscitate its insolvent corpse, played a leading role in shaping and even staffing Barack Obama’s first term in office after donating $millions to his election campaign. (1)
The biggest banks are now so powerful they cast a dark shadow not just over politics but corroding the very fabric of society as a whole. Widespread alienation amongst the general public towards a political elite who defended these banking behemoths has led to civil-unrest and it continues to do so years later. The course of public anger has now spread, its focus now firmly pointed at ‘the establishment’.
Not only did the biggest banks have the unrestrained power to destroy the global economy in a way that politicians could not, they then forced the entire political system across the West to stop all work in progress and hand over $£€trillions after threatening society with financial ruination.
The cost of this immense crisis is actually incalculable. Not least, unemployment for millions, lost wages, depletion of savings and retirement funds, mass asset repossessions but also in hard cash to the taxpayer. In the US this crisis is estimated to have cost somewhere between $12 and $22 trillion. The disparity between these two figures says it all. (2) Bank bailouts in the EU alone have cost around €2trillion and still rising, along with well-documented inherent risks.
In an extraordinary discussion (3) at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C. called the ‘Kleptocracy Initiative’, experts, authors and academics debated how the financial services industry is wreaking havoc on the global economy and how they pose a serious threat to international peace and security. They concluded that:
- Corruption now lies at the very centre of the global economy that subsequently affects many geopolitical outcomes.
- The end of the Cold War and expansion of globalisation has been the perfect environment for an escalating level of global financial criminality.
- The ‘wealth defence industry’ has morphed into a ‘corruption defence industry’.
- Democracy and the rule of law in the West are being seriously undermined by the financial services industry.
The result is that about 40 per cent of global GDP, or $32 trillion lies in offshore tax havens, much of it illegally managed by the Western financial services industry.
The industry evolved from what was the ‘wealth defence industry,’ that provided tax reduction services to individuals and corporations at the end of the Cold War in 1991. Since the acceleration of globalisation, we now have a “corruption defence industry” providing the same services to the same clients but extended to include safe haven for the ill-gotten gains of the many tyrants, autocrats, corrupt government officials and criminals around the world.
It transpires that 40 percent of funds in the British Virgin Isles is from the People’s Republic of China. Staggeringly, it is now known that 50 percent of Russia’s entire wealth is held offshore and so is 30 percent of all African wealth – the vast majority administered and managed by the Western financial services industry.
A recent Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report stated that “Illicit Financial Flows from developing and emerging economies in 2004-2013, lost US$7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows, increasing at an average rate of 6.5 percent per year—more than twice as fast as global GDP.” (4)
Around $1trillion is leaving developing nations each year and entering the West; stolen from African healthcare budgets, HIV/Aids budgets in Russia, China’s Health Standards Board and nations all over the Middle-East. There is now more money illegally leaving Africa each and every year than they receive from the rest of world in aid.
Developing Europe, which includes EU nations such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Poland and Romania plus 15 neighbouring nations such as Albania and Armenia account for nearly 26 per cent of illicit financial flows into tax havens and Western banks.
GFI had academics posing as corrupt officials, despotic leaders and even senior members of al Qaeda, describing themselves as “almost cartoonish figures”, and found that of 4000 offshore incorporation agents, a quarter were happy to set up secret companies to hide money without any documentation at all. The World Bank’s own research found that figure closer to 40 percent.
The predatory forces within non-democratic nations are laundering money via western banking organisations in what is now described as a ‘global looting machine’
There is a class of professional enablers assisting in all this crime. Bankers in the US, UK, and EU with offshore tax haven offices, assisted by an army of lawyers, accountants, property and business advisors along with public relations outfits – all administering this global looting machine.
In the meantime, Western democracies berate regimes such as Russia for their geopolitical ambitions whilst imposing painful economic sanctions to the people of targeted countries to get their leaders to toe-the-line whilst Western bankers launder the rewards of kleptocratic endeavour. These global thieves want a safe system to protect their assets whilst ensuring lawlessness from where they profit. Tax havens provide freedom and anonymity to buy whole swathes of property or businesses such as expensive homes, shopping malls or building land in the centre of London, Paris, Berlin, New York and other major western capitals.
A good example would be Tony Blair. He acts for the leader of Azerbaijan and other post soviet autocrats where political opposition leaders are tortured; journalists and human rights activists are jailed and many savagely beaten. Whilst Western government’s start to push for sanctions, Blair’s business operation offers dangerous, authoritarian leaders access to politicians and advisors to whitewash their tarnished images and get acquainted with the international facilitators of the ‘global looting machine’.
The efforts of ambassadors and diplomats on the ground are no longer taken seriously as the perception of Western values is seen as nothing more than hypocritical by a new breed of kleptocrats encouraged by the capability of Westerners willing to defy the rule of law, both domestically and internationally, for a fee.
Corruption is referenced in all parts of foreign policy documentation published openly by Western governments, yet they turn a blind-eye to the harbouring of stolen assets of characters such as Libya’s Gaddafi or Egypt’s Mubarak. $Billions were found to have been misappropriated from the societies they led – facilitated by British, European and American banks, lawyers and accountants.
Some countries were simply unable to get off their knees and get any further than ‘developing nation’ status, whilst the West managed the looting machine that starved them of vital financial resources in the first place. The Arab Spring is evidence of that; protests actually started over the escalating price of food, caused by speculators employed by hedge funds and banks. The Western looting machine caters for money; geopolitical instability, starvation or crime is purely incidental.
For example, the US spent £20billion fighting a drug war in Columbia that has seen nearly a quarter of a million people murdered, only for their efforts to be undermined as 97% of drug trafficking profits are now known to have been laundered though western banks and their offshore havens.
In another, a British bank was caught laundering $376bn of one of the world’s biggest crime syndicates. Located in Mexico, the ‘Sinoa Narco Cartel’ saw over 100,000 people killed and 20,000 missing. The bank laundered more money for this one ‘customer’ than the individual annual GDP of two thirds of the economies of the world, whilst simply ignoring the slaughter, devastation and resulting societal instability.
The Mexican government’s primary focus has been on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on preventing drug trafficking, which now accounts for 90 percent of America’s cocaine supply – a market estimated to be worth up to $49billion.
The hard bit used to be getting all this dirty money cleaned as soon as possible in order to move into new sources of activity. The offshore shell company provides instant cover.
It is clear that the global banking giants have no loyalty, patriotism or allegiance; not to their own birthplace or people, not even to the principle of democracy itself and it is now just as clear that their effects are undermining statehood in many places they operate.
The political class in many modern Western democracies know that the electorate believe the entire system is rigged against them. (5)
The core basis of this belief is the role of lobbyists whose sole purpose is to undermine civil society and public interest legislation and banking knows no bounds.
The recent move by ex EU President Commissioner Barroso to the role of chairman of Goldman Sachs is neoliberal extremism demonstrated at one of its finest moments. The EU ethics panel recently cleared him of violating ethics regulations, accusing him of nothing more than a ‘lapse of judgement’. (6)
Goldman Sachs, lionised before the 2008 crash as a money making machine, has become the poster boy of greed, duplicity and criminality. It pursues its powerful political agenda through a well-oiled lobby machine. Barroso’s move to Goldman has the potential both to ignite scandals and to put EU institutions in a position where conflict of interest and accusations of corruption spurs yet more civil unrest, leading to increased support of extreme political parties.
Western banks and the rise of a systemically corrupt political system are now undermining societies and democratic principles, with tyrants, autocrats and some of the world’s most violent criminals take advantage of a system that the West has itself allowed to be built.
The fundamental basis of who we are is now being challenged by a financial services industry that has become too big to be accountable before the law. It does not see regulation, democracy or even statehood as any restriction to its self-serving and wholly destructive moneymaking activities.
By its very nature, the West is condemning itself to living in a cesspool of its own creation if serious reform is not implemented very quickly to restrain and arrest the lawlessness of this industry.