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UBS Investigated For Gold Manipulation Suggesting Gold Inquiry Goes Beyond London Fix | Zero Hedge

UBS Investigated For Gold Manipulation Suggesting Gold Inquiry Goes Beyond London Fix | Zero Hedge.

The last time the FT penned an article on the topic of gold manipulation, titled “Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert” it was promptly taken down without much (any) of an explanation. Luckily, we recorded the article for posterity here. Earlier today, another article on the topic appears to have slipped through the cracks of the distinguished editors of the financial journal that enjoys the ad spend of the status quo, when it reported that “Gold pricing scrutiny widens”, hardly an update that will take the world by storm, however it is notable that “even” the FT, where for years goldbugs claiming gold manipulation had been ridiculed, is finally start to admit the glaringly obvious.

In this case, the FT looks at one of the most habitual and recidivist manipulators of practically every asset class that the market has ever known, Swiss bank UBS, better known as the rat that isallegedly perfectly happy to expose all other manipulators in exchange for immunity, and focuses on the Friday’s admission by UBS in its 2013 annual report: “that a review of its foreign exchange operations has been widened to include its precious metals business. In the report, the Swiss bank said: “Following an initial media report in June 2013 of widespread irregularities in the foreign exchange markets, UBS immediately commenced an internal review of its foreign exchange business, which includes our precious metals business.

And while it was recently revealed that there has been unprecedented collusion and rigging of gold at the time of the London fix, the latest revelations confirms that the inquiry is going beyond merely what the venerable five member banks of the London Gold Market Fixing Ltd, on the premises of N M Rothschild & Sons: after all UBS is not part of this particular criminal syndicate, which at last check included Barclays, Deustche (soon to be replaced by Standard Bank which is merely a front for China’s ICBC), Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC and SocGen.

More from the FT:

“A number of authorities also are reportedly investigating potential manipulation of precious metal prices. UBS has taken and will take appropriate action with respect to certain personnel as a result of its ongoing review.”

UBS has been in front of its peers in revealing important details about various regulatory probes – most notably the rigging of Libor and other interbank lending rates.

Until Friday the bank had not mentioned its precious metals business was included in its review of trading practices. There was, for example, no mention of the metals business alongside fourth-quarter results a month ago.

But before anyone gets too excited, let’s recall that the last time the CFTC did an “in depth” investigation of manipulation in precious metals, it found… nothing (however, according to Bart Chilton that was only due to the zero or negative budget allotted to the impotent regulator, until recently headed by a Goldmanite). Perhaps this time will be different, and suddenly it may be in someone’s interest to finally see gold trade up to its fair value, whatever that may be, although certainly higher than the current prevailing beaten down prices, which have seen China buy up unprecedented amounts of physical gold courtesy of manipulated paper supply and demand. Especially supply.

Better yet: we look forward to learning all about it by the staunch defender of fair and efficient gold markets, the FT. Which is why, just in case, we have saved this article too. You never know when the FT will pull down this article or that, simply for breaching the taboo topic of gold price manipulation, something the Bank of England we are confident, will be very interested in as well.

UBS Investigated For Gold Manipulation Suggesting Gold Inquiry Goes Beyond London Fix | Zero Hedge

UBS Investigated For Gold Manipulation Suggesting Gold Inquiry Goes Beyond London Fix | Zero Hedge.

The last time the FT penned an article on the topic of gold manipulation, titled “Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert” it was promptly taken down without much (any) of an explanation. Luckily, we recorded the article for posterity here. Earlier today, another article on the topic appears to have slipped through the cracks of the distinguished editors of the financial journal that enjoys the ad spend of the status quo, when it reported that “Gold pricing scrutiny widens”, hardly an update that will take the world by storm, however it is notable that “even” the FT, where for years goldbugs claiming gold manipulation had been ridiculed, is finally start to admit the glaringly obvious.

In this case, the FT looks at one of the most habitual and recidivist manipulators of practically every asset class that the market has ever known, Swiss bank UBS, better known as the rat that isallegedly perfectly happy to expose all other manipulators in exchange for immunity, and focuses on the Friday’s admission by UBS in its 2013 annual report: “that a review of its foreign exchange operations has been widened to include its precious metals business. In the report, the Swiss bank said: “Following an initial media report in June 2013 of widespread irregularities in the foreign exchange markets, UBS immediately commenced an internal review of its foreign exchange business, which includes our precious metals business.

And while it was recently revealed that there has been unprecedented collusion and rigging of gold at the time of the London fix, the latest revelations confirms that the inquiry is going beyond merely what the venerable five member banks of the London Gold Market Fixing Ltd, on the premises of N M Rothschild & Sons: after all UBS is not part of this particular criminal syndicate, which at last check included Barclays, Deustche (soon to be replaced by Standard Bank which is merely a front for China’s ICBC), Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC and SocGen.

More from the FT:

“A number of authorities also are reportedly investigating potential manipulation of precious metal prices. UBS has taken and will take appropriate action with respect to certain personnel as a result of its ongoing review.”

UBS has been in front of its peers in revealing important details about various regulatory probes – most notably the rigging of Libor and other interbank lending rates.

Until Friday the bank had not mentioned its precious metals business was included in its review of trading practices. There was, for example, no mention of the metals business alongside fourth-quarter results a month ago.

But before anyone gets too excited, let’s recall that the last time the CFTC did an “in depth” investigation of manipulation in precious metals, it found… nothing (however, according to Bart Chilton that was only due to the zero or negative budget allotted to the impotent regulator, until recently headed by a Goldmanite). Perhaps this time will be different, and suddenly it may be in someone’s interest to finally see gold trade up to its fair value, whatever that may be, although certainly higher than the current prevailing beaten down prices, which have seen China buy up unprecedented amounts of physical gold courtesy of manipulated paper supply and demand. Especially supply.

Better yet: we look forward to learning all about it by the staunch defender of fair and efficient gold markets, the FT. Which is why, just in case, we have saved this article too. You never know when the FT will pull down this article or that, simply for breaching the taboo topic of gold price manipulation, something the Bank of England we are confident, will be very interested in as well.

Here Is The FT’s Gold Price Manipulation Article That Was Removed | Zero Hedge

Here Is The FT’s Gold Price Manipulation Article That Was Removed | Zero Hedge.

Two days ago the FT released a clear, informative and fact-based article, titled simply enough “Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert” in which author Madison Marriage, citing a report by the Fideres consultancy, revealed that global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013.

To those who hve been following the price action of gold in the past four years, gold manipulation is not only not surprising, but accepted and widely appreciated (because like the Chinese those who buy gold would rather do so at artificially low rather than artificially high fiat prices) and at this point, after every other product has been exposed to be blatantly and maliciously manipulated by the banking estate, it is taken for granted that the central banks’ primary fiat alternative, and biggest threat to the monetary status quo, has not avoided a comparable fate.

What is surprising is that where the FT article once was, readers can now find only this:

 

 

And since we can only assume the article has been lost to FT readers due to some server glitch, and not due to post-editorial consorship or certainly an angry phone call from the Bank of England or some comparable institution, we are happy to recreate it in its entirety. Just in case someone is curious why gold price rigging fears should put investors on alert.

Gold price rigging fears put investors on alert

By Madison Marriage

Global gold prices may have been manipulated on 50 per cent of occasions between January 2010 and December 2013, according to analysis by Fideres, a consultancy.

The findings come amid a probe by German and UK regulators into alleged manipulation of the gold price, which is set twice a day by Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Bank of Nova Scotia and Société Générale in a process known as the “London gold fixing”.

Fideres’ research found the gold price frequently climbs (or falls) once a twice-daily conference call between the five banks begins, peaks (or troughs) almost exactly as the call ends and then experiences a sharp reversal, a pattern it alleged may be evidence of “collusive behaviour”.

“[This] is indicative of panel banks pushing the gold price upwards on the basis of a strategy that was likely predetermined before the start of the call in order to benefit their existing positions or pending orders,” Fideres concluded.

“The behaviour of the gold price is very suspicious in 50 per cent of cases. This is not something you would expect to see if you take into account normal market factors,“ said Alberto Thomas, a partner at Fideres.

Alasdair Macleod, head of research at GoldMoney, a dealer in physical gold, added: “When the banks fix the price, the advantage they have is that they know what orders they have in the pocket. There is a possibility that they are gaming the system.”

Pension funds, hedge funds, commodity trading advisers and futures traders are most likely to have suffered losses as a result, according to Mr Thomas, who said that many of these groups were “definitely ready” to file lawsuits.

Daniel Brockett, a partner at law firm Quinn Emanuel, also said he had spoken to several investors concerned about potential losses.

“It is fair to say that economic work suggests there are certain days when [the five banks] are not only tipping their clients off, but also colluding with one another,” he said.

Matt Johnson, head of distribution at ETF Securities, one of the largest providers of exchange traded products, said that if gold price collusion is proven, “investors in products with an expiry price based around the fixing could have been badly impacted”.

Gregory Asciolla, a partner at Labaton Sucharow, a US law firm, added: “There are certainly good reasons for investors to be concerned. They are paying close attention to this and if the investigations go somewhere, it would not surprise me if there were lawsuits filed around the world.”

All five banks declined to comment on the findings, which come amid growing regulatory scrutiny of gold and precious metal benchmarks.

BaFin, the German regulator, has launched an investigation into gold-price manipulation and demanded documents from Deutsche Bank. The bank last month decided to end its role in gold and silver pricing. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is also examining how the price of gold and other precious metals is set as part of a wider probe into benchmark manipulation following findings of wrongdoing with respect to Libor and similar allegations with respect to the foreign exchange market.

The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has reportedly held private meetings to discuss gold manipulation, but declined to confirm or deny that an investigation was ongoing.

h/t Noel

Think China’s Credit Crisis Is Over? Don’t Look At This Chart | Zero Hedge

Think China’s Credit Crisis Is Over? Don’t Look At This Chart | Zero Hedge.

The bailing out of the much-watched ‘Credit equals Gold #1’ wealth management product and safe liquidity-strewn (CNY375 billion from the PBOC) survival of the lunar new year liquidity crunch has many believing the worst is over. Though we discussed this fallacy in great depth here, the following chart of the total collapse in the largest Chinese coal producers says this is far from over. Trading at or below book values, investors are clearly signaling concerns about the quality of assets summed up perfectly by one local analyst – China’s coal industry (whose loans back a massive amount of the wealth management products) is “dead.”

Via Bloomberg,

Shares of China’s biggest listed coal producers have dropped to their lowest valuations on record as falling fuel prices make it harder to repay debt.

Bloomberg’s chart above tracks the price-to-book ratio of China Shenhua Energy Co., China Coal Energy Co. and Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. Both China Coal and Yanzhou Coal trade below the value of their net assets, while Shenhua Energy has fallen to about 1 times book. The lower panel shows the CSI 300 Index’s energy gauge traded at a record discount to the MSCI All-Country World Energy Index last month.

Slowing economic growth and efforts to boost use of alternative fuels have dragged down coal prices in China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of the fuel. The nation’s banking regulator ordered its regional offices to increase scrutiny of credit risks in the coal-mining industry, two people with knowledge of the matter said last month, signaling government concern about possible defaults.

China’s coal industry is “dead,” said Laban Yu, a Jefferies Group LLC analyst in Hong Kong with an underperform rating on all three stocks. “There are 10,000 producers in China. A lot of them are taking on debt. It gets harder and harder to service debts when coal prices keep falling.”

China Coal warned Jan. 24 that 2013 net income will probably drop as much as 65 percent from a year earlier. The second-largest producer had 50 billion yuan ($8.3 billion) of net debt at the end of last year, from net cash of 6 billion yuan in 2011, according to a Barclays Plc note last month. The stock has tumbled 82 percent from its 2008 peak.

Declines in Shenhua, the listed unit of China’s No. 1 coal producer, have erased $178 billion of market value since the stock peaked in 2007 — equivalent to the value of Bank of America Corp. Yanzhou Coal, the fourth largest, has dropped 80 percent from its 2011 high.

So, in summary, the PBOC had to bailout a ‘small’ wealth management product due to fears of contagion, which merely amplifies the future problems, and investors are pricing coal companies (which back a vast amount of shadow bank facilities) for major problems ahead… and the PBC had to pump CNY 375 billion in last week just to prop up the banks through the new year…

But apart from that – yeah, China’s credit crisis must be over because US equities are up for 3 days…

Barclays’ Busted For Stealing, Selling Confidential Financial Data Of Thousands Of Clients | Zero Hedge

Barclays’ Busted For Stealing, Selling Confidential Financial Data Of Thousands Of Clients | Zero Hedge.

n recent months, the attention of the public has been consumed by concerns over private data abuse by such public spy agencies as the NSA, as well as what personal financial information may have been intercepted by rogue hacker black hats who in the past two months have been blamed for millions in credit card privacy breaches. However, so far there have been two major loose ends in the story of personal data collection (and abuse): just how web search browsers and cookie-based advertising companies collect everything there is to know about the particular interests and desires of any given individual, and just as importantly, how banks abuse client confidentiality by taking the secret financial data of their clients less than seriously.

Today, one of these loose ends got some much needed public exposure after the Daily Mail, of all places, reported that it had been approached by a whistleblower, who revealed that in one of the biggest breaches of bank secrecy, bailed out Barclays had stolen and sold the confidential personal and financial data of up to 27,000 clients to the highest market bidder, in most cases rogue traders who had seen Glengarry Glen Ross one too many times, and who would then use Jordan Belfort-inspired tactics to sell money losing investment products to those unlucky thousands who had entrusted their data to the bank.

Is this the case of yet another “Snowden” growing a conscience and exposing the fraud he had witnessed for all to see? For the time being, it sure looks like it:  “This is the worst [leak] I’ve come across by far,’ said the  former commodity broker and whistleblower. ‘“But this illegal trade is going on all the time in the City. I want to go public to stop it getting bigger.”

From the Mail:

Barclays Bank is reeling from an unprecedented security breach after thousands of confidential customer files were stolen and sold on to rogue City traders.

In the worst case of data loss from a British High Street bank, highly sensitive information, including customers’ earnings, savings, mortgages, health issues and insurance policies, ended up in the hands of unscrupulous brokers. The data ‘gold mine’ – also containing passport and national insurance numbers – is worth millions on the black market because it allowed unsuspecting individuals to be targeted in investment scams.

Barclays last night launched an urgent investigation and promised to co-operate with police.

It is not clear how the records were stolen, but the bank could face an unlimited fine if found guilty of putting customers’ details at risk.  The leak was exposed by an anonymous whistleblower who passed The Mail on Sunday a memory stick containing files on 2,000 of the bank’s customers.

He claimed it was a sample from a stolen database of up to 27,000 files, which he said could be sold by shady salesmen for up to £50 per file.

Of course, Barclays has had its share of legal troubles in recent years, having been exposed as the first bank in the still growing Libor-rigging scandal for which is was fined GBP290 million, and now this data loss, which is a breach of its obligations under the Data Protection Act to keep personal information secure, will almost certainly cost its many more hundreds of millions in legal fees and damages.

The sources of the breached and stolen files was data collected from customers who had sought financial advice from the bank, and passed on their details during meetings with an adviser. The consultations included filling out questionnaires – or ‘psychometric tests’ – which revealed their attitude to risk. That information could be exploited to persuade victims to buy into questionable investments.

One could call them, the “Glengarry leads”, and an example of one is shown below:

But while Barclays collecting detailed data about its clients is perfectly normal, what it did next is criminal:

The whistleblower first became aware of the Barclays leads in September when the boss of the brokerage firm asked him to sell them to other traders. ‘The obvious question I asked was, “These are fantastic leads, why are you not using them yourself?”

‘He replied, “We have – sell it as secondary data.” He had got all he could out of them. New, they were worth £50 per file. He asked us to sell for £8.’

The whistleblower showed the leads to a select group of brokers ‘who thought they were amazing’, but eventually decided not to sell.

‘My conscience got the better of me. It was all just so wrong,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t a broker myself at this stage, but I had a business link to the firm.’

Between December 2012 and September 2013 the firm persuaded victims to buy rare earth metals that did not exist, it is claimed. The whistleblower estimates up to 1,000 people could have been ‘scammed’.

Then the party was over as quickly as it started:

When the investors began to suspect they were being fleeced he said the boss chose to ‘shut the trading floor’.

His orders were to get rid of the evidence, to show that we were never there. We bleached the desks so his DNA was not in the office. We destroyed his laptop and 15 bags of paperwork. We wiped the computers. During this fiasco he asked me, “Have you got the Barclays leads?” I said, “No, I haven’t, they must have been destroyed”. ‘But I kept them because I thought the whole thing had gone too far. I want to stop it now, to tell people what was happening.’

Alas, the burning down of the crime scene was not enough, and now that Barclays has been exposed, the damage control begins:

Barclays said in a statement: ‘We are grateful to The Mail on Sunday for bringing this to our attention and we contacted the Information Commissioner and other regulators on Friday as soon as we were made aware. ‘Our initial investigations suggest this is isolated to customers linked to our Barclays Financial Planning business, which we ceased  in 2011.

‘We will take all necessary steps to contact and advise those customers as soon as possible so that they can also ensure the safety of their personal data. ‘Protecting customers’ data is a top priority and we take this issue extremely seriously. This appears to be criminal action and we will co-operate with the authorities on pursuing the perpetrator.

‘We would like to reassure all of our customers  that we have taken every practical measure to ensure that personal and financial details remain as safe and secure as possible.’ The Mail on Sunday has arranged to pass on the data to the Information Commissioner’s Office. A spokesman said: ‘We’ll be working with The Mail on Sunday this week as well as working with the police.’

That’s not all: we also learn that the legacy of the Wolf of Wall Street is alive and well. So alive in fact, he has been in ongoing consultations on how to cold call clients about which the sellers already knew everything in advance:

 Brokerages want to hire people who are money-oriented, articulate and who speak the Queen’s English. Their ideal is the young, hungry white guy. They want the most aggressive person, very manipulative and bullish, almost like a New York broker in the 1980s.

In the first interview they would ask: ‘Do you **** whores and sniff coke? Do not come and work here if you don’t.’ They might even ask the interviewee to sing a song. They want to see if they can bend them over a barrel and get them to do what they want. Out of 10,000 brokers, 9,000 will be earning below the minimum wage. The majority will never succeed. The successful ones do not have a moral compass.

Most people drop out after a couple of years because they burn out but I know old school brokers who’ve done it since the 1980s. 

We got trained by Jordan Belfort, the real-life Wolf of Wall Street. It cost £38,000 for an hour’s conference call with him from New York. Three different firms took part and there were 40 brokers in the room, sitting around a phone.

He’s big on ‘rapport building’. He shows how to apply pressure in the right places – how to manipulate people in a controlled way. In all cases, brokers try to find the person’s motive for investing. When trust is established  it’s very easy to make the ale or ‘load’ a client with a commodity. Loaders are a breed of broker and some can earn 40 per cent a deal on just the commission.

A lot of contracts between broker and investor include ‘exit confirmation’ – the date when the return on investment is expected. But in many cases those clauses are a lie. A month or two before the exit strategy is due, the firm winds up and disappears.

The owners – criminals in sharp suits – will set up shop, trade for a bit, then the company will close, only for the brokers to open another one.

The next day they ring the same clients, but with different voices on the end of the phone. You might use a different name – nobody uses their real name. Many on the Barclays list were born in the 1930s. Old people are perfect targets because they are more trusting and they haven’t got long left. You hope they die before your exit strategy comes up.

Hopefully this anecdote serves to illustrate the link between insolvent but bailed out and cash-strapped banks, boiler rooms, and criminal salespeople.

Finally, it goes without saying, that if this is happening in the UK it most certainly taking place in the US as well. And as a follow up – while the general public has every right to be concerned about how its private data is being abused by public spy entities such as the NSA, perhaps it is time to inquire just how it may be abused not only by private banks such as Barclays, but by all those private corporations who interact daily with the countless users who share their data on the Internet assuming that it won’t be used in a criminal fashion by virtually everyone.

Banks Aid U.S. Forex Probe, Fullfilling Libor Accords – Bloomberg

Banks Aid U.S. Forex Probe, Fullfilling Libor Accords – Bloomberg.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

UBS AG’s signage is displayed outside the company’s Finsbury Avenue offices in London…. Read More

Banks bound by cooperation agreements in an interest-rate rigging probe are providing a windfall of information to U.S. prosecutors investigating possible currency manipulation, according to a Justice Department official and a person familiar with the matter.

“We’ve seen tangible, real results,” Mythili Raman, the acting head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview. The cooperation “expanded our investigations into the possible manipulation of foreign exchange and other benchmark rates,” said Raman, who declined to name the banks or comment further on the probe.

The accords have compelled some lenders to conduct internal examinations of their foreign-exchange businesses and share findings with the Justice Department, speeding the government’s criminal probe into the $5.3 trillion-a-day market, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

Some banks are handing over lists of potential witnesses, making employees available for interviews and giving up documents without subpoenas, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the inquiry is confidential. Investigators are holding weekly and sometimes daily phone calls with the banks, the person said.

UBS AG (UBSN)Barclays Plc (BARC) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc resolved a Justice Department investigation into how the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, was set, paying more than $800 million in criminal fines and penalties and agreeing to cooperate in other inquiries. The three lenders are among the largest currency traders in the world.

Dominik von Arx, a spokesman for UBS, Nichola Sharpe at Barclays and Sarah Small at RBS, declined to comment.

Libor Probe

Rabobank Groep, which also paid the U.S. a $325 million criminal penalty to settle Libor-rigging allegations in a deferred-prosecution agreement, doesn’t rank among the top 20 currency traders in the world, according to Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc. (ERM)

“Rabobank fully cooperates with regulators pursuant to the deferred-prosecution agreement,” Roelina Bolding, a spokeswoman for the Utrecht, Netherlands-based firm, said in an e-mail. “Rabobank does not otherwise comment on pending investigations of Rabobank or of any other person or entity.”

In addition to the settlements with the four banks, the U.S. Libor probe, which is continuing, has led to criminal charges against eight individuals.

Without the cooperation agreements, the banks would have been less motivated to come forward about currency trading, said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“I don’t think they would have as much incentive and you’d have pushback from individuals at the bank who are saying ‘Why are we doing this?’” Levenson said in an interview. “‘This is our own business and we’re being overly cautious.’”

Cooperation Agreements

The cooperation agreements also allow the government to advance the probe without overtaxing law enforcement resources, which have been stretched by budget cuts, hiring freezes and furloughs in recent years. In addition to the Justice Department’s criminal and antitrust divisions, European Union antitrust regulators, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority and the Swiss Competition Commission are probing rigging of currency benchmarks. The Federal Reserve also is examining the matter, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

“You could be talking about potentially millions of e-mails and thousands of hours of tape,” said Douglas Tween, a former Justice Department lawyer, now at law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP in New York.

The Justice Department “doesn’t have the resources to cull through all of that times 10 banks or 20 banks. They really to a large extent rely on the banks to cooperate and essentially give them all this evidence on a silver platter.”

Financial Benchmarks

Authorities around the world are investigating alleged abuse of financial benchmarks by companies that play a central role in setting them. Other rates under investigation include the ISDAfix, used to determine the value of interest-rate derivatives. European and U.S. regulators also are reviewing allegations of collusion in crude oil and biofuels markets in scrutinizing how the Platts oil benchmark is set.

Financial institutions have paid about $6 billion so far to resolve criminal and civil claims in the U.S. and Europe that they manipulated benchmark interest rates.

To resolve the Justice Department’s charges, UBS, RBS and Barclays signed deferred-prosecution or non-prosecution agreements within the past two years that effectively put the banks on probation and obliged them to report possible misconduct and cooperate in benchmark-rigging investigations. The banks risk indictment if the government decides they aren’t being cooperative, Tween said.

‘Criminal Conduct’

“Once they’ve got you on one thing, they’ve really got you,” said Tween. “They’ll say ‘You haven’t been cooperative and haven’t lived up to the terms of your deferred-prosecution agreement, and we’re going to pull the plug on that and indict you.’”

Barclays, based in London, agreed to notify the Justice Department of “all potentially criminal conduct by Barclays or any of its employees that relates to fraud or violations of the laws governing securities and commodities markets.” Zurich-based UBS agreed to similar terms.

Edinburgh-based RBS promised to cooperate in “any and all matters” related to “manipulation, attempted manipulation, or interbank coordination of benchmark rate submissions.”

Front-Running

Bloomberg News reported in June that currency dealers said they had been front-running client orders and attempting to rig foreign-exchange rates for at least a decade by colluding with counterparts and pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set.

The world’s seven biggest foreign-exchange dealers have now all taken action against their employees: at least 17 traders have been suspended, put on leave or fired.

The Justice Department’s use of deferred- and non-prosecution agreements has been rising over the past decade from an average of four per year between 2000 and 2004 to 27 in 2013, according to data compiled by the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Last year was the fifth consecutive year with at least 20 such settlements, the firm said.

Broader Investigations

“These agreements are now a fixture in the federal corporate law enforcement regime, and all indications point to their use holding steady for the foreseeable future,” the firm said.

The agreements help the government conduct broader investigations faster, said Robertson Park, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the Libor investigation.

“If suddenly you have an institution that is effectively giving you the information and documents and data you need, if they’re motivated to provide it in formats that are immediately available and useful to you and if they’re making witnesses available, that can be a significant time savings,” said Park, a lawyer at Murphy & McGonigle in Washington.

To contact the reporters on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington atdmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net; Tom Schoenberg in Washington attschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net

Bank of America Is Actively Preparing For The Chinese January 31 Trust Default | Zero Hedge

Bank of America Is Actively Preparing For The Chinese January 31 Trust Default | Zero Hedge.

Last week we were the first to raise the very real and imminent threat of a default for a Chinese wealth management product (WMP) default – specifically China Credit Trust’s Credit Equals Gold #1 (CEQ1) – and its potential contagion concerns. It seems BofAML is now beginning to get concerned, noting that over 60% of market participants expects repo rates to rise if a trust product defaults and based on the analysis below, they think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and back-coupon on the day. Crucially, with the stratospheric leverage ratios now engaged in such products, BofAML warns trust companies must answer some serious questions: will they stand back behind every trust investment or will they have to default on some or potentially many of them? BofAML believes the question needs an answer because investors and Trusts can’t have their cake and eat it tooThe potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 1/31, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event.

For those who have forgotten, below is a quick schematic of what a WMP looks like:

And as we previously noted,

…borrowers are facing rising pressures for loan repayments in an environment of overcapacity and unprofitable investments. Unable to generate cash to service their loans, they have to turn to the shadow-banking sector for credit and avoid default. The result is an explosive growth of the size of the shadow-banking sector (now conservatively estimated to account for 20-30 percent of GDP).

Understandably, the PBOC does not look upon the shadow banking sector favorably. Since shadow-banking sector gets its short-term liquidity mainly through interbanking loans, the PBOC thought that it could put a painful squeeze on this sector through reducing liquidity. Apparently, the PBOC underestimated the effects of its measure. Largely because Chinese borrowers tend to cross-guarantee each other’s debt, squeezing even a relatively small number of borrowers could produce a cascade of default. The reaction in the credit market was thus almost instant and frightening. Borrowers facing imminent default are willing to borrow at any rate while banks with money are unwilling to loan it out no matter how attractive the terms are.

Should this situation continue, China’s real economy would suffer a nasty shock. Chain default would produce a paralyzing effect on economic activities even though there is no run on the banks. Clearly, this is not a prospect the CCP’s top leadership relishes.

So the PBOC’s efforts are merely exacerbating the situation for the worst companies… and as BofAML notes below, this is a major problem…

The 3bn CNY Beast Knocking
via BofAML’s Bin Gao

CNY stands for the currency, and also a beast

CNY represents China’s official currency. It also stands for Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday for the country and the occasion for family reunions and celebration. But less familiar for many, however, the Year (?) itself actually stood for a beast which comes out every 365 days and eats everything along the way from bugs to humans. The holiday tradition started as a way for people to fend off the beast by getting together and lighting up the firecrackers.

At the same time, custom dictated that people also to paid their due to avoid becoming the beast’s target. In particular, it has been a tradition to settle all debt before the New Year. From the perspective of such folk culture, the trust product Credit Equals Gold #1, referred as CEQ1 hereafter, by China Credit Trust planned poorly for having the maturing date on the New Year, leaving a 3bn CNY beast running wild.

High probability for the trust product to default

Though the term default is used quite frequently, there are actually confusions on what constitutes a default in this case when talking to investors and especially onshore investment professionals. To simplify the issue, we define a default as failing to pay the promised contractual amount on time.

The product, CEQ1, is straightforward. It is CNY3.03bn financing with senior tranches of CNY3bn and junior tranche of CNY30mn. In principle, the senior tranches are also equity investment, but the junior tranche holder pledged assets for repurchasing senior investment at a premium. The promised rate was indexed to PBoC’s deposit rate with a floor for three classes of senior tranches at 9.5%, 10% and 11%, paid annually (detailed structure is illustrated below).

In a sense, the product is in technical default already. The last coupon payment in December, with nearly all the money (CNY80mn) left in the trust account, came in at only 2.7%, falling far short of the promised yield. The bigger trouble is the CNY3bn principal payment, along with the delinquent coupon, on 31 January.

We see high probability of default on 31 January

Political or economic consideration: ultimately, given the government’s strong grip on financial institutions, default may be a political decision as much as an economic decision. From that perspective, CEQ1 would be a good candidate for default. The minimum investment in CEQ1 is CNY3mn, much more than the typical amount required for other trust investment and 75 times of per capita GDP in China. If defaults were to be used to send a warning signal to shadow banking investors, this group of rich investors may have been a good target because the government does not need to worry too much of them demonstrating in front of government offices.

Timing: there is never a good timing for deleverage because of risks involved. But the current job market situation provides a solid buffer should defaults and subsequent credit contraction slow down the economy growth. The government planned 9mn jobs last year; instead it has created more than 12mn by November. So the system could withstand a potential shock.

Financial capability: China Credit Trust has a bit over CNY10bn net assets, which some analysts cite as evidence of the trust company’s capability to fully redeem the product first and recover from the collateral asset later. However, the assets might not be liquid enough, so the net asset is not the best measure. Based on its 2012 annual report, the company has liquid asset of CNY3bn and short-term liability of CNY1.35bn, leaving liquid accessible fund of CNY1.65bn at most. ICBC for certain has much deeper pocket, but it has declared that it won’t be taking major responsibility.

Career concern: To certain extent, the timing was unfavorable for another reason, the ongoing anti-corruption campaign. It is reported that there are around 700 investors involved. On CNY3bn senior tranche investment, it averages CNY4.3mn per investor. We do not know the exact identity but with CNY3mn entry point, we know no one is a small-scale investor. Legally unjustified, if either China Credit Trust or ICBC decided to pay 100% with their capital, the decision maker would have to ensure that he does not have any business deals with any of the 700. Because if he does, his career or even his freedom could be in jeopardy in the current environment of ongoing anti-corruption campaign and strict scrutiny of shady deals/personal favors.

Questionable asset quality and uncertain contingent claim: There are cases in the past of near default, but most of them involved collateral of real estate assets, which have at least appreciated over the years. The appreciation of collateral assets makes it easier for the third party to step in by paying back investors and taking over the collateral assets. This particular product involves coal-mining assets whose value has been decreasing over the last couple of years. Moreover, there have been multiple claimants on these assets, as exemplified by the sale of Yangjiagu coal mine. Although the mine was 51% pledged through two levels of ownership structure, only 20% of the sales proceed accrued to trust investors (Exhibit 1 above). Such a low percentage would be a deterrence and concern to whoever contemplating a takeover of the collateral assets.

Other cases less relevant: In the past, one way to deal with the issue was for banks to lend to shareholders of the existing collateral asset owners for them to payback investors, with explicit or implicit local government guarantees. Shangdong Hailong’s potential default on bond was avoided this way last year. However, in the current case, the owner has been arrested for illegal fund raising, making the past precedence less applicable.

Putting all the above reasons together, we think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and backcoupon on the day.

Immediate impact would be for China rates curve to flatten

The case has been widely covered in the media. However, many still believe one way or the other the involved parties will find a last minute solution to fully redeem the maturing debt. So if the trust is not paid, we believe it will be a big shock to the market.

China rates market reaction, however, might not be straightforward. On the one hand, default would likely lead to risk-averse behavior, arguing for lower rates. On the other hand, market players would likely hoard cash in such an event, leading to tighter liquidity condition and pushing money rates higher.

We think that both movements are likely to ensue initially, meaning higher repo/SHIBOR rates and lower CGB yield if default were to realize. We suggest positioning likewise by paying 1y IRS and long 5y CGB. On the swap curve itself, we think the immediate reflection will be a bear flattening move.

Interestingly, an informal survey conducted on WeChat among finance professionals suggests the same kind of repo rate reaction (Chart 1). We think this survey is important because we believe these investment professionals will likely behave accordingly because the default event is not priced in and hard to hedge a priori.

Trust company can’t have their cake and eat it too

Of course, we can’t rule out that the involved parties do find a solution to avoid default. However, with a case as clear cut to us as this one favoring default, we believe such outcome would send a strong signal to investors that the best investment is to buy the worst credit.

Thus, we believe the near term market reaction with no default would be for the AA credit to shine brightly since this segment has been under pressure for quite some time. Trust investment would be met with enthusiasm and trust assets would likely expand further.

However, we see a fundamental problem in the industry; the leverage ratio has gone to a level which requires investors and trust companies to answer some serious questions: will trust company stand back behind every trust investment or will trust company have to default on some or potentially many of them? We believe the question needs an answer because the trust companies can’t have their cake and eat it too.

For the industry, the AUM/equity ratio has nearly doubled from 23 to 43 in less than three years during the period of 4Q2010 to 3Q2013 (Chart 2). Some in the industry has argued that one should only count the collective trusts since other trusts are originated by non-trust players like banks. Thus, trust companies have no responsibility for paying investors other than collective trusts.

We see two problems.

Even if we accept the trust companies’ argument, it is still questionable whether trust companies would be able to pay even a reasonable amount of default. The growth of leverage on collective trusts was much more aggressive. Collective trust AUM/equity ratio was 2.7 in 1Q2010 and 4.7 in 4Q2010 (Chart 2). It rose to 10 by 3Q2013, more than doubled in less than three years and more than tripled in less than four years. Along the way, the average provision has dropped from 84bp to 34bp when measured against collective AUM.

As the case of CEQ1 illustrates, as long as full redemption is on the table, no involved party could walk away totally clean. CEQ1 is a case of collective trust, but the ICBC still faces the pressure to pay. If the bank is being pressured to pay in the case of collective trust default, trust companies will likely be pressured to pay as well should some non-collective trusts get into trouble. If trust companies are on the line for the total AUM, their financial condition is even shakier, with average provision covering barely 7bp of total AUM as of 3Q2013.

On longer term market trend

Based on the analysis in the above section, we see a possibility for trust companies to have to let some trust products default with such high leverage and so few provisions. This is especially likely the case given that there will be more and more trust redemption this year and next year as a result of the fast expansion of this industry over the last couple of years and short duration of such products.

The heaviest redemption in collective trusts this year will arrive in the 2Q (Chart 3). Given that the financial system is stretched thin and there were more cases of near defaults on smaller amount of redemption last year (three cases in December alone), we believe some form of default is almost inevitable in the near term.

The potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 31 JANUARY, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event. Over the last year, China appeared to be mirroring what happened in the US during 2007, the spike of money rate (much higher repo/SHIBOR), the steepening of money curve (14d money much more expensive than overnight and 7d), and small accidents here and there (junior tranches of a few wealth management products offered by Haitong Securities losing more than 60%, a few small trusts and now CEQ1’s redemption difficulty).

Theoretically, China’s risk is best expressed using a China related instrument, but we also think the more liquid expression of China goes through the south pacific. The following points list our longer views on China and Australia rates.

  • We have liked using Australia rates lower as a way to express our China concern and we continue recommending doing so as a theme.
  • We recommend long CGB and underweight credit product. The risk for such positioning in the near term is no CEQ1 default. But we believe any pain suffered due to overt market manipulation to avoid default will be short lived since it has become much harder to keep the debt-heavy system in balance and the credit spread is bound to widen.
  • After a brief flattening on CEQ1 default, we see swap curve steepening as being more likely on more default threatening growth leading to easy monetary policy and more issuance going to the bond market.
  • We look for higher CCS rates due to the fact that the currency forward will more likely start expressing the risk.

As Michael PettisJim ChanosZero Hedge (numerous times),  George SorosBarclays, and now BofAML have explained… Simply put –

“There is an unresolved self-contradiction in China’s current policies: restarting the furnaces also reignites exponential debt growth, which cannot be sustained for much longer than a couple of years.”

The “eerie resemblances” – as Soros previously noted – to the US in 2008 have profound consequences for China and the world – nowhere is that more dangerously exposed (just as in the US) than in the Chinese shadow banking sector.

The 9 Key Considerations To Protect Deposits From Bail-Ins

The 9 Key Considerations To Protect Deposits From Bail-Ins.

The 9 Key Considerations To Protect Deposits From Bail-Ins

Published in Market Update  Precious Metals  on 13 December 2013

By Mark O’Byrne

Today’s AM fix was USD 1,222.75, EUR 891.22 and GBP 750.89 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,243.50, EUR 902.79 and GBP 758.51 per ounce.

Gold fell $26.40 or 2.11% yesterday, closing at $1,226.50/oz. Silver slid $0.79 or 3.89% closing at $19.52/oz.  Platinum dropped $19.01, or 1.4%, to $1,360.74/oz and palladium fell $20 or 2.7%, to $715.25/oz.

Gold has spiked higher in late morning trade in London and is 0.6% higher on the day and 0.35% higher for the week. A higher weekly close this week will be positive from a technical perspective.


What Should Depositors Do To Protect Against Bail-In? 9 Key Considerations

Gold saw a sharp move lower by over 2% yesterday, despite little market moving data or news and other assets seeing less price movement. The price fall could have been due to heightened speculation of a Fed taper as soon as next week. However, if that was the case, one would have expected stocks to have seen similar price falls. Rather stocks were only marginally lower and remain near record highs.


Gold in U.S. Dollars, 10 Day – (Bloomberg)

Peculiar gold price falls have been common in recent weeks and months and have contributed to the 25% price fall we have seen this year.
Therefore, those who have diversified into gold in order to protect their wealth will welcome the move by the German financial regulator Bafin to widen their investigation into manipulation by banks of benchmark gold and silver prices.

The FT reports on the front page today that German banking regulator Bafin has demanded documents from Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, as part of a probe into suspected manipulation the gold and silver markets by banks.


Gold Prices / Fixes / Rates / Volumes – (Bloomberg)

Currently, gold fixing happens twice a day by teleconference with five banks: Deutsche Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia-ScotiaMocatta, Barclays Bank Plc, HSBC Bank USA, NA and Société Générale. The fixings are used to determine prices globally. Deutsche Bank is also one of three banks that take part in the equivalent process for silver.

The German regulator has been interrogating the bank’s staff over the past several months. Since November, when the probe was first mentioned similar audits in the U.S. and UK are also commencing.

Premiums in China and India remained robust overnight and way over western premiums. Gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange closed at $1,258.38 at 0700 GMT – a premium of $29.18 per ounce over spot.

Bullion premiums in western markets have seen little movement again this week. One ounce gold bars are trading at $1,276.44/oz or premiums of between 3.75% and 4.5%, and larger 1 kilo  gold bars  are trading at $40,832/oz or premiums of between 3% and 3.5%.

Indian demand declined yesterday but remains robust as dealers were not able to source gold.

Premiums remained steady at $120 per ounce over London prices. Last week, Indian premiums hit a record high of $160/oz. Imports into India have dropped off sharply this year after the Indian government raised the import duty to 10% earlier this year and tied imports volumes to exports, in a bid to curb a rising trade gap and the rush to gold by Indians concerned about the continuing devaluation of their rupee.

If the Fed defer a taper, we should see gold bounce from oversold levels which could help it test $1,300/oz again.

We do not believe the Fed will ‘taper’ next week as the U.S. economy remains very fragile and any reduction on bond purchases could lead to turbulence in financial markets, a rise in bond yields and affect the wider economy.

But if the Fed does reduce its massive bond buying programme marginally next week, gold will likely fall to test strong support at $1,200/oz again.

Gold looks likely to bounce back next year and the positive drivers for gold are strong store of wealth physical demand, particularly in China, due to macroeconomic, systemic and monetary risk.

The eurozone debt crisis is far from resolved and sovereign debt issues in Japan, the UK and the U.S. will likely rear their ugly heads again leading to safe haven demand for gold.


U.S. Treasury Amount of Outstanding Debt – Price/Billion – (Bloomberg)

We pointed out yesterday why it is important to remember that the Federal Reserve is printing nearly $20 billion every single week. The U.S. National Debt is now over $17.2 trillion and continuing to rise and the U.S. has unfunded liabilities (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) of between $100 trillion and $200 trillion.

Staggering numbers which suggest alas that the U.S. politicians are rearranging chairs on the titanic.

What Should Depositors Do To Protect Against Bail-In?
Depositors in G20 or FSB regulated countries should examine the financial health of their existing bank or banks.

Some issues to watch would include institutions with legacy issues such as a high level of non-performing loans, a possible need for recapitalisation and low credit ratings. These banks should be avoided, as they have a higher chance of needing restructuring and hence a higher chance of a bail-in.

Deposits are insured for up to €100,000, £85,000 and $100,000 per person, per account in the EU, the UK and the U.S. respectively. Although there is no guarantee that an insolvent government will be able to fund its deposit insurance scheme, it is uninsured deposits which are more at risk of a bail-in.

Therefore, it would be prudent for depositors not to hold bank deposits in excess of these figures in any one financial institution since –
a) they are not insured, and
b) deposits in excess of those arbitrary figures are more likely to be bailed in

There is an assumption that in the event of bail-in, only bank deposits of over these arbitrary figures would be vulnerable. However, there is no guarantee that this would be the case. Should a government be under severe financial pressure, it may opt to only protect deposits over a lower amount (e.g. €50,000, £50,000, $50,000).

Since capital controls have already been imposed on one Eurozone country, Cyprus, it seems quite likely that they will be imposed in other countries in the event of new banking crises or a new global systemic crisis.

Cypriot authorities imposed restrictions on bank money transfers and withdrawals, including a daily cash withdrawal limit of €300 per day. Many banks had to restrict withdrawals to €100 per customer per day in order to prevent them running out of euros. Electronic wire transfers were suspended for a number of days, prior to being allowed but with a low maximum daily limit.

Therefore, having some of one’s savings outside of the banking system makes sense. It should be held in a form that is highly liquid, such as gold, and can be converted back into cash in the event of cash withdrawal restrictions. Cypriots who owned gold were less affected by the deposit confiscation or ‘haircut’ as they could sell their gold in order to get much needed euros.

In the coming years, the role of gold in an investment portfolio will become more important due to its academically and historically proven safe haven qualities. Now, with the risk of bail-ins, savers and corporate treasurers should consider diversifying their savings portfolio and allocate 5% to 10% of the overall savings portfolio to gold.

However, it will not be enough to simply allocate funds to some form of gold investment. In the same way that certain banks are more risky than others, so too are many forms of gold speculation and investment more risky than others.

It is vitally important that those tasked with diversifying deposits do not jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

An allocation to actual physical gold owned with the safest counterparties in the world will help depositors hedge the not insignificant risk of keeping money on deposit in many banks today.

It is important that one owns physical gold and not paper gold which could be subject to bail-ins.

Physical gold, held in allocated accounts conferring outright legal ownership through bailment
remains the safest way to own gold. Many gold investment vehicles result in the buyers having very significant, unappreciated exposure and very high counterparty risk.

Owning a form of paper gold and derivative gold such as an exchange traded fund (ETF) in which one is an unsecured creditor of a large number of custodians, who are banks which potentially could be bailed in, defeats the purpose of owning gold.

Potentially, many forms of gold investment themselves could be bailed in and the FSB’s inclusion of Financial Market Infrastructures in potential bail-ins including “central counterparties, insurers, and the client assets held by prime brokers, custodians and others” underlines the importance of owning unencumbered assets that are owned directly.

Extensive research shows that owning gold in an investment portfolio enhances returns and reduces the entire portfolio’s volatility over the long term. In the coming years, a diversified savings portfolio with an allocation to gold, will reduce counterparty risk and compensate for very low yields.

The wise old Wall Street adage to always keep 10% of one’s wealth in gold served investors well in recent years. It will serve those attempting to safeguard deposits very well in the coming years.

In general, people should avoid holding euros or other cash outside of their bank accounts, however there is now a case to be made that holding a small amount of cash outside of vulnerable banks would be prudent. Just enough cash to provide for you and your family’s needs for a few weeks.

However, this should never be done unless the cash is held in a very secure way, such as a well hidden safe or safety deposit box. It would be safer not to keep assets in a safety deposit box in a bank.

Overall, diversification of deposits now has to be considered.

This means diversification across financial institutions and across countries or jurisdictions globally.

Safest Banks
Financial institutions should be chosen on the basis of the strength of the institution. Jurisdictions should be chosen on the basis of political and economic stability. A culture and tradition of respecting private property and property rights is also pertinent.

While depositors need to do their own due diligence in which banks globally they may wish to open a bank account, Table 1 (see From Bail-Outs to Bail-Ins: Risks and Ramifications)  illustrates that there are numerous banks globally which are still perceived to be financially strong. The banks in table 1 have been ranked by taking the average long term issuer credit rating applied to the bank by the main global credit rating companies, Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.

A credit rating is an assessment of the solvency or creditworthiness of debtors or bond issuers according to established credit review procedures. These ratings and associated research help investors analyse the credit risks associated with fixed income securities by providing detailed information of the ability of issuers to meet their obligations. A rating is continuously monitored. It enables investors and savers to measure their investment risk.

Long term credit ratings of the major agencies take into account factors such as financial fundamentals, operating environment, regulatory environment, corporate governance, franchise value of the business, and risk management, as well as the potential financial support available to the bank from a parent group, or a local or national government.

While credit ratings express an opinion on a bank’s vulnerability of defaulting, they don’t quantify the probability of default. However, credit ratings are still widely used and are one of the most commonly used ways of ranking the relative financial strength of banks.

The credit rating reflects the credit risk or general paying ability of the issuer, and so reflects the solvency or creditworthiness of the issuer from the point of view of investors who, along with depositors, are the main creditors of the bank. Certain countries host more financially strong banks than others as can be graphically seen in the table.

Notice that many of the safest banks in the world are in Switzerland and Germany.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that despite the Eurozone debt crisis, many of the safest banks in the
world are in the EU or wider Europe. These include banks in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France – despite many French banks being very vulnerable as is the French sovereign.

Outside of Europe, Singapore has some very strong banks, as does Norway, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

There are only a few UK and U.S. banks on the list of global top banks that should give pause for thought.

There are a number of institutions in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Chile, Japan and some Middle Eastern countries. As of yet, banks in the large emerging markets have not made their mark but we would expect banks in China, Russia, Brazil and in India to begin moving up the table in the coming years. The sounder sovereign position and lack of public and private debt in these countries will help in this regard.

There are no banks from problem European economies on the list for good reason. Their banks do not have high enough credit ratings. In fact, banks from Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland consistently had relatively low long term ratings from the ratings agencies. In terms of ratings, they rank nowhere near the top 20 banks in the world and most are ranked between 200 and 400.

Besides considering the relative safety of different banks, with interest rates so low on bank deposits and increasing taxes on interest earned on deposits leading to negative real interest rates – depositors are not being rewarded with adequate yields to compensate for the risk to which they are exposed.

Thus, as is often the case, savers need to consider alternatives to protect their wealth

Without a clearly thought out plan, many will be prey for the financial services sales machine and brokers and their array of more risky investment and savings products – including so called “capital guaranteed” products – many of which are high risk due to significant and unappreciated counterparty risk.

It is vitally important that investors have independent custodians and trustees. This greatly reduces counterparty risk should a broker, financial adviser, insurance company or other financial institution become insolvent.

9 Key Considerations
Depositors internationally should examine the financial health of their existing bank or banks. Overall, diversification of deposits now has to be considered. However, it is vitally important that those tasked with diversifying deposits do not jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. This means diversification across financial institutions and across countries or jurisdictions globally.

Financial institutions should be chosen on the basis of the strength of the institution. Jurisdictions should be chosen on the basis of political and economic stability. A culture and tradition of respecting private property and property rights is also important.

1. Diversify savings across banks and in different countries

2. Consider counterparty risk and the health of the deposit-taking bank

3. Attempt to own assets outright and reduce risk to custodians and trustees

4. Own physical gold in allocated accounts with outright legal ownership

5. Avoid investments where there is significant counterparty risk, such as exchange traded
funds and many structured products

6. Avoid banks with large derivative books and large mortgage books

7. Monitor banks’ and institutions’ financial stability

8. Monitor deposit and savings accounts’ terms and conditions

9. Monitor government policy pertaining to banks and bank deposits

Download Protecting your Savings In The Coming Bail-In Era (11 pages)

Download From Bail-Outs to Bail-Ins: Risks and Ramifications –  Includes 60 Safest Banks In World  (51 pages)

 

 

How Gold Price Is Manipulated During The “London Fix” | Zero Hedge

How Gold Price Is Manipulated During The “London Fix” | Zero Hedge.

There was a time when the merest mention of gold manipulation in “reputable” media was enough to have one branded a perpetual conspiracy theorist with a tinfoil farm out back. That was roughly coincident with a time when Libor, FX, mortgage, and bond market manipulation was also considered unthinkable, when High Frequency Traders were believed to “provide liquidity”, or when the stock market was said to not be manipulated by the Fed, and when the ever-confused media, always eager to take “complicated” financial concepts at the face value set by a self-serving establishment, never dared to question anything. Luckily, all that changed in the past several years, and it has gotten to the point where even the bastions of “serious”, if 3-5 years delayed, investigation are finally not only asking how is the gold market being manipulated, but are actually providing answers.

Such as Bloomberg.

The topic of gold market manipulation during the London AM fix is not new to Zero Hedge: in fact we have discussedboth the historical basis and the raison d’etre of the London gold fix, as well as the curious arbitrage available to those who merely traded the AM-PM spread, for years. Which is why we are delighted that none other than Bloomberg has decided to break it down for everyone, as well as summarize all the ways in which just this one facet of gold trading is being manipulated.

Bloomberg begins:

Every business day in London, five banks meet to set the price of gold in a ritual that dates back to 1919. Now, dealers and economists say knowledge gleaned on those calls could give some traders an unfair advantage when buying and selling the precious metal. The London fix, the benchmark rate used by mining companies, jewelers and central banks to buy, sell and value the metal, is published twice daily after a telephone call involving Barclays Plc, Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC Holdings Plc and Societe Generale SA.

 

The fix dates back to September 1919, less than a year after the end of World War I, when representatives from five dealers met at Rothschild’s office on St. Swithin’s Lane in London’s financial district. It was suspended for 15 years, starting in 1939. While Rothschild pulled out in 2004 and the discussions now take place by telephone instead of in a wood-paneled room at the bank, the process remains much the same.

That much is known. What is certainly known is that any process that involves five banks sitting down (until recently literally) and exchanging information using arcane methods (such as a telephone), on a set schedule that involves a private information blackout phase, even if temporary, and that does not involve instant market feedback, can and will be gamed. “Traders involved in this price-determining process have knowledge which, even for a short time, is superior to other people’s knowledge,” said Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Frankfurt-based precious-metals broker Degussa Goldhandel GmbH and a former economist at Barclays. “That is the great flaw of the London gold-fixing.”

There are other flaws.

Participants on the London call can tell whether the price of gold is rising or falling within a minute or so, based on whether there are a large number of net buyers or sellers after the first round, according to gold traders, academics and investors interviewed by Bloomberg News. It’s this feature that could allow dealers and others in receipt of the information to bet on the direction of the market with a high degree of certainty minutes before the fix is made public, they said.

Yes, the broader momentum creation and ignition perspective is also known to most. At least most who never believed the boilerplate that unlike all other asset classes, gold is somehow immune from manipulation.

“Information trickles down from the five banks, through to their clients and finally to the broader market,” Andrew Caminschi, a lecturer at the University of Western Australia in Perth and co-author of a Sept. 2 paper on trading spikes around the London gold fix published online in the Journal of Futures Markets, said by phone. “In a world where trading advantage is measured in milliseconds, that has some value.”

Ah, hypothetical – smart. One mustn’t ruffle feathers before, like in the case of Libor, it becomes fact that everyone was in on it.

There’s no evidence that gold dealers sought to manipulate the London fix or worked together to rig prices, as traders did with Libor. Even so, economists and academics say the way the benchmark is set is outdated, vulnerable to abuse and lacking any direct regulatory oversight. “This is one of the most concerning fixings I have seen,” said Rosa Abrantes-Metz, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business whose 2008 paper, “Libor Manipulation?” helped spark a global probe. “It’s controlled by a handful of firms with a direct financial interest in where it’s set, and there is virtually no oversight — and it’s based on information exchanged among them during undisclosed calls.”

Unless we are wrong, there was no evidence of Libor manipulative collusion before there was evidence either. And since the cabal of the London gold fix is far smaller than the member banks of Libor, it is exponentially easier to confine intent within an even smaller group of people. But all that is also known to most.

As is the fact that when asked for comments, ‘spokesmen for Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Societe Generale declined to comment about the London fix or the regulatory probes, as did Chris Hamilton, a spokesman for the FCA, and Steve Adamske at the CFTC. Joe Konecny, a spokesman for Bank of Nova Scotia, wrote in an e-mail that the Toronto-based company has “a deeply rooted compliance culture and a drive to continually look toward ways to improve our existing processes and practices.”

Next, Bloomberg conveniently goes into the specifics of just how the gold price is manipulated first by the fixing banks, then by their “friends and neighbors” as news of the fixing process unfolds.

At the start of the call, the designated chairman — the job rotates annually among the five banks — gives a figure close to the current spot price in dollars for an ounce of gold. The firms then declare how many bars of the metal they wish to buy or sell at that price, based on orders from clients as well as their own account.

 

If there are more buyers than sellers, the starting price is raised and the process begins again. The talks continue until the buy and sell amounts are within 50 bars, or about 620 kilograms, of each other. The procedure is carried out twice a day, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in London. Prices are set in dollars, pounds and euros. Similar gauges exist for silver, platinum and palladium.

 

The traders relay shifts in supply and demand to clients during the calls and take fresh orders to buy or sell as the price changes, according to the website of London Gold Market Fixing, which publishes the results of the fix.

.. only this time the manipulation is no longer confined to a purely theoretical plane and instead empirical evidence of the fixing leak is presented based on academic research:

Caminschi and Richard Heaney, a professor of accounting and finance at the University of Western Australia, analyzed two of the most widely traded gold derivatives: gold futures on Comex and State Street Corp.’s SPDR Gold Trust, the largest bullion-backed exchange-traded product, from 2007 through 2012.

 

At 3:01 p.m., after the start of the call, trading surged to 47.8 percent above the average for the 20-minute period preceding the start of the fix and remained 20 percent higher for the next six minutes, Caminschi and Heaney found. By comparison, trading was 8.7 percent higher than the average a minute after publication of the price. The results showed a similar pattern for the SPDR Gold Trust.

 

“Intuitively, we expect volumes to spike following the introduction of information to the market” when the final result is published, Caminschi and Heaney wrote in “Fixing a Leaky Fixing: Short-Term Market Reactions to the London P.M. Gold Price Fixing.” “What we observe in our analysis is a clustering of trades immediately following the fixing start.”

 

The researchers also assessed how accurate movements in gold derivatives were in predicting the final fix. Between 2:59 p.m. and 3 p.m., the direction of futures contracts matched the direction of the fix about half the time.

 

From 3:01 p.m., the success rate jumped to 69.9 percent, and within five minutes it had climbed to 80 percent, Caminschi and Heaney wrote. On days when the gold price per ounce moved by more than $3, gold futures successfully predicted the outcome in more than nine out of 10 occasions. “Not only are the trades quite accurate in predicting the fixing direction, the more money that is made by way of a larger price change, the more accurate the trade becomes,” Caminschi and Heaney wrote. “This is highly suggestive of information leaking from the fixing to these public markets.”

Oh please, 9 out of 10 times is hardly indicative of any wrongdoing. After all, JPM lost money on, well, zero trading days in all of 2013, and nobody cares. So if a coin landing heads about 200 times in a row is considered normal by regulators, then surely the CTFC will find nothing wrong with a little gold manipulation here and there. Manipulation, which it itself previously said did not exist. But everyone already knew that too.

Cynicism aside, to claim that this clearly gamed process is not in fact gamed, not to say criminally manipulated (because it is never manipulation unless one is caught in the act by enforcers who are actually not in on the scheme) is the height of idiocy. Which is why we are certain that regulators will go precisely this route. That too is also largely known. Also known are the benefits for traders who abuse the London fix:

For derivatives traders, the benefits are clear: A dealer who bought 500 gold futures contracts at 3 p.m. and knew the fix was going higher could make $200,000 for his firm if the price moved by $4, the average move in the sample. While the value of 500 contracts totals about $60 million, traders may buy on margin, a process that involves borrowing and requires placing less capital for the bet. On a typical day, about 4,500 futures contracts are traded between 3 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., according to Caminschi and Heaney.

Finally what is certainly known is that the “London fixing” fix would be very simple in our day and age of ultramodern technology, and require a few minutes of actual implementation.

Abrantes-Metz, who helped Iosco formulate its guidelines, said the gold fix’s shortcomings may stretch beyond giving firms and clients access to privileged information. “There is a huge incentive for these banks to try and influence where the benchmark is set depending on their trading positions, and there is almost no scrutiny,” she said.

 

Abrantes-Metz said the gold fix should be replaced with a benchmark calculated by taking a snapshot of trading in a market where $19.6 trillion of the precious metal circulated last year, according to CPM Group, a New York-based research company. “There’s no reason why data cannot be collected from actual prices of spot gold based on floor or electronic trading,” she said. “There’s more than enough data.”

Which is precisely why nothing will change. Sadly, that is also widely known.

So did Bloomberg put together an exhaustive article in which virtually everything was known a priori? it turns out the answer is no: we learned one thing.

London Gold Market Fixing Ltd., a company controlled by the five banks that administers the benchmark, has no permanent employees.A call from Bloomberg News was referred to Douglas Beadle, 68, a former Rothschild banker, who acts as a consultant to the company from his home in Caterham, a small commuter town 45 minutes south of London by train. Beadle declined to comment on the benchmark-setting process.

You learn something new every day (incidentally, the same Douglas Beadle who acted as a consultant to the LBMA until March 2010 and was involved from the outset in the project to find a suitable scale for the electronic weighing of gold as documented in “Electronic Weighing of Gold – A Success Story“).

 

How Should People of Faith – Or Atheists Who Want to Talk With Them – Think of Bank Crime? | Zero Hedge

How Should People of Faith – Or Atheists Who Want to Talk With Them – Think of Bank Crime? | Zero Hedge. (FULL ARTICLE)

What Would Jesus – Or the Rabbis of Old – Do?

Preface: If you are an atheist and believe that religion is crazy, please remember that some 85% of the American population identifies itself as Christian and millions more identify themselves as Jewish.  Very few Americans are atheists.  (And the majority don’t trust atheists.) Therefore, knowing a few bible verses may be essential for atheists to be able to speak to people of faith.

The head of Goldman Sachs said he’s doing “God’s work” withhis banking activities.   The head of Barclays also told his congregation that banking as practiced by his company was not antithetical to Christian principles.

Are they right? Is big banking as practiced by the giant banks in harmony with Christian or traditional Jewish principles?…

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