Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister, has met hedge fund and private equity executives to raise donations for his leadership campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Johnson, who on Tuesday reaffirmed his determination to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct 31, is seeking to build up a war chest for his campaign and rebuild ties with executives, which were strained last year by his expletive four-letter-word attack on business.
Johnson, 55, held a breakfast meeting on June 18 with potential donors at 5 Hertford Street, a private members’ club in London’s wealthy Mayfair district, the sources said. The club has a strict dress code which requires men to wear a jacket, except on the dance floor after 23:00.
Johnson’s spokesman did not respond to request for comment, and 5 Hertford Street declined to comment.
Johnson, a former mayor of London who during the leadership campaign has called for tax cuts for higher-earning Britons, has benefited in the past from financiers’ donations.
The largest single donation to his campaign during this parliament has come from the hedge fund manager Jon Wood, the founder of SRM Global Fund, who has donated £75,000, the register of lawmakers’ financial interests shows.
Wood could not be reached for comment.
Johan Christofferson, co-founder of U.S. hedge fund Christofferson Robb, has donated £36,000 to the Johnson campaign, the register shows.
The register is updated every two weeks. Current entries run until June 17 so it was not yet clear whether further donations had been made following the June 18 meeting.
“I DEFENDED BANKERS”
Johnson and his leadership rival, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, must each raise £150,000 for their campaigns, under the rules of their governing Conservative Party. The funds help cover campaign costs, including travel to the 16 debates nationwide they are due to attend.
The Conservative Party’s approximate 160,000 paid-up members will choose between the two men, with the result due on July 23. The new party leader automatically becomes prime minister.
Johnson has earned more than £700,000 during this parliamentary sitting – since the 2017 national election – from speaking engagements, publishing and journalism, the parliamentary register shows.
The June 18 meeting in Mayfair followed another breakfast earlier on the same day with company executives.
Johnson held that breakfast at Somerset House, a neo-classical building overlooking the Thames, according to two sources briefed on the talks.
One of those sources said the executives attended because they expect Johnson to become the next prime minister.
Johnson’s record as mayor of London, when he championed financial services, has been clouded by his reported dismissal of companies’ concerns last year about leaving the EU with the comment “fuck business”.
At the weekend, Johnson confirmed he made the comment, describing it as a stray remark to the Belgian ambassador, but claimed he is Britain’s most pro-business politician.
“I can’t think of any other politician, even Conservative politician, who from the crash of 2008 onwards actually stuck up for the bankers,” he told a Conservative Party hustings.
“Can you think of anybody who stuck up for the bankers as much as I did? I defended them day in, day out, from those who frankly wanted to hang them from the nearest lamppost.”
Business leaders say their relationship with ministers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s were strained because they were initially kept at arm’s length.
Some ministers, including Johnson – who served briefly as foreign minister – also accused companies of issuing exaggerated threats about the damage Brexit would cause to the UK economy.
Remember when it was pure tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory to accuse one or more banks of aggressively, compulsively and systematically manipulating the precious metals – i.e., gold and silver – market? We do, after all we made the claim over and over, while demonstrating clearly just how said manipulation was taking place, often in real time.
Well, it’s always good to be proven correct, even if it is years after the fact.
On Tuesday after the close, the CFTC announced that Merrill Lynch Commodities (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange Inc.). The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. In other words, if the Merrill Lynch Commodities group was an individual, he would have gotten ye olde perp walk.
As MLCI itself admitted, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market.
They did so in the now traditional market manipulation way – by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution. In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so. Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders.
Of course, since we are talking about a bank, and since banks are in charge of not only the DOJ, and virtually every other branch of government, not to mention the Fed, nobody will go to jail and MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a combined – and measly – $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits.
Under the terms of the NPA, MLCI and its parent company, Bank of America, have agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation of individuals and to report to the Department evidence or allegations of violations of the wire fraud statute, securities and commodities fraud statute, and anti-spoofing provision of the Commodity Exchange Act in BAC’s Global Markets’ Commodities Business, whose function is to conduct wholesale, principal trading and sales of commodities. Laughably, MLCI and BAC also agreed to enhance their existing compliance program and internal controls, where necessary and appropriate, to ensure they are designed to detect and deter, among other things, manipulative conduct in BAC’s Global Markets Commodities Business.
Translation: it will be much more difficult to catch them manipulating the market next time.
The Department reached this resolution based on a number of factors, including MLCI’s ongoing cooperation with the United States – which means the DOJ must have had the bank dead to rights with many traders potentially ending up in jail – and MLCI and BAC’s remedial efforts, including conducting training concerning appropriate market conduct and implementing improved transaction monitoring and communication surveillance systems and processes. Translation – no longer boasting about market manipulation on semi-public chatboards.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also announced a separate settlement with MLCI today in connection with related, parallel proceedings. Under the terms of the resolution with the CFTC, MLCI agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $11.5 million, along with other remedial and cooperation obligations in connection with any CFTC investigation pertaining to the underlying conduct.
As part of the investigation, the Department obtained an indictment against Edward Bases and John Pacilio, two former MLCI precious metals traders, in July 2018. Those charges remain pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office. Trial Attorneys Ankush Khardori and Avi Perry of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case. The CFTC also provided assistance in this matter.
Oh, and for anyone asking if they will get some of their money back for having been spoofed and manipulated by Bank of America, and countless other banks, into selling to buying positions that would have eventually made money, the answer is of course not.
(ZH) In news that initially did not receive much prominence, on Monday a US judge found three large Chinese banks — reportedly the state-owned Bank of Communications, China Merchants Bank, and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank — in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas in an investigation into North Korean sanctions violations. This could open the door for them to be cut off from the US financial system, i.e. SWIFT.
“Should it occur, to say that China will not take that well is as large an understatement as one can conceive of. It would be an earthquake”, commented Rabobank’s Michael Every.
The stunning development follows a May district judge order that three Chinese banks comply with U.S. investigators’ demands that they hand over records connected to the alleged movement of tens of millions of dollars in violation of international sanctions on North Korea. The publicly released court document did not name the banks, the Hong Kong company, or the North Korean entity at that time.
As the WaPo adds, according to a 2017 ruling by the US DOJ, the banks were accused of working with a Hong Kong company, which allegedly laundered more than $100 million for North Korea’s sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank. The newspaper said the bank at risk of losing access to U.S. dollars appeared to be Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, whose ownership structure, limited U.S. presence and alleged conduct with other banks matched with the details disclosed in the court rulings.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank doesn’t have U.S. branch operations but maintains accounts in that country to handle dollar transactions, the report said, adding the subpoena battle will go before a federal appeals court in Washington on July 12.
“The ruling means that Attorney General William P. Barr or Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can terminate the bank’s U.S. account and ability to process U.S. dollar transactions,” the Post said.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, asked about the report that it could lose access to the U.S. financial system, said in a statement that it will strictly abide by the relevant laws and regulations. Meanwhile, China Merchants Bank told Reuters on Tuesday it complies with related United Nations resolutions and Chinese laws, and is not involved in any investigations related to possible violations of sanctions.
Bank of Communications, China’s fifth-largest bank, said the case involved U.S. courts seeking to obtain customer information that is stored outside the United States from Chinese commercial banks.
Needless to say, the stock prices of all three Chinese banks – which are listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange – tumbles with shares of China Merchants Bank closed down 4.82%, after being off 8.5% earlier in the day, while Shanghai Pudong Development Bank declined 3.08% and Bank of Communications dropped 3.02%.
Some more details from the original report: The subpoenas targeting thre three banks were issued in December 2017 as part of a U.S. investigation into violations of sanctions targeting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including money laundering and contravention of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, said “We ask our companies and overseas branches to abide by local regulations and laws and operate within the framework of law, and cooperate with the local judicial and law enforcement bodies. At the same time, we are against U.S. so-called long arm jurisdiction on Chinese companies. We hope the U.S. will step up bilateral cooperation on finance with other countries,” Geng said at a daily briefing in Beijing.
Currently, there’s no conclusive information that Chinese banks will be sanctioned, PBOC publication Financial News reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed industry veteran. Chinese banks will not lose their U.S. dollar clearance qualifications, and the market should not over-interpret this, the same person was quoted as saying.
The news that the US may use SWIFT as leverage against China comes just days before the G-20 summit in Japan this weekend, which will be the first meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping since trade talks between the two countries broke off in May. They will discuss issues such as tariffs, subsidies, technology, intellectual property and cyber security, among others.
The U.S. government has put some Chinese firms including telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd on a trade blacklist while China is also drawing up its own “Unreliable Entities List” of foreign firms, groups and individuals.
P.O. … By George! It’s Deutsche Bank again! … FCMP
(NYT) Federal authorities are investigating whether Deutsche Bank complied with laws meant to stop money laundering and other crimes, the latest government examination of potential misconduct at one of the world’s largest and most troubled banks, according to seven people familiar with the inquiry.
The investigation includes a review of Deutsche Bank’s handling of so-called suspicious activity reports that its employees prepared about possibly problematic transactions, including some linked to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, according to people close to the bank and others familiar with the matter.
The criminal investigation into Deutsche Bank is one element of several separate but overlapping government examinations into how illicit funds flow through the American financial system, said five of the people, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the inquiries. Several other banks are also being investigated.
The F.B.I. recently contacted the lawyer for a Deutsche Bank whistle-blower, Tammy McFadden, who publicly criticized the company’s anti-money-laundering systems, according to the lawyer, Brian McCafferty.
Ms. McFadden, a former anti-money-laundering compliance officer at the bank, told The New York Times last month that she had flagged transactions involving Mr. Kushner’s family company in 2016, but that bank managers decided not to file the suspicious activity report she prepared. Some of her colleagues had similar experiences in 2017 involving transactions in the accounts of Mr. Trump’s legal entities, although it was not clear whether the F.B.I. was examining the bank’s handling of those transactions.
The same federal agent who contacted Ms. McFadden’s lawyer also participated in interviews of the son of a deceased Deutsche Bank executive, William S. Broeksmit. Agents told the son, Val Broeksmit, that the Deutsche Bank investigation began with an inquiry into the bank’s work for Russian money launderers and had expanded to cover a broader array of potential misconduct at the bank and at other financial institutions. One element is the banks’ possible roles in a vast money-laundering scandal at the Danish lender Danske Bank, according to people briefed on the investigation.
The broader scope of the investigations and many details of precisely what is under scrutiny are unclear, and it is not known whether the inquiries will result in criminal charges. In addition to the F.B.I., the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section in Washington and the United States attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn are conducting the investigations. Representatives for the agencies declined to comment.
Deutsche Bank has said that it is cooperating with government investigations and that it has been taking steps to improve its anti-money-laundering systems.
Even so, the governmental scrutiny — from regulators, members of Congress and now the Justice Department and F.B.I. — has been a drag on the bank’s stock price, which is hovering near historic lows because of investors’ doubts about its future.
The congressional investigations are focused on Deutsche Bank’s close relationship with Mr. Trump and his family. Over the past two decades, it was the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to do business with Mr. Trump, who had a history of defaulting on loans. The bank lent him a total of more than $2 billion, about $350 million of which was outstanding when he was sworn in as president.
Two House committees have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to Mr. Trump and his family, including records connected to the bank’s handling of potentially suspicious transactions. The president has sued to block Deutsche Bank and Capital One, where he also holds money, from complying with the subpoenas. A federal judge rejected Mr. Trump’s request for an injunction, and the president has appealed that ruling.
The Justice Department has been investigating Deutsche Bank since 2015, when agents were examining its role in laundering billions of dollars for wealthy Russians through a scheme known as mirror trading. Customers would use the bank to convert Russian rubles into dollars and euros via a complicated series of stock trades in Europe and the United States.
In early 2017, federal and state regulators in the United States and British authorities imposed hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties on Deutsche Bank for that misconduct, but prosecutors never brought a criminal case against the bank. That led some senior Deutsche Bank executives to believe they were in the clear, according to people familiar with their thinking.
By last fall, though, federal agents were investigating a wider range of anti-money-laundering lapses and other possible misconduct at the bank.
F.B.I. agents met this year with Val Broeksmit, whose father was a senior Deutsche Bank executive who committed suicide in January 2014. Mr. Broeksmit said he had provided the agents with internal bank documents and other materials that he had retrieved from his father’s personal email accounts.
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Until his death, William Broeksmit sat on the oversight board of a large Deutsche Bank subsidiary in the United States, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, which regulators have criticized for having weak anti-money-laundering systems.
Many of the bank’s anti-money-laundering operations are based in Jacksonville, Fla., where Ms. McFadden was one of hundreds of employees vetting transactions that computer systems flagged as potentially suspicious.Ms. McFadden worked in Deutsche Bank’s offices in Jacksonville, Fla. Current employees there have discussed the possibility of the building’s being raided by federal agents.CreditWillie Jr. Allen for The New York Times
Ms. McFadden told The Times that she had warned in summer 2016 about transactions by the Kushner Companies involving money being sent to Russian individuals. Other Deutsche Bank employees prepared reports in 2017 flagging transactions involving legal entities associated with Mr. Trump, including his now-defunct charitable foundation, according to current and former bank employees. In both instances, the suspicious activity reports were never filed with the Treasury Department.
Deutsche Bank officials have said that the reports were handled appropriately and that it is not uncommon for managers to overrule employees and opt not to file suspicious activity reports with the government.
There is no indication that Kushner Companies is under investigation. The company said any allegations regarding its relationship with Deutsche Bank that involved money laundering were false. A Trump Organization spokeswoman said that she had no knowledge of any Deutsche Bank transactions being flagged.
The federal Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to alert the government if they suspect that transactions involve criminal proceeds or are being used for illegal purposes. Banks can face civil or criminal penalties for failing to file reports about transactions that are found to be illegal. In recent years, banks like JPMorgan Chase and HSBC have incurred such penalties.
Banks argue that when they err on the side of reporting potential problems, they end up flooding the government with false leads.
Former Deutsche Bank employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Times that the company had pushed them to rush their reviews of transactions and that managers sometimes created obstacles that discouraged them from filing suspicious activity reports.
Deutsche Bank has scrambled to toughen its anti-money-laundering procedures.
To address complaints about inadequate staffing, it brought in contractors to supplement its Jacksonville work force, although some employees said that the contractors were inexperienced and lacked the appropriate training.
Deutsche Bank also recently sent letters to hundreds of companies, warning that they could be cut off from the bank’s services if they did not swiftly provide up-to-date information about the sources of their money and the names of their business partners, according to bank employees who saw the letters. Deutsche Bank officials said the letters, first reported by the Financial Times, were part of their efforts to comply with “know your customer” rules, a crucial component of any bank’s anti-money-laundering efforts.
In Jacksonville, Deutsche Bank’s anti-financial-crime staff works in a white, three-story building surrounded by palm trees. The F.B.I. has a field office just down the road, clearly visible from the bank’s campus.
Bank employees recently have taken to joking that when the F.B.I. raids their offices, they will be able to see the agents coming.
(Reuters) Deutsche Bank is planning to overhaul its trading operations by creating a “bad bank” to hold tens of billions of euros of assets and shrinking or shutting its U.S. equity and trading businesses, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
The bad bank would house or sell assets valued at up to 50 billion euros ($56.06 billion)- after adjusting for risk – and comprise mainly long-dated derivatives, the FT reported, citing four people briefed on the plan.
With the creation of the bad bank, Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing is shifting the German lender away from investment banking and focusing on transaction banking and private wealth management, the newspaper said.
As part of the restructuring, the lender’s equity and rates trading units outside continental Europe will be shrunk or closed entirely, the report said.
The bank is planning cuts at its U.S. equities business, including prime brokerage and equity derivatives, to win over shareholders unhappy about its performance, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in May.
“As we said at the AGM on May 23, Deutsche Bank is working on measures to accelerate its transformation so as to improve its sustainable profitability. We will update all stakeholders if and when required,” Deutsche Bank said in an emailed statement on Sunday in response to the FT report.
Sewing could announces announce the changes along with Deutsche Bank’s half-year results in late July, the FT reported.
Somewhere Hugo Chavez, who several years ago successfully repatriated much of Venezuela’s gold, is spinning in his grave.
It started in March, when Venezuela’s embattled leader Nicolas Maduro defaulted on a $1.1 billion gold-backed loan with Citi, in the process losing several tons of gold placed as collateral by Venezuela’s central bank after the deadline for repurchasing them expired. Now, Bloomberg reports that Venezuela has also defaulted on a gold swap agreement valued at $750 million with Deutsche Bank, prompting the German bank to seize the precious metal which was used as collateral, and close out the contract.Maduro and a stack of 12 Kilogram gold ingots.
As part of a financing agreement signed in 2016 which we profiled here, Venezuela received a cash loan from Deutsche Bank and put up 20 tons of gold as collateral. The agreement, which was set to expire in 2021, was settled early due to missed interest payments as Venezuela has now effectively run out of foreign reserves.
It was the second time this year that the Maduro’s regime has failed to make good on financing agreements which have resulted in losses at a time when gold reserves are already at a record low. As we have noted previously, for example in “Venezuela Prepares To Liquidate Its Remaining Gold Holdings To Pay Coming Debt Maturities” Venezuela’s dwindling gold holdings had become one of Maduro’s last remaining sources of cash keeping his regime afloat and his military forces loyal. Before the central bank missed the abovementioned March deadline to buy back gold from Citigroup for nearly $1.1 billion, the Bank of England refused to give back $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold.
Meanwhile, as Bloomberg reports, opposition leader Juan Guaido’s parallel government has asked the bank to deposit $120 million into an account outside President Nicolas Maduro’s reach, which is the difference in price from when the gold was acquired to current levels.
“We’re in touch with Deutsche Bank to negotiate the terms under which the difference owed to the central bank will be paid to the legitimate government of Venezuela,” said Jose Ignacio Hernandez, Guaido’s U.S.-based attorney general. “Deutsche Bank can’t risk negotiating with the central bank’s illegitimate authorities,” particularly after it was sanctioned by the U.S. government, Hernandez said, even though the military has stubbornly refused to go along with the US attempted government coup, leaving the seized gold in limbo.
While insolvent Venezuela, which defaulted on its dollar-denominated bonds in 2017, is becoming increasingly cut off from the global financial network due to sanctions, it still managed to sell $570 million in gold last month, prompting total foreign reserves to tumble to a 29-year low of $7.9 billion.
Meanwhile, Venezuela has not only become a symbol of the destructive influence of socialism and associated hyperinflation, but a case study of how to obliterate the only real hard currency left when everything else is gone: the government managed to blow through more than 40% of Venezuela’s gold reserves last year, selling to firms in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey in a desperate bid to fund government programs and pay creditors.
A DBRS elevou o rating do BCP e da CGD em um nível. A notação do banco liderado por Miguel Maya está agora no nível de investimento de qualidade.
A agência de notação financeira do Canadá subiu as notações financeiras do Banco Comercial Português e da Caixa Geral de Depósitos, que estão agora na categoria de investimento de qualidade, ou seja, fora do território de “lixo”.
O rating dos dois bancos subiu um nível. O do BCP passou de BB (alto) para BBB (baixo), o que já se encontra fora de lixo, sendo que a tendência é “estável”.
A notação da CGD, que já estava em investimento de qualidade, passou de BBB (baixo) para BBB, sendo que a tendência também melhorou de “estável para “positiva”.
O banco do Estado tem agora um rating igual ao atribuído pela DBRS à República Portuguesa (BBB), que se situa dois níveis acima de “lixo”, enquanto a classificação do BCP está um patamar abaixo.
As restantes agências de “rating” continuam a atribuir aos dois maiores bancos portugueses uma notação que se encontra no grau especulativo. A Moody’s tem um rating de Ba1 para o BCP e para a CGD, enquanto a Fitch atribui uma classificação dois níveis abaixo de “lixo” aos dois bancos (BB).
“Esta ação da DBRS reflete a melhoria da rendibilidade, suportada pela melhoria dos resultados em Portugal, a manutenção de elevados níveis de eficiência, a redução do custo do risco e a aceleração da redução” dos Non-Performing Exposures (NPE), que correspondem aos ativos não rentáveis, como o crédito malparado, refere um comunicado do BCP enviado à CMVM.
Na nota onde anuncia a melhoria do rating do BCP, a DBRS diz que a notação financeira continua a refletir “o ainda elevado custo do risco e o ‘stock’ elevado de NPE, que apesar de estar a melhorar, permanece acima dos pares europeus”. A tendência estável deve-se à posição de “funding” estável e rácios de capital “aceitáveis”.
Para uma nova subida de “rating”, será necessário “mais reduções do NPE, bem como um ‘track record’ mais prolongado na geração de lucros” e “maior visibilidade no ‘outlook’ da rentabilidade na Polónia”.
Numa nota enviada ao Negócios, Miguel Maya, CEO do BCP, diz que esta subida de “rating” ao BCP “reflete o esforço continuo e bem-sucedido” do banco “na melhoria da qualidade do balanço e o persistente trabalho realizado para aumentar a eficiência e a rendibilidade do banco”.
Assinala ainda que representa um “reconhecimento importante quer do valor do caminho que definimos no plano estratégico quer da confiança que os profissionais do grupo merecem ao nível da capacidade de entrega dos objetivos que assumimos perante o mercado”.
CGD com base de capital “sólida” Também num comunicado ao regulador, a CGD diz que nesta subida do rating “a DBRS destaca os progressos no aumento da rentabilidade e na melhoria da qualidade dos ativos, através da redução de non-performing loans [NPL], bem como a posição de liderança de mercado da CGD, e a sua sólida base de capital e liquidez”.
Sobre a CGD, a DBRS assinala que o atual rating continua a refletir “o ainda elevado montante de NPL, bem como os desafios para reforçar as receitas, sobretudo na margem financeira”.
If mobile payment apps became as popular in the U.S. as they are in China, banks would lose a projected $43 billion in revenue annually. Bloomberg QuickTake explains how cheap and easy payments by phone are threatening one of the banking industry’s most profitable businesses.
Personally i would love it to happen. We would get rid of two evils: The Vampires of Wall Street and the eternally broke Deutsche Bank. DB problems, particularly the litigation problems,would eat the Vampires of Wall Street’s (Goldman Sachs) capital in no time. As the French would say: Bon debarras! (Good riddance!)
In 1966, Australia switched from pounds to decimal currency. The country’s central bank issued a new range of banknotes with modern safety features – including watermarks, woven metal thread and raised print. But these technologies couldn’t prevent a $900,000 swindle.
Barclays, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, MUFG and Royal Bank of Scotland have been fined a total of 1.07 billion euros ($1.2 billion) by EU antitrust regulators for rigging the spot foreign exchange market for 11 currencies.
Swiss bank UBS was exempted from a 285 million euro fine since it alerted the existence of two cartels to the European Commission.
A similar case with the U.S. regulators is ongoing where Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS have entered related guilty pleas, and been collectively fined more than $2.8 billion.
Citi and HSBC banks dominate the skyline of Canary Wharf, London.
Swiss bank UBS was exempted from a 285 million euro fine since it alerted the existence of two cartels to the European Commission. The financial industry has been hit with billion euro fines worldwide in the last decade for rigging key benchmarks.
“Companies and people depend on banks to exchange money to carry out transactions in foreign countries. Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest markets in the world, worth billions of euros every day,” EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a press release Thursday.
“Today we have fined Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and MUFG Bank and these cartel decisions send a clear message that the Commission will not tolerate collusive behavior in any sector of the financial markets. The behavior of these banks undermined the integrity of the sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers,” Vestager added.
The EU investigation that has been ongoing for the past six years revealed that some individual traders from various banks in charge of forex trading — a form of trading executed on an intra-day basis — exchanged sensitive information and trading plans through various online professional chat rooms.
“The information exchanges…..enabled them to make informed market decisions on whether to sell or buy the currencies they had in their portfolios and when,” the Commission said in its report.
It further stated that most of the traders knew each other on personal basis and logged into multilateral chatrooms on Bloomberg terminals for the whole day, engaging in extensive conversations about a variety of subject, including updates on their trading activities.
Barclays declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from RBS told CNBC the bank is happy to reach a settlement with the regulators.
“Today’s fine is a further reminder of how badly the bank lost its way in the past and we absolutely condemn the behaviour of those responsible. This kind of behaviour has no place at the bank we are today; our culture and controls have changed fundamentally during the past ten years,” the spokesperson said.
A similar case with the U.S. regulators is ongoing where Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS have entered related guilty pleas, and been collectively fined more than $2.8 billion.
U.S. regulators said the foreign exchange rate rigging was allegedly done through chat rooms with such names as “The Cartel,” “The Mafia” and “The Bandits’ Club,” through tactics with such names as “front running,” “banging the close,” “painting the screen” and “taking out the filth.”
Shares of Barclays and RBS were trading lower, but UBS edged a bit higher on the news. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan and Citigroup shares were down slightly in pre-market trading.
FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – UniCredit has stepped up preparations for a potential bid for Germany’s Commerzbank by drafting in investment bankers including a former top German official, three people familiar with the matter said.FILE PHOTO: A sign for an ATM of Commerzbank is seen next to the headquarters of Deutsche Bank (R) in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo
The Italian bank had engaged Lazard and its banker Joerg Asmussen, the former German deputy finance minister, along with JP Morgan for a possible takeover, the sources said, raising the prospect of a deal that could allow UniCredit to pivot away from its struggling domestic market.
UniCredit said in statement responding to the Reuters report that it wanted to clarify that no banking mandate had been signed in relation to any potential market operation.
The bank reiterated that its current business plan is based on organic growth and a new plan will be unveiled on Dec. 3.
Although it is unclear whether and when a bid could be made, UniCredit has long been interested in expanding in Germany, said several sources familiar with management’s thinking. It already owns HVB, a large German lender based in Munich.
But the Italian bank, which has been concentrating on its own turnaround plan, had been waiting on the outcome of merger talks between Commerzbank and its larger Frankfurt neighbor, Deutsche Bank.
Those talks unraveled in recent weeks, placing Commerzbank back on the agenda for UniCredit Chief Executive Jean Pierre Mustier, who will be running the rule over a target worth about 9.3 billion euros ($10.4 billion) compared with UniCredit’s market capitalization of 24.4 billion euros.
Commerzbank shares rose on the news, climbing 4.7% by 1400 GMT, with UniCredit shares down 2.4%.
UniCredit’s advances come as Dutch bank ING Groep has also shown interest in Commerzbank, sources familiar with the matter said. One person with knowledge of those informal talks described them as “intensive”.
Mustier has hired Lazard in the hope that Asmussen can lobby for the deal with finance minister Olaf Scholz. Both have roots in the German Social Democrat Party.
Asmussen, who studied business administration at Milan’s Bocconi University, has previously served on the executive board of the European Central Bank (ECB) and as state secretary at the Federal Ministry of labor and social affairs.
UniCredit, JPMorgan, Lazard, Commerzbank and Germany’s finance ministry declined to comment while Asmussen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ING also declined to comment.
The success of any approach will hinge in part on the German government, which owns a 15 percent stake in Commerzbank, stemming from a bailout during the financial crisis. Some officials had hoped to keep Commerzbank in German hands, which is why they pushed for a deal with Deutsche Bank.
One German official said the government would be open to a merger between Commerzbank and a foreign European rival, such as UniCredit.Slideshow (2 Images)
But a deal that would tie one of Germany’s biggest banks to debt-laden Italy could ultimately prove hard to sell in Berlin.
If a takeover does emerge, it would be one of the largest deals involving banks across European borders since the financial crisis. Such mergers are still hard to pull off because laws and regulations still vary from country to country despite the single market, bankers say.
However, any initiation of talks is sure to ruffle feathers at Commerzbank, where employees – fearful for their jobs – had overwhelmingly opposed a tie-up with Deutsche Bank. Unions had forecast as many as 30,000 lost jobs.
Analysts at Citi said that any tie up with UniCredit could make it cheaper for the bank to refinance its operations and trigger other cost savings.
UniCredit last week announced that it was reducing its exposure to Italy to boost its financial strength, with measures including cuts to its portfolio of Italian government bonds.
That move could strengthen prospects for an acquisition in Germany, where UniCredit’s high exposure to Italy is seen as a barrier to a deal, several bankers said.
UniCredit had 54 billion euros of Italian government bonds at the end of March.
Italian UniCredit shareholders are in favor of any deal that can boost its market value, but some want the bank to retain its Italian identity, a person close to the matter said.
Mustier last week said that the bank was very proud of being listed and headquartered in the euro-zone’s third-biggest economy.
(ECO) O lucro, que compara com a estimativa média dos analistas de 106 milhões de euros, beneficiou dos investimentos em dívida pública. Em sentido contrário, as comissões contribuíram menos.
O BCP lucrou 153,8 milhões de euros no primeiro trimestre do ano. O resultado líquido melhorou 79,7% face ao período homólogo e ficou acima do esperado pelo mercado. O negócio em Portugal ajudou a impulsionar as contas, com a atividade doméstica a mais que duplicar para 94,3 milhões de euros.
O lucro, que compara com a estimativa média dos analistas de 106 milhões de euros, beneficiou dos investimentos realizados pelo banco liderado por Miguel Maya. Os dados enviados esta quinta-feira à Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários (CMVM) indicam que os proveitos de instrumentos de capital aumentaram 171% para 68,3 milhões e tiveram um impacto nos resultados de 43,2%. Tal como o Santander Totta, também o investimento em dívida pública rendeu ao BCP, tal como vendas de carteiras de ativos.
O produto bancário cresceu 11,1% para 597,7 milhões de euros, impulsionado pelo crescimento de 17,9% na margem financeira, para 362,7 milhões de euros. “Apesar da forte pressão, mantemos a taxa nos 2,2%”, destacou Miguel Maya, na apresentação de resultados.
Fundo de Resolução aumenta custos operacionais
Em sentido contrário, as comissões contribuíram menos para os lucros devido ao negócio internacional. No total, as comissões recuaram 0,7% para 166,6 milhões de euros. Em Portugal, houve um aumento de 1,7%, apesar da forte quebra de 16,3 nas comissões de mercados, o que Miguel Maya considera ser um reflexo do desempenho dos mercados financeiros no trimestre.
“Em Portugal, o crescimento do negócio bancário mais que compensa evolução menos favorável das comissões de mercados de capitais”, refere o banco. Já nas operações internacionais registaram uma redução de 5,6%.
Também os custos operacionais aumentaram, em 4,5% para 253,5 milhões de euros, “impactados pela maior contribuição para o fundo de resolução e por custos com IT”. O número de clientes do BCP atingiu os 4,9 milhões (mais 300 mil que no período homólogo) e a meta é chegar aos seis milhões em 2021.
No que diz respeito à carteira de crédito performing em Portugal, o BCP assistiu a um crescimento de 1,2 mil milhões, ou seja, 3,7%. Do total, 44% são crédito à habitação, 40% crédito a empresas e 16% em crédito pessoal.
A emissão de obrigações AT1 realizada em janeiro, a par da melhoria nos resultados levou a um reforço do rácio de capital para 15,2%. A non-perfoming exposure (NPE) caiu em 1,9 mil milhões de euros e a cobertura de NPE por imparidades aumentou para 55% e da cobertura total para 110%.
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesStatues stand outside a Deutsche Bank AG branch in Frankfurt, Germany.
Deutsche Bank has defended its risk and control system after proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) called for shareholders to vote against the board.
The influential proxy advised its members to vote against “discharging” Deutsche’s board, the vote of confidence under the German corporate code, at its AGM on May 23. A vote against discharge is the strongest way for the shareholders to express their disapproval at the board’s AGM.
It cited the series of scandals resulting from the bank’s failure to uphold anti-money laundering (AML) controls as causing reputational and monetary damage which has been borne by shareholders.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Deutsche said the ISS report “does not reflect the current situation of our bank and its control environment.”
“The vast majority of the legacy cases mentioned date back to the time prior to 2016,” the bank added.
“While we acknowledge that there is still work ahead of us, we have significantly improved our risk and control systems in the last three years and we will continue to do so.”
Deutsche also argued that its share price should not be used to indicate financial instability, claiming it has a “very robust balance sheet with a high capital ratio, ample liquidity and a strong asset quality.”
In the advisory circulated to investors, ISS had dismissed Deutsche’s claims of improving “know your customer” and AML controls, according to a report in the Financial Times on Tuesday, and disputed that the bank’s performance resulted from an unfavorable market environment.
It is the first time ISS has called for shareholders to vote against ratifying the board, and followed similar guidance from fellow proxy Glass Lewis last week.
Deutsche Bank shares traded marginally higher during the morning session. However, the shares are down more than 40 percent over a 12-month period.
Danish prosecutors have charged 10 former executives at Danske Bank, the country’s largest lender, over their role in the EU’s biggest-ever money-laundering scandal, Danish newspaper Berlingske reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources. The Danish bank funnelled some €200bn of suspicious money, most of it from Russia, into the EU banking system, via its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, harming both its and Denmark’s reputation.
Não tenho dúvida que mais tarde ou mais cedo a Turquia precisará de ajuda internacional para poder honrar os seus compromissos com o exterior. A situação da banca turca é particularmente dramática com empréstimos concedidos em liras turcas e recursos obtidos em Euros ou USD.
Esta situação é insustentável como bem sabemos.
É uma questão de tempo…
English version written by the Author
I have no doubt that sooner or later Turkey will need international help to be able to honor its international commitements.
The situation of the Turkish banks is particularly worrying with the funding obtained in Euros or USD and the loans granted in liras.
Turkey’s debt problem, coupled with the plummeting lira, is arguably the most important risk factor for the nation’s economy.
To make matters worse, far from it posing a threat just to Turkey itself, it also has the potential to inflict significant damage elsewhere too, starting with key economies in the Eurozone.
At first glance, the situation in Turkey might resemble many past similar scenarios of a heavily indebted nation with a plummeting currency that descends into a severe recession and eventually gets bailed out, like Greece.
However, there is one key difference that makes Turkey’s debt problem much more complicated and potentially dangerous. Unlike Greece, Italy or other seriously debt-laden economies, it’s not just government borrowing that’s the main risk here.
Instead, it’s the unsustainable and increasingly unfinanceable corporate debt that makes Turkey a ticking time bomb and renders an IMF-rescue option problematic.
Private debt to GDP stands at a staggering 170%, while, overall, over half of the borrowing is denominated in foreign currencies. Thus, the collapse of the lira has made it extremely challenging for businesses to pay off or even service their debt, while the default risk has surged. Around $179 billion in external debt is due to mature until July 2019, which amounts to almost a quarter of the country’s annual economic output, according to JPMorgan estimates. Most of that, $146 billion, is owed by the private sector and banks in particular.
However dire the current debt predicament might seem for Turkey’s businesses and economic outlook, it is important to also consider the implications for its debtholders, especially since European banks feature prominently among them. In fact, the level of exposure in some cases is so worrying that it justifiably raises concerns that what happens in Turkey won’t just stay in Turkey.
Spain’s banking sector is one of very few in the European bloc that was so far considered not to be problematic; especially in comparison to Italian or Greek banks.
However, the exposure of Spanish banks to Turkish debt means that the currency and debt woes of Europe’s neighbor have decisively challenged these assumptions. Spain’s second-biggest bank, BBVA, controls 49.9% of Turkish bank Garanti, which has already reported a rise in non-performing loans. Spanish banks also led the lending spree to Turkish businesses over the past years, rendering them vulnerable to the spiking default risk.
Although Spanish banks were by far the greatest lenders for Turkey, French, Italian and German banks also have significant exposure to Turkish debt. This already became problematic from the onset of the Turkish woes this past summer, when investors dumped Eurozone bank shares and prices suffered significant blows. Among the worst hit were BBVA, Unicredit, and PNB Paribas. Yet still, a blow to the stock price is nothing compared to the damage that a sustained currency crisis and rising default risk can inflict to the already vulnerable European banking sector.
Overall, Turkey’s woes are yet another important and timely reminder of the frailty of the current monetary system and of the banking sector, as well as of the systemic weaknesses and inevitable unsustainability of a centrally planned economy and of fiat money.
After all, the lira’s value, as that of any other fiat currency, depends on the trust the people place in its issuer. Once that is lost or even shaken, no measures and no force applied by the central planners can stabilize it. We saw that play out over the last months in Turkey, with the government trying a wide variety of approaches to control the currency’s fall, to no avail. That clearly demonstrated the flimsy and fickle nature of the entire system.
As the Turkish currency collapsed, demand for gold more than doubled in the country, while gold priced in lira reached all-time highs, as is to be expected in times of crisis.
Erdogan’s public calls for citizens to sell the “gold under their pillows” and buy lira to help defend the country against the “economic attacks” from the outside were clearly ignored. Consumers flocked to the precious metal in response to the deteriorating fiat currency and gold imports to Turkey increased eightfold last December, while the Turkish central bank itself also dramatically increased its official reserves over the last two years.
As the country now joins the long list of nations that came to regret reckless interventionism and aggressive monetary manipulation, it also sends a strong message to those investors who are wise enough to heed it. In order to effectively prepare for the upcoming economic slowdown and all that it will bring, one needs to hedge against these inherent risks that are deeply embedded in our current system.
While inflation, currency depreciations, volatile stock markets or a rise in toxic debt might be all we’ll see during the next downturn, nobody can be sure what the extent of the damage will be and whether it would be contained before threatening the banking system at large. Especially in Europe, the outlook is rather grim and the odds of a timely rescue are not favorable. As the central bank is already overstretched, after so many years of QE and negative interest rates, it is likely to lack the tools to fight the next recession and to limit its impact.
Turkey’s story can arguably be seen as a warning and as a cautionary tale. While governments and central banks will dismiss it, individual investors should not. Separating the signal from the noise has always been crucial in forming solid strategies and in planning for the future.
At this stage, when the signs of a widespread economic slowdown can already be seen on the horizon, the necessity of a physical precious metals position is imperative for any responsible investor who wishes to preserve their wealth.
Americans generally think of Europe first as a wonderful place to visit. They rarely ponder the economic and financial ties between the United States and European Union, but in fact these ties are extensive and significant to the stability of both economies. One area of particular connection involves the large banks and companies that provide services on both sides of the Atlantic. It is this area of commercial finance that risks are actually growing to the United States—in large part due to political gridlock in Europe stemming from the 2008 financial crisis.
Credit market professionals have been aware of problems among the European banks for many years. Their lack of profitability, combined with high credit losses and a lack of transparency have created a minefield for global investors going back decades. Whereas the United States has a bankruptcy court system to protect investors, in Europe the process of resolving insolvency is an opaque muddle that leans heavily in favor of corporate debtors and their political sponsors.
When we talk about true mediocrity among European banks, one of the leading example are, surprisingly, German institutions. Germany, after all, has a reputation for being the economic leader of Europe and a global industrial power, thus the continued failures in the financial sector are truly remarkable.
The biggest example, Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, has had problems with capital and profitability going back decades.
But Deutsche Banks’s problems are not unique.
What is troubling and indeed significant for American policy makers, however, is the nearly complete failure of our friends in Europe to address their banking sector, either in terms of cleaning up bad assets or raising capital to enable the cleanup.
One of the political understandings that came out of the Basel III process (a regulatory regime first introduced in 2013 to promote stability in the international financial system) was that the United States would take a harder view on mortgage related exposures and particularly intangible assets like mortgage servicing rights. The Europeans, it is said by participants, agreed to take a tougher line on bad assets loitering inside banks and to particularly require banks to take a reserve against bad credits immediately.
Prior to 2018, when the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, directed EU banks to start recognizing bad credits, international accounting rules essentially allowed EU banks to ignore bad credits. Indeed, EU banks could pretend that loan payments were still being received. Loans that defaulted prior to 2018 were not included in the directive. Thus Europe has a decade of detritus sitting in the loan portfolios of many banks that is neither disclosed nor properly valued. Whereas in the United States banks must charge-off bad assets down to some expected recovery value, in Europe we extend and pretend.
Many observers were surprised several years ago when Chinese airline conglomerate HNA arrived on the scene as the new shareholder of Deutsche Bank, a significant global investment bank that provides a range of services in the United States. The German lender had been marketing an offering of new equity shares for years without luck, thus the arrival of the high-flying and highly-leveraged HNA was greeted with quiet gratitude in European capitals. No European politician wants to be caught dead talking about large banks in anything but the most responsible tones, thus nobody asked any questions about HNA or its owners.
Sadly the HNA equity investment in Deutsche Bank was financed with a lot of debt. When the Chinese firm started to literally implode two years ago due to massive debt payments on its $40 billion in obligations, it began to sell its shares in Deutsche Bank, creating the latest crisis for the chronically underperforming bank. Today HNA is being liquidated under the supervision of the Chinese government. And to this day, nobody among United States or European bank regulators really knows who owns the company that was briefly the largest shareholder of Deutsche Bank
The setback with HNA led to discussions of merging Deutsche Bank with Germany’s Commerbank, another poor performer among the country’s banking sector. Again, German politicians led by Chancellor Angela Merkel refuse to even hint at public assistance for Deutsche Bank, but the mounting troubles with banks across Europe may force Merkel’s hand as it has in Italy.
Bank earnings in Europe are weak, notes veteran bank consultant Mayra Rodriguez Valladares. As she exlains in a recent Forbes column:
Unfortunately, many of European banks’ woes are of their own making. A host of regulatory and legal fines and ongoing money laundering investigations of several banks do not bode well for European earnings. According to a Moody’s Investors Services report: ‘European banks were fined over $16 billion from 2012 to 2018 related to money laundering and trade sanction breaches.’
Rodriguez Valladares notes that U.S. and EU banks are enormously intertwined, particularly in terms of funding and derivatives—two areas of keen interest to U.S. regulators. But the fact of the matter is that the EU banking system and the EU economy are still too weak to shoulder the burden of a general cleanup of bad credits in EU banks.
The economic reality and ugly politics are both too daunting for EU leaders to engage publicly on these issues. Indeed, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholtz, who is touted as a possible successor to Merkel, was attacked by opposition politicians because of the prospective job losses in a Deutsche-Commerzbank merger.
But sadly the union of two zombie banks was not to be. “Banking giant Deutsche Bank and its crosstown rival Commerzbank ended merger talks, leaving in tatters the German government’s hope to shore up both banks and create a banking powerhouse,” The Wall Street Journal reported on April 25.
So now the German government must try to identify another politically expedient way to hide the Deutsche Bank problem without resorting to an explicit state bailout. Not only is financial help for EU banks problematic politically, but the EU simply lacks the economic resources to clean up the broader asset quality problems affecting European banks.
The tendency of EU politicians to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to these issues represents a smoldering threat to global financial stability. Troubles affecting Deutsche Bank and other EU lenders could easily explode into financial contagion if markets decide to turn away from these banks à la Lehman Brothers. For American business leaders and political leaders, the festering problems in European banks are a source of potential risk that could cause significant economic problems for all of us. Stay tuned.
In recent years there has been a distinct change in the market as it relates to the “reaction function” of traders vis-a-vis volatility: whereas in the past (i.e. prior to the 2008 financial crisis) sliding volatility was a clear signal for both risk appreciation and broad market participation, ever since central banks took over both bond and equity markets over the past decade, collapsing vol has been increasingly seen as a warning sign that something is just not right, that central banks as part of their vol suppression strategy are artificially reducing the market’s perception of risk, and as such, high risk prices are artificial.
One need look no further than market action in 2019 where despite fresh record highs in the S&P – mostly the product of the Fed’s sudden tightening bias reversal and subsequent easing by both the US central bank and its global peers – equity outflows have hit an unprecedented pace, with continued stock upside attributable almost exclusively to stock buybacks, forced short squeezes and delta and gamma-imbalanced dealer books, where the higher equities rise, the greater the “forced chase” by dealer to keep bidding stocks even higher. Meanwhile, both institutional and retail investors have continued to flee global equities as the chart below from EPFR summarizing broad asset flows shows.
Another confirmation that low vol is no longer seen as a broad participatory signal are market volumes, which continue to shrink the higher markets rise; an indirect validation of the lack of faith in record asset prices.
While not addressing this topic explicitly, in his latest note, everyone’s favorite credit derivatives post modernist, Deutsche Bank’s Aleksandar Kocic who with every subsequent analysis transforms himself ever closer to the linguistic equivalent of a financial Slavoj Zizek, look at the perception of volatility in recent years, particularly through its circular interplay with broader market leverage, and writes that in the post-central bank era, the “leverage-volatility cycle has been disrupted and its amplitudes attenuated – there are no more booms and busts, just mellow undulations around slower growth and benign inflation.“
Taking a somewhat different approach than our assessment, Kocic writes that in the past, low volatility was a signal of build-up of latent risk due to vol-leverage dynamics, as “low volatility leads to excessive risk taking and misallocation of capital, which ultimately results in forced deleveraging”, and after several cycles the markets learned that these dynamics are an inherent aspect of market functioning. As a result, the vol-leverage trajectory has become “an outward spiral” and “in each subsequent sweep, leverage is higher and risk premia compression more extreme than in the previous episode, leading, naturally, to a deeper crisis and a need for an even more extreme policy response.” Then, resorting to every Austrian’s favorite Schumpeterian “creative destruction” analogy, Kocic writes that if stability is indeed destabilizing, then the main challenge lies not in how to avoid the mistakes, but instead in how to control their costs, and answers that “post-2008, this has been addressed by regulations, and policy adjustments.” In short, central banks step in every time the cycle of vol-leverage dynamics threatens to spiral out of control.
Perhaps as a result of this now constant “Fed put”, which emerged so vividly in late December 2018, Kocic writes that while “in the past, fear has had bad reputation — it stood as a sign of incompleteness, something one needs to outgrow”, the “post-2008 period can be seen effectively as an exoneration of fear”:
Fear has become a sign of wisdom, elevated to a new heuristic or cognitive principle. On the back of this shift in attitude, the resulting excessive caution by both investors and policy makers led to generally lower risk tolerance and has been the leading cause of gradual collapse of market volatility.
While this does not directly address our fundamental thesis, namely that the prevailing sentiment toward low vol has been turned upside down due to central bank intervention, and is no longer a sign of “all clear, the water is warm” by investors but is rather a symbol of foreboding – confirmation that central banks are worried and are therefore artificially suppressing vol – Kocic next looks at just how the leverage-vol cycle broke down within the financial sector, where despite the collapse in vol, leverage never managed to recover.
As such, Kocic believes that the “financial sector was the center of leverage transmission pre-2008” and was essential for converting low volatility into high leverage, which was seen as one of the main engines of growth. This is shown in the chart below, which shows the history of financial subsector of the S&P index overlaid with the levels of volatility on the inverted axis. Periods of low volatility were most profitable for financial institutions as they provided the main engine for conversion of credit into liquidity risk.
And while prior to the 2008 crisis, the “prosperity of financial sector and low volatility show high degree of coordination”, the subsequent departure is a consequence of the changes in the regulatory environment and redistribution of leverage away from the financial into corporate sector, something which Kocic shows in the next chart.
This transition of leverage away from the financial to other sectors had singificant consequences for all aspect of risk prices, and naturally, for volatility. As Kocic explains the “rationale of this maneuver” when it comes to credit risk, “corporate sector is more transparent than the combination of households and financial sectors together. By resyphoning leverage from financials and households to corporates and government, risk has been made less systemic and the margin of error in assessing and monitoring the aggregate credit risk and its misrepresentations in the markets have been reduced.”
Superficially, this is good news, because as a result of the decline in financial sector leverage, “there are no longer casualties of big “collisions”, only parking accidents” as Kocic puts it:
This redistribution of leverage has put the speed limit on possible future encounters with forced deleveraging associated with booms and busts. There are no longer casualties of big “collisions”, only parking accidents.
And yet, going back to the Schumpeter analogy above, if the system is preemptively absolved from the risk of crashes, it also remove the potential for substantial real growth, or as the DB strategist puts it, “reducing and constraining the leverage of financial sector also confines its propagation into the economy. Although stabilizing, in the existing paradigm, this appears to stifle growth — by preventing bad behavior, in the economy which is dependent on financialization, the system is deprived of one of the main engines of growth.”
How do interest rates fit into this?
While the above discussion explains the drift in the traditional relationship between leverage and volatility, there is another distinct historical correlation between the yield curve (which in recent months has gotten abnormal focus due to its inversion) and volatility surface which recently have “topologically converged to each other”, or as Kocic explains, “the curve is on the verge of inversion and the surface on the verge of disinversion” and elaborates as follows: “While Inverted curve appears ominous (at least, in the eyes of the market), disinverted vol surface is soothing — it predicts persistent and uninterrupted calm”, even though we would disagree with this simplistic assessment of the vol surface which, as most traders will admit, reflect nothing more than central bank vol suppression, and therefore the more “normal” the vol surface appears, paradoxically the greater the level of underlying angst.
In fact, we are disappointed that Kocic seems to agree with the far more simplistic explanation, on which absolves the yield curve inversion of any ominous signaling, while suggesting that the disinverted vol surface should be taken at face value, and that any lingering concerns about low vol, or the “residual (consensus) discomfort before ominously low vol” is merely a “consequence of the aftertaste of previous crises when the current regulations were absent.”
Perhaps Kocic was listening to the latest Zizek audiobook when central banks injected their $20th trillion of liquidity in the artificial “markets” or when now chair Powell was making the stunning admission in 2012 that the Fed has a “short volatility position” to appreciate just how naive such an argument is, especially when other traders see right the farce of low vol and also right through the superficial sophistry of anyone who tries to underscore just how credible low volatility is… but we digress.
What is more interesting is not Kocic’s philosophical beliefs in what vol may or may not be telling us, but his quantification of the correlation between the vol surface and the yield curve… and how this has changed over time.
As the DB strategist writes, while the shape of curve and volatility term structure have a logical connection, “their relationship has undergone structural shifts as a consequence of significant changes in the market structure and conditions.” To wit, Kocic highlights three distinct regimes between these two key market vairables.
This is shown in the next chart which highlights the interplay between inversion of the vol surface and the 10s/30s slope of the curve. When seen in this context, Kocic claims that the current flattening of the yield curve is consistent with the surface if taken for what it really is, i.e. as a result of compression of risk premia, rather than a forecast of recession.
Looking at the three temporal regimes defined by Kocic, we start with…
Pre-2008: here, in this pre-central bank time, vol and curve were unified by carry. Kocic explains: “While logically the two are related, the transmission that reinforced that bond was mortgage convexity hedging. As both recession and mortgage prepayment are low rates phenomena, bid for rates volatility was reinforced in recessionary markets as mortgage hedgers became more active. Curve moved in bull steepening and bear flattening mode. Volatile bull steepening and calm bear flatteners associated with rate hikes were the stylized facts of that period.”
Post-2008: To the DB strategist, this period marks “the period of nationalization of negative mortgage convexity and severance of the traditional transmission mechanisms as well as the structural shift between the curve and vol interaction.” The front end of the curve was anchored and the referendum on effectiveness of the monetary policy was expressed by the back end. Bull flatteners marked volatile risk-off episodes while bear steepeners, being a positive verdict on QE, were calming, risk-on modes.
Describing the post-2008 phase in other words, the post-QE period “marks a gradual and systematic curve flattening while vol remained low and surface disinverted” amid the collapse of risk premia. To make his point that the yield curve is no longer signal but merely noise, i.e., it chases vol, Kocic claims that “the curve has converged to where volatility surface has already settled. The flattening pressure was a function of the tight fiscal policy, regulations, and supply shocks in oil.” As such the post-2014 sub-period marks “a systematic compression of risk premia across the board with markets continuing to align with slower growth, lack of excitement across extended horizons and a likely shift towards more aggressive savings.”
Going back to his analogy that we no live in a period where “there are no longer casualties of big “collisions”, only parking accidents”, Kocic next argues that this mode of curve repricing is consistent with the expectations of mild shocks and their persistent effect, and that the vol market “has captured this through low mean reversion, with lower vol and surface inversion remaining in a tight range, while other risk premia collapsed (Figure).”
Assuming this take is accurate, what does it imply for the future of volatility?
In the context of the reflexive relationship between vol and yield, at this point, volatility would appear to be a prisoner of the curve. Regressing to an analogy he has repeatedly used in the past, Kocic argues that the spread between short and long rate – “the playground that defines the range of what can possibly happen” – is now so tight that it does not allow any substantial range in rates, and therefore no meaningful rise in volatility.
The logical next question is what could prompt a spike in the spread in rates, to which the “derivative(s) Zizek” writes that “outside of tail risk, the first step in creating conditions for bear steepeners is a move towards tolerating higher inflation. This could be achieved by a change of inflation targeting policy. Additional disorder could follow the relaxing of the regulatory constraints, which would free bank balance sheets and boost the credit impulse that could possibly stimulate investment and in turn lead to higher productivity growth.”
However, a problem emerges, as the demand-side has to be addressed at the same time. Indeed, the new technologies that would attract investment now destroy more jobs than they create as “the old paradigm does not seem to be capable of achieving these goals; it has failed to deliver desired results, while the new one is politically difficult to pass.” This, then brings us to the above core argument, namely that any effort in this direction is a source of further political volatility and dissipation of consensus which further stifles change. Paradoxically, one event that could restore some vol is an easier Fed, or as Kocic explains:
Adjustment of monetary policy through rate cuts would free some room for rates to move by opening the policy gap, the spread between long rate and near-term Fed expectations, from below. This is a temporary rise in realized volatility but without steepening of the long end of the curve.
Which brings us to the conclusion: barring the abovementioned “fat tail”, Kocic asks “have we reached the end” of the post-2008 phase of collapsing vol and flattening yield curve, and parallel to that “what could create conditions for volatility return?”
The answer here is that while there are two directions of curve-vol reshaping, Kocic argues that the main boost for volatility “is to liberate the right side of the (rates) distribution” which would mean “that higher rates and steeper curve have to be allowed.” In this mode, gamma would lead the way followed by the disinversion of the long-dated sector. The chart below shows two directions of change, i.e. curve first needs to steepen before realized volatility can rise.
This is also the “vol shift mode that could take us closer to the tail risk as concentrated risks in the corporates.” Incidentally, this takes us back full circle to what so many analysts believe will be the source of the next crisis: the wholesale prolapse of the BBB-rated investment grade space, a tsunami of “fallen angels” that would obliterate the junk bond market as it more than doubles in size overnight from $1.1 trillion, and catalyzes the next financial crash. Or, as Kocic puts it, “the global hunt for yield has encouraged investors to move down the credit spectrum to enhance returns. Within the IG universe, BBB issuance has grown significantly.” This is shown in the chart below, which shows that more than 50% of the entire IG index is now BBB-rated.
To Kocic, this is also the most negatively convex sector which is sensitive to spread wideners in steepening sell off. In other words, a possible wholesale downgrade to BB or lower would result in disorderly unwind of positions of the IG money managers which would be capable of raising volatility significantly. From there it would promptly spread to the rest of the market, and global economy, and lead to the next financial crisis. What happens to vol then should be clear to anyone.
The good news is that, at least in the near term, it appears that not much can go wrong as “there seems to be an embedded mechanism that dampens the volatility away from the upper left corner.” In fact, and ironically, at this moment it appears that the Fed seems to be the only source of shocks with their effects localized at the front end of the curve and the upper left corner of the volatility surface. For long tenor vol (gamma or vega alike) to revive, we need bear steepening of the curve.
Ever since it became apparent that the Deutsche Bank-Commerzbank tie-up wasn’t meant to be after all, despite incessant lobbying from the German Finance Ministry over the objections of pretty much every other stakeholder, both Deutsche Bank shareholders as well as the bank’s still-relatively-new CEO have probably been wondering: What’s next for Europe’s least-favorite perennially troubled megabank?
Well, as DB’s management team scrambles to close a deal with UBS to merge the Swiss bank’s once-storied asset-management business with DWS, the asset-management arm that functions as a separate corporate entity controlled by Deutsche, Bloomberg and the FT have effectively confirmed what most shareholders have been hoping for: Despite Sewing and Chairman Paul Achleitner’s insistence that the investment bank is vital to Deutsche’s future, it’s probably time for Deutsche to take an axe to its long-suffering investment bank (the bank has already reportedly been considering the ring-fencing of its most toxic businesses and assets in a shadow ‘bad bank’).
Specifically, the bank’s equities business (and more specifically, it’s US equities trading business) will likely be on the chopping block.
But even a restructuring would be difficult, coming with many up-front costs, according to analysts quoted by Bloomberg:
With a Commerzbank deal gone, Deutsche Bank’s only move is “a more radical investment bank restructure, with a potential exit from the U.S. region and the equities product line,” Citigroup Inc. analysts wrote in a note on April 29. Such a move would be difficult. Restructuring costs would hit upfront, and revenue would be squeezed at first, potentially exacerbating rather than fixing Deutsche Bank’s core problem. In any case, that option seems off the table. Achleitner and Sewing say the trading and corporate finance businesses are crucial. “Every executive has to constantly adjust to a changing market environment,” Achleitner told the Financial Times. “But in this regard, we are not talking about strategy, we are talking about execution” of the existing plan.
As if the bank needed another incentive, Reuters reported a few days back that Deutsche’s US operation – which would be greatly curtailed or shuttered entirely in a restructuring – is once again in danger of failing one of the Fed’s stress tests.
In a detailed insider account of the factors that inspired Sewing’s decision to walk away from merger talks (according to the FT, though it had been announced as a mutual decision, the idea to walk away was first broached by Sewing and his team, who argued that financing the deal would be too burdensome).
As one regulator put it:
“Calling the merger off wasn’t a strategic decision,” a top regulator said. “They could just not afford the deal.” “Without the one-off [accounting and tax] effects the transaction would have triggered, the deal stacked up,” the person said, adding it was “unsettling…[that] both banks do not have enough firepower to bring forward a merger that makes strategic sense.” Deutsche disputes that it lacked firepower to do the deal.
But while Commerzbank’s steady corporate business will make it an ideal acquisition target for another European lender (UniCredit and ING have reportedly been weighing bids), DB has no obvious path to finally shed the mantle of ‘most hated bank in Europe’.
US president Donald Trump and several members of his family on Monday sued Deutsche Bank to stop it from handing over financial records to congressional subpoenas investigating his companies’ financial dealings. Trump’s lawsuit contends that demands for records by Democrat-controlled House committees have “no legitimate or lawful purpose” and were issued to harass him as president. Deutsche Bank started providing financial records to New York state’s attorney general last week.