Archive for May 8th, 2012
The global banking giant HSBC is a “criminal” operation, charges a former officer for the company’s southern New York region in a video interview with WND.
John Cruz, a former vice president and relationship manager, has turned over to WND more than 1,000 pages of documents, including customer account ledgers for dozens of companies through which, he charges, the financial institution was laundering money each month.
Cruz told WND that as a relationship manager, it was his responsibility to look up various accounts in the HSBC computer system and visit the account holders in person to offer additional banking products and services.
“I pulled these documents because I thought they were evidence of suspicious activity taking place,” Cruz affirmed when presented by WND with various HSBC computer ledgers of customer accounts. “These same documents I brought to bank security and my managers in the bank.”
To his surprise, HSBC management and security did not welcome his reports of suspicious activity.
“My managers told me I was crazy and I didn’t know what I was talking about,” he said. “They told me it was none of my business what goes on in transactions. But that’s my job.”
WND showed Cruz the HSBC account ledger for a business named United Express, as seen redacted in Exhibit 1 below:
Exhibit A: United Express account ledger
“It was supposed to be a shipping company that does over $2 million a year in transactions,” Cruz said, recognizing the HSBC computer-generated account ledger. “But the ledger shows millions and millions of dollars in transaction, but the transactions are all through PayPal and American Express.”
Cruz also described his visit to see the company in person.
“There were two employees on site that didn’t speak English,” he recalled. “The only evidence of any packaging being done was a couple of small boxes in the corner.”
WND presented Cruz Exhibit B, showing a redacted HSBC account ledger for a company with over $1.34 million in deposits and $1.23 million in withdrawals in a one-month period from July 21, 2009, to Aug. 20, 2009.
“The account does not say where the money comes from or where it is going to,” Cruz noted. “It’s just a transaction. But the money gets transferred out of the account. Where does it go? The bank won’t explain it, but they know exactly where it goes. If it from here down to Malaysia, Brazil, Columbia, Hong Kong – the bank knows exactly where it’s going because the bank owns the branches in those countries.”
Next, WND showed Cruz Exhibit C, showing an HSBC account ledger documenting hundreds of thousands of dollars transferred into and out of a company in the account statement beginning July 20, 2009, and ending Aug. 20, 2009.
“Money comes in daily, thousands of dollars, always in even amounts,” he noted. “You look at a statement and it says ‘transfer,’ but where did it go? There’s no account number or tracking number that documents where the transaction went.”
Cruz contended that HSBC was running what amounted to a “shell game.”
“So many of these businesses are conducted out of a person’s home,” he commented. “I would walk into these homes. There’s a couch, there’s a chair, a desk – but the house is empty, a couple of Mercedes sitting out front, but where is the business? It’s only online transactions of money in and money out.”
Cruz charges that the 1,000 pages of customer account records suggest HSBC relied on identity theft to capture legitimate Social Security numbers that were then used to create the bogus retail and commercial bank accounts through which employees systematically deposited and withdrew hundreds of millions of dollars on a daily basis, apparently without the knowledge of the identity theft victims.
“When an individual finds out they got a loan they never knew about, 5 percent of that loan went to the accounting firm that made up the phony tax returns, and the other 95 percent of that loan went to the manager,” he said.
“One manager was involved in the transaction, another manager was involved in notarizing the transaction, and senior management was involved where they signed off permission to give the loans even when the loans get rejected by underwriting.”
A criminal enterprise
Cruz told WND he recorded meetings he conducted with HSBC management and bank security personnel in which he charges various bank managers were engaging in criminal acts.
“I have hours upon hours of voice recordings, ranging from bank tellers, to business representatives, to managers, to executives,” he said. “The whole system is designed to be a culture of fraud to make it look like it’s a legalized system. But it’s not.”
Cruz explained that even when he let bank managers know he was taping the conversation, the managers were not interested in what he was saying.
“HSBC is a criminal organization,” he stressed. “It is a culture of crime.”
In January, Reuters reported that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had begun investigating money-laundering activity at HSBC with the intention of scheduling hearings later this year.
Last week, Reuters reported the U.S. unit of the London-based HSBC Holdings Plc has been under investigation by federal law enforcement officials since 2003 for the bank’s lax attitudes toward enforcing anti-money laundering statutes.
Reuters reported that confidential documents examined from the offices of two U.S. Attorneys’ offices allege that from 2005, “the bank violated the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering laws on a massive scale” by not adequately reviewing “hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions for any that might have links to drug trafficking, terrorist financing and other criminal activity.”
In an attempt to make his charges public, Cruz in 2011 published a book about his experiences titled “World Banking World Fraud: Using Your Identity.”
Jerome Corsi – World Net Daily
The Fed and ECB (European Central Bank) have taken notes from the exact playbook in dealing with the global financial crisis. People tend to believe that these are somehow fully set government agencies but in reality, they are designed to protect their number one constituency group. The Fed and ECB have the primary mission of protecting select financial institutions. At their core they are where the bankers bank. I was examining the balance sheets of both the Fed and ECB and from 2008 onward their reactions to the financial crisis have been nearly mirror images. But ask most Americans and Europeans if their trillion dollars of asset maneuvers have worked out. To the contrary, many of the European nations are back in recessions while in the US the unemployment rate only falls because people are dropping out of the workforce or being shadowed out in colleges with massive student debt. The central banks have succeeded in allowing the financial system to essentially transfer the waste onto the backs of the public.
Fed and ECB balance sheet look like financial twins
If we look at the balance sheets of the Fed and ECB we realize that they are still holding onto peak levels of questionable assets. First, look at the Fed balance sheet:
Not much has changed and the number of “assets” held by the Fed are still near peak levels. Keep in mind that we already know some of these items included failed luxury hotels, strip malls, and gambles that bankers took in the real estate bubble. You need to ask how does this help working and middle class Americans? Nearly five years later we know the answer is that it does not help the public but rather subsidizes the risky bets of the banks in toxic real estate deals.
This only happened in the US with the Fed right? Actually, the ECB essentially followed down the same path:
What is different in the ECB is that they continue to expand their debt holdings. How many loans can be given to economies with 20+ percent unemployment rates? This is an issue of solvency and not liquidity.
Read the rest at My Budget 360
U.S. stock-index futures declined as Greek political leaders struggled to form a government, raising concern the Mediterranean nation may default on its debt as early as next month.
Antonis Samaras, the leader of the New Democracy party in Greece, said he failed to forge an agreement to form a government after weekend elections. The attempt will now pass to Alexis Tsipras, the head of Syriza, the second-biggest party, which has vowed to cancel the austerity conditions related to the financial bailout.
And do exactly what?
This is the amusing part of all these debates — you have those who say “no more austerity!” like being austere is a dirty word. It in fact simply means to live within one’s means — to balance budgets, to pay for services desired with taxes.
How is that bad, if I may ask?
More to the point how does any politician — or political party — defend anything else?
It’s one thing to temporarily spend more than one makes when there is an existential threat to your existence. When you’re at war, for example, and that war is for your survival (you’re being invaded, perchance?) there’s a strong argument for deficit spending. After all, if you lose the war your debts will not matter, will they?
But this isn’t the case in Greece — or anywhere else at the present time. There are no wars for survival among the western world at present and there haven’t been for quite some time.
So where are the balanced budgets?
More to the point refusal to face this reality — by any political candidate, office-holder or party – is an active fraud against the people.
Simple — it’s a matter of division.
Remember that for every unit of GDP (production) there must be one of monetary credit or currency to pay for it. If there are more units of credit emitted then the price per unit of GDP goes up. This is “inflation” in point of fact. If salaries rise exactly as does the emission of credit there is no net effect whatsoever; the only way deficit spending can “add growth” is by stealing from someone!
That is, this is a zero-sum game and there’s no way around it. It’s a matter of third-grade mathematics despite the refusal of most politicians to speak to the truth and recognize this fact.
Unfortunately for Greece (and everyone else) there is no such thing as a free lunch. But there are still plenty of people who believe there is, mostly because the electorate in the nations of the western world continue to demand ”hand outs” of various forms (sometimes arguing they “paid for them” when in fact the money was stolen and spent elsewhere) and a great way to get fired as a politician is to say “No.”
Nonetheless Greece and the rest of the world must deal with the fundamental realities of government and monetary policy: All government services must, to be sound, be paid for with current taxes.
It really is that simple folks, despite the continual lie factory that we have in Washington DC and the Europeans have in their respective Parliaments.
The paradox of an advanced post-industrial economy is that the number of jobs needed declines even as the cost of living rises.
The fundamental dynamic of America’s job market is simple: we need relatively few workers to provide the absolute essentials of life even as the cost-basis of the economy inexorably rises. In other words, there are fewer jobs even as the costs of maintaining a “middle class” life rise.
Let’s start by observing how all the financial data in the world does not necessarily describe the primary dynamics of an economy. There are a number of factors that cause this disconnect between the primary forces at work beneath the surface and the data.
One is that economists tend to focus on situations with abundant, easy-to-interpret data. If you’re only looking for roses, then you ignore everything that isn’t a rose. So economists seek dynamics that can be easily explained by available data, and financial factors that they are paid to examine. Everything else is ignored, especially if the act of examining it casts a skeptical light on a self-serving Status Quo.
One key reality that is rarely if ever discussed is that the number of workers needed to provide the bare essentials of life to the 313 million residents of America is modest. Let’s stipulate that bare essentials include food, heat in winter, clean water, sewage and waste disposal, public health (innoculations against pandemics, etc.), public safety and enough energy to fuel these essentials. If life were suddenly reduced to these basics, and no energy were available for anything but these essentials, then how many full-time workers would be needed?
Roughly 1% of the workforce raises the vast majority of our food, and a modest number of workers maintain the water and sewage systems, natural gas pipelines, furnaces, etc., A similarly modest number of workers maintain public health and safety and provide transport of essentials.
Of the official workforce of 154 million, how many fall into this “absolute essentials of life” category? Perhaps 10% or 15 million people? Even if we double that to include all sorts of non-essential but “critical” goods and services, then that’s perhaps 30 million workers, roughly 10% of the population and about 12.5% of the real workforce of 240 million (the Federal government has relegated roughly 88 million working-age people to the zombie-status of “not in labor force” to keep the official unemployment rate low).
We all know the dynamic behind this dramatic reduction in the number of people needed to provide the essentials of life: enormous increases in productivity based on abundant fossil fuels and advanced technology.
Even well-made infrastructure requires maintenance, but this process of replacing aging transmission lines, water mains, highways, refineries, etc. requires a relatively modest number of workers because machines do much of the work.
If you doubt this, stop and count the workers on a major repaving project or the construction of a highrise building. A very large multi-story building is generally assembled by about 100-150 workers, more during certain stages and less during others. Most of the components are fabricated in factories where machines do most of the work.
Ask how many frontline police officers are on your local force. Cities of a few hundred thousand might have 200-300 officers, larger cities might have 800-1,000. It’s not a large number.
On a macro-scale, the challenge in advanced economies is creating “make-work” for 80% of the working age population. This is not an issue in developing economies, as most of the workforce is non-market and does not participate much in the cash economy. For example, only 7% of India’s vast workforce of hundreds of millions of people gets a paycheck. The other 93% survive via barter, raising their own food, a bit of trade or occasional labor for cash, etc.
Before industrialization, roughly 50% of the U.S. population and workforce lived and worked on farms. The surplus of their labor fed the other 50% who lived in urban areas, and that cash supplied the few essentials the rural dwellers needed.
The paradox of post-industrial economies is that the cost of living rises even as the efficiencies of providing essentials reduces the number of essential jobs. Some of this may be due to Baumol’s Disease, a topic I have covered before (Productivity, Baumol’s Disease and the Cliff Just Ahead, December 8, 2010).
Baumol’s cost disease is named after economist William J. Baumol, who with William G. Bowen described a critical difference between goods-producing and labor-intensive work.
Baumol and Bowen noted that if productivity/wages rose by 2.2% a year and costs rose by 2%, then over time workers could buy more of everything–goods, services and government services paid for with taxes.
They also observed a critical, long-term difference between the rates of productivity growth in goods-producing industries and labor-intensive industries such as nursing and teaching. (I would also include the Armed Forces as an example.)
Goods-producing industries could achieve very high productivity growth as labor-saving automation and supply-chain efficiencies scaled up, while nursing and teaching required the same number of hours with patients or students as in years past. In other words, productivity in labor-intensive services has intrinsically lower rates of productivity increases than goods-producing industries.
Baumol and Bowen then described the peculiar result of this: as GDP increased due to goods-producing improvements in productivity, the relative share of low-growth-productivity services would rise.
Thus machine-produced TV sets and computers fall in price while labor-intensive healthcare costs rise.
While this is undoubtedly one causal factor, it is not the only causal factor. I think there is an implicit assumption being made on both a policy and cultural level that higher costs are acceptable because it “means more people are being put to work.”
So when the cost per military fighter aircraft leaps from $56 million each (the F-18) to $200 million and $300 million (the F-22 and F-35), then we accept this as OK because we assume more jobs will be created as costs rise.
Gross waste and inefficiency is thus accepted as the “cost” of creating more jobs.
The problem with this implicit pact is that a rising percentage of these jobs are friction: they do not increase productivity or wealth, they merely consume wealth. In the case of fighter aircraft, the cost has leaped so dramatically that it is now apparent the nation cannot afford a fleet of these hyper-costly (and apparently troubled) aircraft.
Will 100 of these aircraft prevail over 1,000 dirt-cheap drones? How about 10,000 drones? If the future of warfare is increasingly powerful unmanned networked drones (and it clearly is), why are we spending $1 trillion+ on hyper-costly aircraft that are essentially designed for a previous era?
We’re not building miltary dominance with these programs, we’re sinking money down ratholes, just as we’re not “buying” more health with our 17% of GDP spent on sickcare, we’re simply managing more chronic diseases.
In the case of healthcare, patients being issued $1,000 a month in medications are not necessarily “getting better,” rather many thousands are dying of accidental overdoses. Though the U.S. spends twice as much as other advanced democracies as a percentage of GDP on healthcare, Americans are arguably less healthy in aggregate than the citizens of Japan and Australia, nations that spend about 8% of GDP on healthcare while the U.S. spends 17% of GDP.
These are but two examples of trillion-dollar friction that is sapping the nation’s wealth and vitality. Since the nation cannot actually afford to spend $1 trillion on the F-35 program or $2.5 trillion every year on a healthcare system of which at least 40% is fraud or paper-pushing, then we have been borrowing $1.5 trillion every year to maintain the illusion that these trillion-dollar sinkholes are sustainable.
The solution to the post-industrial decline of labor is not unproductive “make-work” jobs and borrowing trillions of dollars until the system implodes, it’s lowering the cost basis of the entire economy and culture. The central paradox of an advanced post-industrial economy is that the number of jobs needed declines even as the cost of living rises. The only way out of that paradox is to radically reduce the cost-basis of the entire economy, which means eliminating all the systemic sources of unproductive friction.
I will discuss this further in the days ahead.
Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. government recorded a budget surplus of $58 billion in April, the Congressional Budget Office estimated on Monday, breaking a streak of deficits that began in 2008.
The surplus — the first of Barack Obama’s presidency — was the result of both increased tax collection and lower government spending. Before April, the government had not run a surplus since September 2008, the month that the financial crisis struck the U.S. economy.Read CBO report.
Except…. the debt to the penny figures record debt-level surplus (all that matters) in June and July 2011 (1.58 billion and 718 million, respectively) along with $32 billion in January of 2010, $17 billion in October of 2009 and $68 billion in January of 2009.
Oh, and $60 billion in April of 2008.
The amusing part of this?
Debt “to the penny” was up $110 billion in April and the deficit “run rate” for the first four months of the year is $1.408 trillion.
Nice try guys…..