Tuesday, February 24, 2009

While we're at it,

One of the fatal flaws of the credit and derivatives markets that led us all into a big hole was the secrecy in which most of the financial instruments were created, held and traded. While attention is being put on cleaning up "the mess", why don't we open up off-shore tax, fraud, criminal and other secrecy related "havens". What's there to hide worth keeping secret?

Trichet says regulation must be extended
Addressing a conference in Paris, the central banker urged a “holistic” reform of the current system of financial regulation and oversight.

“The current crisis is a loud and clear call to extend regulation and oversight to all systemically important markets – notably hedge funds and credit rating agencies – as well as all systemically important markets, in particular the over-the-counter derivatives (or swaps) market,” he said.
Swiss warn on US move over UBS clients
Switzerland’s finance minister has accused US authorities of “shock” tactics to compel holders of undeclared UBS accounts to come forward, but warned that court action to discover the names of thousands of clients would not succeed.

Hans-Rudolf Merz, finance minister and Switzerland’s head of state this year under its rotating presidency, defended the Swiss government’s role in prompting the world’s biggest wealth manager to breach hallowed bank secrecy and last week reveal some 250-300 client names to the US.

But Mr Merz said the disclosure last week of a limited number of account holders suspected of tax fraud did not mean UBS, or the Swiss government, would bow to a separate US drive to identify all the bank’s American clients with offshore accounts in Switzerland.

Switzerland [is] home to an estimated one-third of the world’s offshore assets, [where] bank secrecy is seen as a cornerstone of the country’s success as a financial centre.
Lex writes, on Swiss Banking,
Just as some men buy Playboy for the interviews, so others bank in Switzerland for the chocolates.

[I]nvestors in fact put a high value on Switzerland’s fortress-like bank-client confidentiality.

How its bankers could be so stupid as to travel to the US to market bank secrecy to US tax evaders is beyond belief, even for an industry losing its capacity to shock.

Guambat reckons the finance mavens figured they had so totally gamed the systems that they were beyond question. And, as long as they can hide away in the dark holes of Swiss cheeze bank accounts, Caribbean file cabinets, Channel Island charities and other rackets, the game will forever stay "on".

Feb 25 Addendum:

Antigua Is Hurt
The Antiguan government has long relied on Mr. [R. Allen] Stanford's largesse [, the Texas financier whom the Securities and Exchange Commission accused in civil charges of an $8 billion fraud]. In 2002, the government of then-Prime Minister Lester Bird turned to Mr. Stanford for millions of dollars in loans to help meet loan obligations and even payroll, according to letters exchanged between government and Stanford banking officials and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In exchange, government officials approved a tax holiday for his banks. More recently, Mr. Stanford's loans bankrolled construction of a modern hospital.

That is all in question after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Mr. Stanford of an $8 billion fraud centered at his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.

The Texan is only the latest wealthy foreigner to take advantage of Antigua's seclusion. After the Revolutionary War, it was a center of smuggling to the newly independent U.S. In the late 1940s, banker Paul Mellon and other wealthy Easterners built a private enclave called Mill Reef that still maintains a by-invitation-only policy. Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi comes to enjoy relative anonymity overlooking an emerald bay.

Some U.S. officials have long looked askance at Antigua's offshore sector, raising concerns about possible corruption, money laundering and fraud. In the late 1990s, U.S. regulators blacklisted Antigua and several other offshore jurisdictions for lax regulation. They lifted the sanctions on Antigua in 2001.

"The idea that our politicians are any more corrupt than politicians anywhere else is just not true," said Jason Belizaire

Stanford Link Shocks Buyers at U.S. Resort
the alleged fraud by Mr. Stanford may have implications for people beyond the financier's individual banking customers.

Kevin Burke, a U.K. lawyer who also is qualified to practice law in the U.S., is representing the Lipas and two other British citizens who paid deposits on Tierra Del Sol properties [in Florida]. He says he has been approached by at least a half-dozen others in a similar situation. In recent years, with the pound strong against the dollar, many British citizens looked to invest money in Florida property.

The developer behind Tierra Del Sol, American Leisure Group, is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and has faced financial struggles.

Last year, one of Mr. Stanford's companies provided a $17.5 million loan to the developer of the resort, American Leisure Group, to fund the project.The company was formed by a merger between American Leisure Holdings -- in which Stanford International Bank Ltd. was a significant shareholder and creditor, according to filings by American Leisure Group -- and another property company. Stanford Financial Group, also controlled by Mr. Stanford, served as an investment banker to American Leisure Group.

And this from The Archives:
Oh, thank haven


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