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Taking Care Of Business

The BBC reports that Iceland jails former Kaupthing bank bosses:

Four former bosses from the Icelandic bank Kaupthing have been sentenced to between three and five years in prison.

They are the former chief executive, the chairman of the board, one of the majority owners and the chief executive of the Luxembourg branch.

They were accused of hiding the fact that a Qatari investor bought a stake in the firm with money lent – illegally – by the bank itself.

Kaupthing collapsed in 2008 under the weight of huge debts.

Iceland covered the insured deposits to the legal limit, but refused to pay for all of the losses and let the banks go bankrupt. Then they filed criminal charges against the bankers.

The Europeans wanted the people of Iceland to cover all of the losses of the depositors, but the people of Iceland voted against that. They didn’t share in the profits, so they had no interest in covering the losses.

What Iceland did is called capitalism. Risk is the ‘invisible hand’. The banks engaged in risky behavior and reality caught up with them. It is pretty stupid to privatize the profits and socialize the risks. :twisted:

6 comments

1 Steve Bates { 12.13.13 at 12:51 am }

I can’t find it at the moment, but Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki, the labor cartoonists, once published a picture of the shadow of the “invisible hand,” showing quite clearly why the hand must remain invisible…

Many years ago, when I started investing very small amounts of money I could afford to lose, I did so with great trepidation, and a clear understanding that that money was at risk, and I could lose it all. Or so I thought… apparently, if I had only invested a hundred times that amount, I could have stopped worrying, assured that I would profit no matter what happened to the firms I invested in. If only I’d known…

2 Bryan { 12.13.13 at 12:19 pm }

Everyone in government concentrates on saving Wall Street, and almost no one is interested in Main Street. When government is controlled by the 1%, theirs are the only voices that count – so says the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President. The Federal Reserve is mandated to reduce unemployment, but everything it has done is directed towards inflating stock prices.

3 Badtux { 12.14.13 at 3:34 am }

To be fair, part of that is a reaction to the 1929 stock crash and the Great Depression that followed it. The reason the 1929 crash was so bad was because it wiped out the backing for millions of dollars in loans where stocks were the collateral, not because the crash itself was a big deal. I.e., it was the effect on the banks — who could no longer sell the stocks to pay off the loans when the borrowers defaulted after the price of the stocks crashed — that was what caused the issue. This caused deflation, which in turn caused other borrowers to not be able to pay back their loans in now-scarcer dollars, which in turn caused *more* defaults, more bank collapses, wash rinse repeat until by the time FDR took office most of the country was on the barter standard because money had essentially ceased to circulate.

The housing crash in 2008 could have had the same effect on the country if the banks had been allowed to crash like they were allowed to crash in 1930 and 1931. Instead the banks were propped up — despite the fact that, like in 1929, it was their own damn fault for shoddy lending standards. My own opinion: we need banks, but not *those* banks. Like GM and Chrysler, they should have been taken over by the government and either put under new management or sold off to another entity.

Iceland really didn’t have much choice in what they did. The deposits in question were Euro accounts, not krona accounts. They could print krona to guarantee the krona deposits, much like the Federal Reserve can print dollars to guarantee dollar deposits, but all their exports for the next 50 years would not have brought in enough euros to pay off the euro accounts. The Eurozone proposed that Iceland submit to the modern equivalent of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration which sold the Ottoman Empire into debt slavery to the European banks for the remainder of the Empire’s life. But unlike the Ottoman debt, the Iceland bank deposits were debts owed by private parties (the banks), so there was no rational reason why Iceland should have submitted to such a draconian regimen. If the Eurozone wanted to guarantee those Euro accounts they could print their own damned euros and do so, it had nothing to do with Iceland. But of course the Krauts weren’t going to do any such thing, the ECB is basically the Bundesbank and has that Teutonic rigidity to it that forbids it from doing anything sane and rational.

4 Bryan { 12.14.13 at 10:37 pm }

The US banks should have been made to pay a penalty for what they did, not simply being subsidized and allowed to pay bloody bonuses to the criminal class that screwed up so badly. They haven’t changed the way they do business and they are as big a threat as they ever were.

That isn’t fair, it isn’t just, and it damn sure isn’t capitalism.

We need commercial banks, but they need to be separate and distinct from the gambling that is still going on, so the gamblers can crash and burn without taking Main Street with them.

One of my great uncles lost his farm because of the lack of cash. The farm was very productive but people didn’t have any cash to buy what he produced, so he didn’t have any cash to pay his mortgage.

5 Badtux { 12.15.13 at 12:35 pm }

When the CEO’s of both GM and Chrysler got shitcanned as part of the bailout, I pumped my fist and said “Yeah!”. Because bluntly, any business so poorly run that it needs a bailout needs a house cleaning, and the place to start is the guy on the top. My biggest beef is not that nobody went to jail (though that should have happened with those criminals who sold fraudulent “good as treasuries” mortgage-backed securities to pension funds when they *knew* that those securities were backed by liar loans guaranteed to go sour), but, rather, that the same criminals are still in place profiting from their crimes, rather than walking the streets with a “Will defraud for food” sign. Unfortunately the bank bailout was engineered by the Shrubbery and he wasn’t going to put his friends out on the street. Sigh!

6 Bryan { 12.15.13 at 1:06 pm }

I wanted the CEOs and directors of those slime pits hung from gibbets along Wall Street as an object lesson of what the ‘invisible hand’ really means. Their frauds killed people. It was immediate for some with weak hearts, but a slower process for others who saw their futures flushed by high-flying con men in executive suites.

They didn’t affect me personally, because I was in law enforcement long enough to recognize a Ponzi scheme, but a lot of people I know have been affected. It makes me very angry that they weren’t punished.