Archives for posts with tag: finance

La folie des banques centrales, Patrick Artus et Marie-Paule Virard, 2016

 

Image result for Patrick Artus et Marie-Paule VirardImage result for Marie-Paule Virard

 

Lorsque l’argent ne coute rien

On compte sur les banquiers centraux pour relancer la croissance, combattre la déflation, aider a résoudre l’endettement des Etats, conjurer l’éclatement de l’euro, faire repartir l’investissement…on a fini par vouloir régler avec la monnaie tous les problèmes, et d’abord ceux de l’économie réelle. Or le recours systématique à l’inondation monétaire dès qu’un déficit de croissance se fait jour n’a aucun sens.

En continuant à inonder la planète de liquidités, les banquiers centraux jouent un jeu dangereux et l’issue pourrait bien faire de la crise de 2007-2008 une aimable répétition avant un nouvel accident plus dévastateur encore. L’inflation étant revenue à un niveau inférieur à l’objectif de 2%, les banquiers centraux se sentent désormais les mains libres pour s’occuper de la croissance et de l’emploi dans un contexte ou la pression des politiques et des opinions publiques jouent dans ce sens. Par ailleurs, les politiques monétaires sont de plus en plus inefficaces à mesure que les pays sont de plus en plus endettés (plus on est endetté, moins on s’endette a nouveau). L’abondance de liquidité existante amène à pratiquer l’inondation monétaire pour espérer obtenir un résultat.

Un relèvement des taux américains serait le signe que l’injection massive de liquidités qui dopent les marchés depuis 2007, touche à sa fin. Et avec elle la période d’argent facile qui a permis de se refaire après la crise de 2007 et déclencher un incroyable boom sur les actifs financiers.

Il n’existe aucune limite technique à l’augmentation du bilan des banques centrales: une banque centrale peut toujours créer de la monnaie pour acheter des actifs.

Le Quantitative Easing fonctionne de la manière suivante. La banque centrale crée de la monnaie en créditant des lignes de dépôt des institutions financières, cette monnaie étant la contrepartie d’achat de titres (de la dette) détenus par les institutions financières sur les marches financiers. Pour ces institutions, ces créances sont donc converties en argent frais, leur permettant de distribuer d’avantage de crédits, ce qui est censé doper l’activité et la croissance. En outre, l’achat d’obligation fait baisser leur rendement (la demande fait monter leur prix donc leur rendement baisse) ce qui incite les investisseurs à acheter d’autres actifs (dont les prix montent créant un effet de richesse). De plus la baisse des rendements obligataires entraine une baisse des taux de prêts bancaires: autant de vitamines pour l’économie. En tirant l’ensemble des rendements vers le bas, le QE  peut espérer favoriser la dépréciation de la monnaie et rendre les exportations plus compétitives. Avec son programme de QE de 1140 milliard d’euro (10% de la masse monétaire) en 18 mois (fin Sept 2016), la BCE fait mécaniquement baisser le cours de l’euro.

La situation ou le taux d’intérêt est durablement inférieur au taux de croissance est bien pathologique puisqu’elle incite les acteurs économiques à s’endetter au-delà du raisonnable. C’est bien ce que l’on observe depuis une quinzaine d’année. De même en pratiquant une politique de taux d’intérêt à long terme très bas associée a la monétisation des dettes publiques dans les cadres du QE, elles ont encouragé les gouvernements à laisser filer les déficits publics (parce que les intérêts à payer sur la dette sont très faible). Lorsque la dette est détenu par la banque centrale, l’état lui verse les intérêts sur cette dette, mais ensuite la banque centrale, qui transfère ses profits a l’état, les lui rend

La base monétaire mondiale tourne autour de 20 000 milliards de dollars. Nous pensons que la liquidité mondiale va continuer d’augmenter pendant plusieurs années.

Les bulles sur les prix d’actifs sont de retour: la politique laxiste des banquiers centraux n’a pas fait revenir l’inflation (celles de salaires ou des biens) mais elle a nourri l’inflation des prix des actifs notamment actions et immobilier. Les banques font apparaitre un effet de richesse nécessaire à la stimulation de la demande par l’enrichissement des détenteurs de portefeuilles.

Avec des politiques monétaires très expansionniste et des taux d’intérêt à long terme demeurant inferieurs a la croissance nominale, les valeurs boursières sont tirés vers le haut.

A NY, le Standard & Poor’s 500 a progressé de 72% entre sept 2010 et sept 2015. Le Nikkei s’est apprécié de 93%. A Londres le QE a plutôt nourri la bulle immobilière. A Shanghai, la bourse s’est envole de 150% entre Juin 2014 et Juin 2015 et a alimente le train de vie d’un nombre croissant de Chinois de la classe moyenne. La bourse devient dans un certain nombre de pays un instrument de politique monétaire.

Les banques souhaitent compenser une demande trop faible en raison du manque de pouvoir d’achat des revenus salariaux par une expansion ininterrompue du crédit et des revenus non-salariaux. La manœuvre est périlleuse: les pires excès sont à craindre si les investisseurs sont incités à croire que les banques centrales encouragent la prise de risque et les ‘assurent’ contre une baisse des actifs. Il y a alors formation de bulle doublée d’une augmentation de l’endettement (grâce au taux d’intérêt faible).

Une remonte des taux d’intérêt provoqueraient des pertes massives sur les portefeuilles d’obligations achetés avec des coupons très faibles par les investisseurs.

Le recours au QE lorsque la situation des marches financiers est bonne ne peut que faire enfler les bulles: c’est bien la preuve qu’une banque centrale ne devrait pas utiliser celle-ci comme instrument de politique monétaire pour soutenir l’économie.

A l’été 2015, les perspectives de croissance des pays émergents a provoqué des sorties de capitaux de ces pays 10 fois plus importantes qu’il y a dix ans, ce qui explique l’effondrement de leurs devises (les devises –hors China- ont perdu 30% contre le dollar depuis Janvier 2014)

La création monétaire – indispensable lorsqu’il se produit une crise de liquidité en 2009 – ne sert strictement à rien lorsqu’on parle de la faiblesse de la productivité, de l’innovation, du niveau de qualification de la population active,  de l’insuffisance de l’investissement dans les infrastructures…Ces politiques ont des effets pervers sur le plan structurel: elles protègent les faibles contre le risque de défaut (grâce a des taux d’intérêt bas) mais les incitent aussi à profiter de cette protection. Elles contrarient le processus de ‘destruction créatrice’ en évitant la disparition des ‘faibles’ (et cela au détriment des agents économiques les plus dynamiques). Elles favorisent le développement de la partie de l’économie liée aux prix des actifs, a l’endettement, a la spéculation…

En Chine, la politique monétaire provoque une accélération du crédit qui ne finance pas l’investissement des entreprises, mais la construction, les infrastructures avec le risque d’excès à la fois d’investissement et d’endettement.

Au japon le programme de QE a fait perdre (volontairement) 35% de la valeur du yen face au dollar depuis l’automne 2012 (même politique de dévalorisation de la monnaie en Europe et en Chine) mais les exportations n’ont pas suivi. On a parlé de ‘dépréciation sans exportation’ avant de conclure que les stratégies de change des années 80 avaient perdu de leur pertinence avec la globalisation des chaines de production.

Dollar, euro, yen ont cédé plus de 20% de leur valeur en 3 ans. En l’absence de coordination internationale, on risque d’assister à une surenchère qui fera encore plus de dégât sur la croissance mondiale.

Il y a fort à parier qu’une remonté des taux d’intérêt n’est pas pour demain car la première banque qui le fera exposera sa monnaie a l’appréciation.

Même les périodes de croissance avec baisse du chômage ne font plus revenir l’inflation. La théorie économique qui lie la baisse du chômage a l’inflation par le biais de l’augmentation du pouvoir d’achat et des salaires ne fonctionne plus (la courbe de Phillips liant croissance des salaires, prix et taux de chômage, n’est plus vérifiée).

Des reformes pour éviter le pire

  1. Les banques centrales doivent laisser de cote l’objectif d’inflation (qui restera faible certainement) et veiller plus à la stabilité financière (contrôle des prix d’actifs, de la liquidité…)
  2. S’adapter à une faible croissance potentielle (plutôt que d’essayer de retrouver les niveaux élevés d’antan).
  3. Faire en sorte que le FMI coordonne les politiques monétaires et de changes.
  4. Renoncer aux politiques monétaires expansionnistes qui durent trop longtemps et notamment lorsque le problème de l’économie n’a rien à voir avec la politique monétaire mais est lie a l’absence de réformes etc. qui bloque la croissance.
  5. Se donner un objectif de liquidité mondiale et commencer à réduire les liquidités très doucement. La base monétaire devrait progresser a peu près comme le PIB mondial en valeur. Ce dernier a progressé de 8-9% par an entre 2000 et 2009. La base monétaire a augmenté de 17% par an

 

Treasure Islands, Nicholas Shaxson, 2011

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More than half of the world trade passes, at least on paper, through tax havens. Over half of all banking assets and a third of FDI by multinational corporations are routed offshore. Some 85% of international banking and bond issuances takes place in the so-called Euromarket, a stateless offshore zone.  IMF estimated that in 2010 the balance sheet of small island financial centers added up to US$ 18 trillion, a third of world’s GDP.

A tax haven might offer a zero tax rate to non-residents but tax it own residents fully. This ring fencing between residents and non-residents is a tacit admission that what they do can be harmful.

Another way to spot a secrecy jurisdiction is to look for whether its financial services industry is very large compared to the local economy. The IMF uses this tool in 2007 to finger Britain as an offshore jurisdiction.

Transfer pricing : by artificially adjusting the price for internal transfer, multinationals can shift profits into a low-tax haven and costs into high-tax countries where they can be deducted against tax….Sometimes the prices of these transfers are adjusted so aggressively that they lose all sense of reality: a kilogram of toilet paper from China has been sold for US$4,121, a liter of apple juice has been sold out to Israel at US$2,052; ballpoint pens have left Trinidad values at US$8,500 each. Most example are far less blatant (unclear why unit price is high – transfer pricing works with product sold to offshore company at production price (to avoid taxes) and those product are resold to buying country at a price just lower the market price, so that profit in the selling country are small (and therefore not taxed much). The large difference between purchase and selling price is in the offshore country – not taxed).

Developing countries lose an estimated US$160 billion each year just to corporate trade mispricing of this kind.

The world contains about 60 secrecy jurisdictions, divide into 4 groups: Europeans, the British zone centered on the City of London, US influence zone and the fourth include some oddities (Somalia, Uruguay….)

In Europe, Switzerland, since at least the 18th century, sheltered the money of European elites. Netherland is a major tax haven. 20 times Dutch GDP ($18 trillion) flowed through Dutch offshore entities in 2008. Bono shifted his band’s financial empire to Netherland in 2006, to cut its tax bill.

Luxembourg is among the world biggest tax haven: North Korea Kim Jong Il has stashed some 4 billion dollars in Europe.  Luxembourg, South Korea Intelligence said in 2010, is a favoured destination for this money.

The second group, accounting for half of the world secrecy jurisdiction, is the most important and centred on the City of London. Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Cayman island, all substantially controlled by Britain, but also Hong Kong, Singapore; Dubai, Ireland, Vanuatu which are deeply connected to the City of London. This network account for almost half of the international bank assets.

The third group:  US is now, by some measures, the world’s single most important tax haven in its own rights, with a three tier system. At federal level: Tax exemptions, secrecy provisions, US banks may accepts proceeds from a range of crimes as long as the crimes are committed overseas. Individual US states offer a range of offshore lures: Florida, Wyoming, and Delaware with strong and unregulated corporate secrecy. And a network of islands such as Virgin Islands, Liberia, Marshall Islands (flag of convenience, managed by a private firm in Virginia, after a shipping registry was developed in 1986 with USAID support. Deep Water Horizon was registered in Marshall Islands. A small opaque tax haven grew alongside the shipping registry. Forming a Marshall Islands company can be done in a day for $650 and names of directors and shareholders are not mandatory in the registration process…),Panama, the biggest US influenced haven, a black hole that has become one of the filthiest money laundering sinks in the world.

Offshore finance has quietly been at the heart of the Neoconservative schemes to project US power around the globe.

The most important tax haven in the world in an island: the island of Manhattan. The second biggest is located on an island: London.

The difference between tax avoidance (legal but getting around the intent of elected legislature) and tax evasion (illegal) is the thickness of a prison wall.

US corporations paid about 2/5 of all US income taxes in the 1950’s; that share has fallen to 1/5. The top 0.1% of US taxpayers saw their effective tax rate fall from 60% in the 1960 to 33% in 2007. Billionaire Warren Buffet found that he was paying the lowest tax rate among his office staff, including the receptionist.  Overall taxes have not declined, the rich have been paying less and everybody else has had to take up the slack.

Russian dirty money favors Cyprus, Gibraltar, Nauru, all with strong British links. Much foreign investment in China goes via the British Virgin Islands.

A drug dealer may have money in a bank account in Panama. The account is under a trust set up in Bahamas. The trustees may live in Guernsey and the trust beneficiaries could be a Wyonming corporation with directors that are professional nominees who direct hundreds of similar companies. They have company lawyers, or trustees can be lawyers themselves, who are prevented by attorney-client privilege from giving out any details. Some trust may even have a flee clause: the moment an enquiry is detected, the structure flits to another secrecy jurisdiction and assets will automatically hop elsewhere.  Hong Kong is preparing legislation to allow incorporation and registration of new companies within minutes….

In 2005 Tax Justice Network estimated that wealthy individuals hold perhaps $11.5 trillion worth of wealth abroad. It is about ¼ of global wealth and equivalent to GNP of the US. This is $250 billion of taxes lost (2 or 3 times the size of the aid budget). And this is just individuals, not corporations…

http://www.taxjustice.net/

 

Global Financial Integrity programme (Center for International Policy in Washington) calculated that $1.2 trillion in illicit financial flows in 2008 from developing countries. For every dollar of aid money, the west has taken back $10 of illicit money under the table.

http://www.gfintegrity.org/

 

Eurodad has a book called Global Development Finance: illicit flow report 2009 which  seeks to lay out every comprehensive official estimate of global illicit international financial flows: every page is blank.

http://www.eurodad.org/taxjustice

The global offshore system helped generate the latest financial and economic crisis since 2007. 1 -By helping financial corporations to avoid regulation, offshore system helped them grow explosively, achieving “too big to fail” status and gaining the power to capture the political establishment in Washington and London. 2-As secrecy jurisdiction degraded their own financial regulations, they forced onshore jurisdiction to compete in a race towards ever laxer regulations. 3- huge illicit cross border flows (much of it unmeasured) have created massive net flows into deficit countries (US, UK) adding to the more visible macroeconomic imbalances that underpinned the crisis. 4- offshore incentives encouraged companies to borrow far too much. 5- As companies fragmented their financial affairs around the world’s tax haven, this created complexity which fed the mutual mistrust between market players that worsened the financial crisis.

Before WWI Britain did not tax profits made overseas. When war broke out, income taxes rose from 6% in 1914 to 30% in 1919 and Britain started to tax companies on their income worldwide.

The UN produced a draft model tax treaty in 1980 that was supposed to shift the balance back in favour of source countries and developing countries. The OECD intervened aggressively to stop this to ensure its own model treaty favoring rich country remained the preferred standard.  The rich country model has achieved a position of near-total dominance today. Not only is there double non-taxation, but plenty of tax that would in a fairer world be paid in poor countries is paid in rich country instead.

Trusts emerged in the middle ages when knights leaving for the crusades would leave their possessions in the hands of trusted stewards, who would look after them while they were away on the behalf of the knights’ wives and children. Trusts are secrets between lawyers and their clients. When a trust is set up the original owner of an asset in theory gives it away to a trust:  the trustee becomes the legal owner of the asset and must obey the terms of the trust deed. Even if the original owner dies, the trust remains and trustee is bound by law to follow its instructions. British upper classes feel comfortable separating themselves from their money and leaving it to be managed by trusted strangers (a cultural issue). Their education prepares them to recognize those would will respect their claims and whom they can trust.

Many of the structured investment vehicles that helped trigger the latest economic crisis were set up as offshore trusts, with several trillion dollars’ worth worldwide shrouded in deep secrecy.

A pervasive story exists that Switzerland put bank secrecy into place to protect German Jewish money from the Nazis. It is a myth. Amid the great depression (early 30s) workers called for more control over the banks. Bankers pressed fiercely for a new law to make it a crime to violate Swiss bank secrecy. The law was passed in 1934 making violation of bank secrecy a criminal offence. Swiss financial secrecy has existed for centuries. Catholic French kings valued Geneva’s bankers’ discretion highly – it would have been disastrous for it to be known they were borrowing from heretical Protestants.

‘It’s no use to pressuring the Swiss government, to get change, you must pressure the bank’, as demonstrated by the agreement between the US and UBS to share information on 4000 American account holders in 2010.

In 1929, culmination of a long period of deregulation and economic freedom, the richest 24,000 Americans received 630 times as much income on average as the poorest 6 million families, and the top 1% received nearly a quarter of all the income – a proportion slightly greater than the inequalities at the onset of the global crisis in 2007.

When bonds and shares are first issued, they flow into productive investment. This is generally healthy. Next a secondary market appears, where these shares and bonds are traded. These trades do not directly contribute to productive investment: they merely shuffle ownership. Well over 95% of purchases in global market today consist of this kind of secondary activity, rather than real investment. Shuffling ownership of bits of paper ought to help capital flow to those projects that offer the highest returns. A little speculative trading in these markets improve information and smooth prices. But when the volume of this dealing is a hundred times bigger than the underlying volume of trade, the result had proved to be a catastrophe.

From 1950 to 1973 annual growth rate amid widespread capital controls (and extremely high tax rates) average 4% in America and 4.6% in Europe. Per capita income in developing countries grew by a full 3% in the 60s and 70s, far faster than the rate since then. In the 80s, as capital controls were progressively relaxed around the world and tax rates fell and offshore system really began to flower, growth rates fell sharply. Countries that have grown most rapidly have been those that rely least on capital flow. Financial globalization has not generated increased investment or higher growth in emerging countries.

We msut be cautious about inferring too much from these facts, other reasons exists for high growth rates…but it shows that it is possible for countries to grow quickly while under capital control.

What has happening since the 1970s is financial liberalization on steroids: the offshore system has served as accelerator for flighty financial capital, bending capital flows so that they end up not where they find the most productive investment, but where they can find the greatest secrecy.

The Mont Pelerin society (1947, challenge to Keyne incubated in Switzerland –the world premier tax haven at the time): foundation of the global fightback against Keynes. “We must raise and train an army of fighters for freedom” Hayek. One attendee was Friedman, whose subsequent work inspired Thatcher and Reagan.

In 1957, the Pound Sterling still financed about 40% of world trade. With the empire crumbling and the pound sterling started to totter, this role was in great peril. Britain wanted to stop capital draining away by curbing bank’s overseas lending. The City objected and threatened to bankrupt the government. Curbing on lending would eventually apply to pound sterling loans by London merchant banks only. These bank – for which the international lending business was vital – simply shifted the international lending from pound to dollars. The Bank of England deemed that those transactions not to take place in the UK (as in foreign currency) and did not regulate those (as regulations would mean admission of responsibility, it was better not to regulate those markets!). While the Euromarket was undermining US control over the dollars, the US did nothing to stop its banks to work on the Euromarket. In the 1960, experts thought that the market would gradually disappear as soon as interest rates in the US would rise to European levels. In addition, the US banks wanted to keep this offshore system as quiet as possible – it was not a political issue before 1975…Eurodollars helped the US finance its deficits, fight foreign wars and throw its weight around. This was the birth of the Eurodollars and Euromarkets (which actually are not link to the Euro and exist in all main world currencies – not only dollars). Euromarkets are a booking exercise: banks would record onshore any transaction involving at least one British party, and would record of offshore operations where neither parties was British. Moscow Narodny Bank was the first on that market: Moscow was not comfortable keeping its dollars in New York in the middle of the Cold War and preferred to keep those dollars in London instead: a Marxist nation was nurturing the most unfettered capitalist system in history!  And as the sterling ship sank, the city was able to scramble aboard a much more seaworthy young vessel, the Eurodollar – the City transformed itself into an offshore island.  Before the 60s , countries were relatively well insulated against financial calamities that happen elsewhere, but the Euromarket connected up the world financial sectors and economies…as it grew, tides of hot money began to surge back and forth across the globe.

Starting with 200m in 1957, the euromarket kept booming. By 1970 it was measured at 46bn and by 1975 it was reckoned to have grown to exceed the size of the entire world’ foreign exchange. This market was the route through which the oil rich state surpluses (from the oil shocks) were routed to deficit plagued consumer countries. Market reached 500bn in1980, 2.6tn in 1988. By 1997, 90% of all international loans were made through this market. It is not anymore measured by the Bank of International Settlement…Every now and then government tried to tax this market – and failed. There are always technical details that allows the business to continue to flourish – it is considered a the most momentous financial innovation since the banknote, but it is very little researched.

In the Euromarket in London, the banks are not required to hold any reserve (it is unregulated, although most banks do have their own set of rules). Bank can create as much money as they want: the first $100 deposit will turn into a lending of $100, which turn into another deposit of $100 etc. etc. It never happened quite like that and there has been huge controversy about how much the Euromarket has really contributed to expanding the amount of money – since the Bank of International Settlement has stopped measuring it, we won’t know. With unlimited money creation, credit will expand into places where it was not previously able to, in more risky business. Euromarkets made it possible for credit quality to deteriorate out of sight of the regulators.

[ not a quote: In short an attempt to regulate the financial sector and control the flow of money lent to the rest of the world by London based banks led to the creation of the largest unregulated financial market (the euromarket) which contributed significantly to the financial crisis by allowing uncontrolled money creation and spread of the crisis to all financial sectors worldwide.]

The loan-back technique: mobster would move out money from the US in suitcases, put it in secret swiss account, the bank would loan back to the mobster in the US. The mobster can even deduct loan interest repayment from its taxable income…

The US Volcker commission probing the assets of dead Jews found an internal memo from a large Swiss bank that creaming off money from dead people’s account was the usual way to accumulate reserves. Not only this: in secrecy jurisdiction, depositors willingly accept below market interest rates, in exchange for secrecy. It is hardly a surprise that banks became so interested in offshore private banking.

Global Financial Integrity study (2010) between 1970 and 2008, illicit financial outflow from Africa were approximatively $854bn. Total illicit outflow may be as high as $1.8tn. Developing countries lost up to a trillion dollars in illicit outflows just in 2006 – that is 10 dollars for every dollar of aid flowing in.

Univerist of Massachussetts in 2008: real capital flight over 35 years in 40 african countries from 1970 to 2004 is about $420bn – $607bn with interest earnings. Yet the total external debt was only 227bn. Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world and its assets vastly exceeds its debts. But these assets belong to a narrow elite, while public debt are born by the people.

The rise of the third world lending in the 70s and 80s laid the foundations for the global tax haven network that now shelter the most venal citizens. Some suggest that at least half of the money borrowed by the largest debtor countries flowed right out again under the table. Third world debt were match almost exactly by the stock of private wealth their elite had accumulated in the US (in 1990s). Loans to Russia to deal with nuclear safety in 1990’s all disappeared…For Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, the value of their elites offshore wealth was several times their external debt. Today the top 1% of households in developing countries own an estimated 70-90% of all private financial and real estate wealth.

Wealthy foreign investors buy up distressed sovereign debt at pennies on the dollar – typically at a 90% discount – then reap vast profits when those debts are repaid in full. One trick is to make sure that influential locals are secretly part of the investor buying the discounted rate. They help make sure the debt gets repaid. Their involvement must be hidden behind the shield of offshore secrecy.

If we consider that $18tn flowed through the netherland in 2008, just one of the many conduit havens, it is not unreasonable to estimate to tens of even hundreds of bn dollars of tax revenue are at stake for developing countries.

In 2007, the two biggest sources of foreign investment in China were not japan or the US but Hong Kong and British Virgin islands. The biggest source for investment in India is not the US or Britain or China but Mauritius, a rising star in the offshore system. A wealthy indian will send his money to Mauritius, then disguised as foreign investment, is being returned to India. The sender can avoid Indian tax on local earnings, and also use the secrecy to build monopoly by disguising the fact that a diverse array of competitors in the market is in fact controlled by the same interest.

Delaware State, in the 80’s: Chase Manhattan and JP Morgan banks hired an expert to draft the tax law and help convince the state to adopt it. The law was drafted without any analyses of a Delaware official. The law was to remove interest rate ceiling (which were in place for 200 years, law against usury) on credit cards, on personal loans, car loans and more. Banks would have powers to foreclose on people’s homes if they faulted on credit card debts, they could establish places of business overseas or offshore, and they got a regressive state tax structure to boot. And crucially, this was to be rolled out across America. The fact that Delaware law could be enacted in other states is a sign of health competition…critics says this illustrates the ability of powerful private interests to pass laws with national ramifications by singling out and exploiting the weakest and most malleable states.

Because it is small, Delaware can take advantage of opportunities, they are small, they move fast and can fill the void. They can give bankers what they need faster than anyone else. Delaware’s legislature is for hire.

Credit card debt, money market funds and numerous other instruments that fueled the borrowing binge and the crisis – the deregulation of interest rates had effect that are incalculable and is seen as one the single most important cause of the 2007 crisis.

[Not a quote: in short, the removal of interest rate cap in Delaware, led banks to do better business there and the law to be exported to other states. This led to massive credit card debt ( e.g. consumers credit card debt and loans against homes to pay credit card bills) and creation of money market funds (which supplied banks with money) were key source of the 2007 crisis. ]

Delaware became a major player in the securitization industry – the business of parceling up mortgages and other loans, and repackaging the debt and selling them on. Delaware again simply established the exact legal framework that corporation desired.  The 1981 law contained a section exempting ‘affiliated finance companies’ from all state taxes. These company act like bank but are not formally banks so fall outside financial regulations. They are part of the global shadow banking system that dragged the world into economic crisis from 2007.

In 1988 the statutory trust act which provide protection of trust assets from creditors. This made Delaware the top jurisdiction for setting up so-called balance sheet CDOs (collateral debt obligations) which allowed banks to offload their assets onto other investors, another important contributor to the crisis.

Limited liability:  since the middle of 19th century: if a limited liability company goes bust, owners and shareholders may lose the money they invested, but their losses are limited to that: they are not liable for the additional debts the corporations has racked up. This was introduce to encourage people to invest. In exchange companies must have their account properly audited, and these audit published, to keep the risk manageable.

A partnership: responsibilities on losses and debt in full, lower taxes and accounts are private and undisclosed.

Jersey introduced the Limited Liability Partnership: the partnership allows less disclosure and the LL protection altogether. This is an example of having the cake and eating it. When debt are not covered, they end up being covered by the government, ultimately people’s taxes. With all audit company moving to LLP status (in UK, Aus, NZ…), it diluted auditor’s incentives to take care with their accounting. Had auditors personally faced getting into big trouble when they screwed up, they might not have been so hasty to sign off on all the off-balance sheet financing.

IMF 2010 report shows that funding flows related to Greece crisis from 15 main countries: barring France and Germany, all are major secrecy jurisdiction.

Banks achieved a staggering 16% annual return on equity between 1986 and 2006, and the banks are now big enough to hold us all to ransom. Unless taxpayers give them what they want, financial calamity ensues. This is the too big to fail problem- courtesy of offshore.

Remoteness between ownership and operation is an evil in the relations among men. (Keynes) This is the flaw in the grand bargain at the heart of the globalization project. [in relation to ownership that is transferred from owner to owner by finance institutions, with no link with the real operation in the economic world]

In 1998, the OCED new project was the first serious and sustained intellectual assault on the secrecy jurisdictions in world history.  The Coalition for Tax Competition, at the Cato Institute, was set up to counter the move.

A branch of economics known as public choice theory which rejects the notion that politicians act on the behalf of people and societies and instead look at them as self-interested individuals. James Buchanan and Vernon Smith, economists, studies this.

The rich have seen their wealth and income soar. They also shifted their income out of personal income tax category into corporation tax, to be taxed at far lower corporate tax rates.The richest 400 Americans in 1992 booked 26% of their income as salaries and 36% as capital gains. By 2007, they recorded 6% as salaries and 66% as capital gains. The same happened in all high-income categories and in all OECD countries since at least the 1970s. IN contrast, working population has seen its personal income taxes and social security contributions rise over the last 30 years.

Between 1990 and 2001, corporation tax revenues in low income countries fell by 25%. This is especially troubling because developing countries find it much easier to tax a few big corporations than millions of poor people.

IMF study in 2009 concluded that tax incentives, which are supposed to attract investors, slash tax revenues but do not promote growth.

In the golden age of 1947-1973 the US economy grew at nearly 4% a year, while top marginal tax rate was between 75 and 90%. Those tax rates did not cause that growth, nut high taxes didn’t choke it either.

It is inequality, rather than absolute level of poverty and wealth, that determines how society fare on almost every single indicator of well-being.

The low income countries that have been growing the fastest, like China, tend to be those that have exported capital, not imported it.

The best way for countries to share information is through the so-called automatic exchange of information, where they tell each other about their taxpayers’ financial affairs. This happens inside Europe and in a few other countries. But there is another way of sharing information, ‘on request’: a country will agree to hand over information but only on a case by case basis, only when specifically asked and only under very narrow conditions – the requested must be able to demonstrate why they need the information. In other word, the requester must already know, more or less, what it is [they are looking for]. No fishing expeditions are allowed.  You can’t prove criminality until you get the information, and you can’t get the information until you prove criminality.

The human factor of life of offshore: There is something about island life that stifles dissent and encourages the pervasive groupthink. ‘An enemy on an island is an enemy forever’ There is no blending into anonymous background, no neighboring society to shift toward. Islanders are required to watch their step, moment by moment. The ability to sustain an established consensus and suppress troublemakers makes islands especially hospitable to offshore finance. The local establishment can be trusted not to allow democratic politics to interfere in the business of making money [which in general benefit the islands but is to the detriment of the rest of the world]

In small jurisdictions – not necessarily islands- it is so easy for collective inferiority complexes to emerge, where residents come to see themselves as defenders of local interests against the predations of bigger, bullying neighbors.

In tiny states, everyone knows everyone else, and conflicts of interest and corruption are inevitable.

When Irish musician Bono, for years the world’s most prominent poverty campaigner, shift its financial affairs to Netherlands to avoid tax and is still warmly welcomed in society, the battle seems lost.

The shadow banking system: structured investment vehicles, asset-backed commercial paper conduits and other unregulated structures whose assets, by the time of the crisis in 2007, were greater than the entire $10tn US banking system, and which nearly brought the world economy to its knee.

In 1997, the Labour gave the Bank of England its operational independence, a gift of economic and political power to the City, the most radical shake up of the Bank in its 300-year history.

London has more foreign banks than any other financial center: by 2008 it accounted for half of all international trade in equities, 70% of Eurobond turnover, 35% of global currency trading and 55% of international public offerings. New York was bigger in areas like securisation, insurance, mergers and acquisitions and asset management, but much of its business is domestic, making London the world’s biggest international – and offshore – financial hub.

Richard Branson, who owns his business empire through a maze of offshore trusts and companies, said in 2002 that his company would be half its size if it had not legally avoided tax via offshore structures.

International Accounting Board Standard (IASB) sets the rules for how companies around the world publish their financial data. Over one hundred countries use these standards. Its rule let multinational corporations consolidate results in different countries into one single figure.  There is no way to unpick the numbers to work out profit in each country. Given that 60% of world trade happens inside multinational corporations, this is massive opacity.  The IASB is not a public rule-setting body, accountable to democratic parliaments; it is a private company registered in Delaware, financed by the big four accountancy firms and some of the world’s biggest corporations. This is an example of privatization of public policy making.

The City of London is the oldest continuous municipal democracy in the world, the Corporation boast. It dates from 1067 and is rooted in the ancient rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens before the Norman Conquest in 1066. It has remained a political fortress withstanding tides of history. Britain’s rulers have needed the City’s money and given the City what it wants in exchange.

The Bank of England, like other financial regulators, answers to Parliament, not to the Corporation, but its physical location at the centre of City reflects where its heart lies.

When the Government launched an inquiry in 2008 into the financial crisis, every single one of the team’s 21 members had background in financial services. It was hardly a surprise when the report recommended no real changes.

English libel laws are among the comforts for those with dirty money who come to London. There is no constitutional protection for free speech and the burden of proof is deposited squarely on the shoulder of the defendant, unlike nearly everywhere else. Libel litigation in England and Wales cost 140 times the European average. Many things in this book have been self-censored. Effective change in the law would significantly weaken Britain’s offshore empire.

In Britain, 0.3% of the population owns 2/3 of the land, in famously unequal Brazil, 1% of the population owns half of the land.

Until 1970’s offshore explosion, UK banks expanded their balance sheet cautiously, in line with spending in the economy, and combined they were worth half of the GDP. In the beginning of twenty-first century their balance sheets had grown to over 5 times of GDP.

Ancien regime in France fell in the 18th century because the richest country in Europe, which had exempted its nobles from taxation, could not pay its debt.

Recommendations: The veil of silence and ignorance can be lifted; blacklisting of havens; country by country accounting reporting for big corporations; automatic information sharing between countries; priorities the needs of developing countries; focus on improving tax systems in developing countries; confront the British spider web, the most aggressive single element in the global offshore system; new taxation approach based on the substance of what they do in the real world, rather than on the legal fictions its accountants have cooked up; Onshore tax reform with focus on land and land rental value which encourage the best use of land – and proof against offshore escape. Other focus should be on mineral rich countries with oil money sluicing into the offshore system, distorting the global economy; tax and regulate the financial industries according to an economy’s real needs – ignoring the threat of relocation offshore by companies; tackle the intermediaries and private users of offshore (e.g. pressure on banks, not only on governments); corporate responsibility – limited liabilities is a privilege for instance, corporations can be held to a set of obligations to the society (notably transparency). Offshore undermined this: privilege are still there but obligations have withered; Reevaluate corruption, it worsen poverty and inequalities. Parallels between bribery and the business of secrecy is no coincidence – we are talking about the same thing; change the culture: pundits, journalist, politician can not fawn over people who get rich by abusing the system. Professional associations of lawyers, accountants and bankers need to create code of conduct to prevent assisting financial crimes.

Le dernier qui s’en va éteint la LUMIERE – Paul Jorion – 2016

Crise environnementale, crise de la complexité (les interactions augmentent entre des populations de plus en plus nombreuses dans un environnement de plus en plus mécanisé où nous confions nos décisions à l’ordinateur), crise économique et financière due au fait que nos systèmes sont une gigantesque machine a concentrer la richesse (alimentées par les intérêts de la dette et dont les effets délétères sont encore amplifiés par la spéculation (pari sur la hausse ou la baisse des titres financiers).

Nous croissons aujourd’hui a raison de 77 millions d’êtres humains supplémentaires par an.

Thomas Hobbes – la guerre du tous contre tous.

Depuis d’adoption du protocole de Kyoto visant a reduire les emissions de gas a effet de serre, les émissions annuelles de carbone sont passées de 6400 à 8700 millions de tonnes. On mesure la l’efficacité de nos efforts en la matière.

Il s’agit de réintroduire des notions telles que le bonheur, non pas mesuré puisqu’il est d’une nature qui ne se prête pas à la mesure, mais comme quelque chose de présent plutôt qu’absent.

Aristote : les valeurs et les prix relèvent de domaines absolument distincts. Il n’y a pas de valeur cachée derrière un prix, la seule chose qu’il y ait la est un rapport de forces entre êtres humains.

Trop de CO2 ou de dioxyde d’Azote, trop de phosphates….Aussi longtemps qu’il ne sera pas questions de qualités, tout calcul est condamné à n’être que comptes d’apothicaire dont aucune vérité profonde n’émergera jamais.

Gilens et Page, 2014 : ils ont comparé un catalogue d’objectifs politiques exprimés dans l’opinion publique (1779 en tout) et examiné si les mesures ont été, oui ou non, mis en œuvre. Conclusion : l’opinion de la majorité est ignorée : elle ne compte pas et n’est pas reflétée dans les mesures qui sont prises. Aux etats unis règne un système politique caractérisé par la domination d’une élite écconomique.

Lacordaire (1802-1861) avait dit « entre le fort et le faible, entre le riche et le pauvre, entre le maitre et le serviteur, c’est la liberté qui opprime et la loi qui affranchit ».

Les entreprises innovantes d’aujourd’hui exigent désormais une mise de fonds importante en capital, ne créent pour l’essentiel que des emplois très qualifiés en petit nombre par rapport au chiffre d’affaires. La firme WhatsApp ne comptait que 50 employes quand elle fut rachetée pour 19 milliard de dollars par Facebook. La technologie ne crée pas nécessairement d’emploi.

On progresse vers une économie ou le vainqueur emporte tout (the winner takes all) ou un très petit nombre de travailleurs très qualifies créent une part disproportionnée de la richesse.

Alain Supiot : L’imaginaire cybernétique tend à effacer la différence entre l’homme, l’animal et la machine, saisi comme autant de système homéostatique communiquant les uns avec les autres.  A ce nouvel imaginaire correspond le passage du libéralisme économique – qui place le calcul économique sous l’égide de la loi – à l’ultralibéralisme, qui place la loi sous l’égide du calcul économique. Etendu a toutes activités humaines, le paradigme du marché occupe désormais la place de norme fondamentale à l’échelle du globe.

L’invention du statut de la personne morale, calqué sur celui de la personne physique (la justification intuitive en étant que celle-ci dispose, comme souvent la personne physique, d’un patrimoine) prit place aux Etats Unis au milieu du XIXe siècle.

Au fils des ans, les droits des personnes morales ne cessèrent de croitre et leurs devoirs de se réduire, tandis que l’immortalité potentielle qui leur était dorénavant assurée leur permettait une accumulation quasi infinie de patrimoine et du pouvoir qui lui est associe.

La formulation juridique des principes ultralibéraux crée par anticipation le cadre de fonctionnement d’un univers peuplé seulement de robots.

Lord Adair Turner, patron du régulateur des marchés financiers au royaume uni qui dressa en 2010 la liste des activités inutiles, voire nocives, de la finance. Il est nocif qu’un secteur dépasse la taille correspondant à son véritable rôle économique. A un contradicteur prétendant que le secteur financier devait s’efforcer de devenir le plus gros possible, il avait répondu que l’on imagine pas des centrales électriques cherchant à excéder la demande du marché.

La promotion implicite du court termisme par la philosophie qui sous-tend la règlementation comptable date des années 1980 et est lié à l’internationalisation et la privatisation de la rédaction des règles comptables (grandes firmes d’audit et l’International Accounting Standard Board – qui est finance par ces mêmes firmes). IASB est domicilié dans l’état du Delaware qui constitue un havre fiscal. Conflit d’intérêt, puisque IASB est aussi finance par les mêmes firmes d’audit, et aucun contrôle démocratique….

La comptabilité moderne a évolué en trois temps : primo, début du XIX, les bénéfices ne sont comptabilises que lorsqu’ils sont apparus : pour distribuer des parts il faut d’abord  avoir couvert les coûts. Secundo au milieu du XIX, les bénéfices apparaissent anticipées en enkystant le passif, et ce pour ne pas décourager les petits investisseurs dont on avait besoin pour financer les grands projets de construction. Tertio, les années 1980, la comptabilité  « mark to market » au prix du marché, les bénéfices sont distribués à titre anticipé. Le moindre bénéfice est aussitôt partagée entre amis, et s’il manque de l’argent pour l’entreprise, on l’emprunte !

Les docteurs de l’Eglise, au Moyen Age, appelait « usure » ce que nous appelons « crédit à la consommation » et bannissaient le paiement d’intérêts sur des sommes empruntées pour la seule et unique raison que l’emprunteur y était forcé.

Au cours des premiers siècles de notre ère, la concentration de la richesse a condamné une part toujours croissante de la population au surendettement, entrainant l’apparition d’un statut social inédit : celui, devenu rapidement héréditaire, de serf attaché de génération en génération a la terre de son maitre.

Le système économique nécessite la croissance comme l’un de ses éléments constituants en tant qu’il est un système capitaliste, et qu’il est donc impossible de parler de décroissance sans remettre en question la nature capitaliste de notre système économique. Le système économique n’est pas monolithique : il est à la fois « capitaliste », « de marché », « libéral » voire « ultralibéral ».

Comptabiliser le travail comme coût (qu’il convient donc de minimiser pour augmenter les dividendes) et les dividendes comme part de profit est en réalité arbitraire : c’est l’expression d’un choix politique. Un juste partage exige la remise en cause des règles comptables qui traitent les salaires comme des coûts, et les bonus de la direction et les dividendes des actionnaires comme des parts de bénéfices, pour considérer tous ensemble comme avances faites au même titre à la production de marchandises ou de services.

Le coût de la crise des « subprimes » fut considérable : 8% du PIB de la zone euro. Les garanties des Etats de la zone euro au secteur financier équivalaient en 2014 à 2.7% du PIB en 2014.

Un article signé Vitali, Glattfelder et Battiston mettait en évidence en 2011 l’existence, en parallèle du réseau de pouvoir que forme les Etats, d’un autre réseau constitué en son cœur par un nombre restreint  (147) de compagnies transnationales dont la puissance économique est considérablement supérieur à celle des Etats.  Un nombre réduit d’individu (737) exerce le pouvoir effectif au sein de (80%) ces compagnies. Les trois quarts des 147 compagnies sont des établissements financiers.

Apple, jouant sur les ambiguïtés des codes des impôts nationaux, a même réussi la gageure de n’avoir aucune domiciliation fiscales pour les principales composantes de son conglomérat, et d’être ainsi pleinement déterritorialisé. Aucun devoir, aucun engagement ne lie (ces entreprises internationales) à une véritable communauté de citoyens en aucun endroit du globe.

Si l’on veut stopper le processus de destruction en cours, le choix est simple : il faut imposer à la finance, l’éthique qui prévaut dans les autres départements de nos sociétés : mettre fin le plus rapidement possible à l’extraterritorialité éthique dont elle bénéficie à l’heure actuelle.

The Economist 2012 : à la questions envers qui il conviendrait qu’il se sentent davantage responsables, les leaders de la finance considèrent : leur PDG (pour 48%), leur actionnaires (pour 44%)…les choix les moins populaires sont la société dans son ensemble (pour 25%) l’Etat (11%). Le monde financier reste convaincu du bien-fondé de son extraterritorialité sur le plan éthique.

Francois Debauche nous à enseigné des choses précieuses, consciencieusement retenues.

Rien ne permet d’exclure que les processus biologiques ne produisent eux aussi ultérieurement, par émergence,  un type de phénomène d’une nature inédite. Et que, du coup, ce qui nous avions imaginé à tort comme étant intervenu avant nous, la présence d’un Dieu démiurge ayant été la cause de notre monde, n’apparaisse en fait ultérieurement au sein du monde. Dieu non comme la cause mais comme la conséquence de cet univers.

Rees : « Notre ère d’intelligence organique constitue un triomphe de la complexité sur l’entropie mais un triomphe passager, qui sera suivi d’une période considérablement plus longue d’intelligence inorganique, beaucoup moins contrainte par son environnement.  Il est probable que les extraterrestres auront opéré la transition qui permet de dépasser le stade organique il y a déjà très longtemps ».  Proposition intrigante qui implique que nous perdons notre temps quand nous recherchons aujourd’hui des manifestations de vie intelligente. Devons-nous attrister que l’être humain ne soit pas le point culminent de l’évolution ? Que les humains ne soient que les précurseurs fugaces d’une culture dominée par les machines ?

Hegel – S’impose a nous la question de savoir si, derrière le vacarme, ne se trouverait pas une œuvre intérieur dans laquelle serait emmagasinée la force des phénomènes et à laquelle tout profiterait. C’est la catégorie de la Raison, celle de la pensée d’une fin ultime en elle-même. Le ruse de la Raison : la Raison s’accomplit, quelque que soit la représentation qu’en ont les hommes par le truchement de ce qui se réalise dans le monde. Mais pour Hegel toujours, ce n’est pas tant l’histoire qui réalise la raison, que nous qui la lisons dans son déroulement. La Raison est donc cette chose qu’on est à même de lire dans l’histoire, bien davantage qu’elle n’y est véritablement présente.