03 February 2010

Italy Seizes Bank of America Assets In Derivatives Fraud Probe

"more than 519 municipalities that face 990 million euros in derivatives losses"

As the quote indicates, its a big problem, and Bank of America is not the only bank involved. But they are a big player, and actively using derivatives to 'rip customer's faces off' as they saying goes.

Why does this happen? Bank of America just announced they will be paying, on average, a $400,000 bonus per employee for this year past. Any fines or penalities that are incurred from offenses are treated as a cost of doing business.

Crime does pay in the short term. Especially if you can buy off the government and co-op the regulators of a major developed nation. When someone succumbs to fraud, there is a tendency to blame the victim. The purpose of the law is to protect the weak. Perhaps they could have been more vigilant, but this in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator, and the likelihood that this is something they have been doing in many places over a period of time, with a growing level of sophistication.

People argue that if a nation sets rules for banks, they will just move offshore and keep doing business in any way that they please. This is intended to undermine any reforms and the rule of law.

It is possible to ban a company from doing business in your nation if it engages in unlawful practices. As noted here previously, Citi was engaging in trading practices in Europe and Japan that put them on the receiving end of bans for fraud.

Globalization is used as a rationale for stripping nations of their sovereign rights, and the people from their ability to rule and protect themselves in accord with their own beliefs and preferences.

Why people accept this nonsense when it applies to the financial sector is amazing. Well perhaps not, given the force of a steady propaganda that has been promoting it for the past twenty years.

The truth is ugly when you see it in plain black and white. The US is a relative safe haven for multinational corporations that engage in various forms of fraud and market manipulation around the world, like modern day privateers. It appears unable to regulate them because of widespread political corruption and the self interest of its monied elite.

Corporate privateering in partnership with the state has been a perennial problem in developing nations, especially in South America and the western Pacific. But the economic hitmen are ranging further and wider these days, in search of greater profits and new fields of plunder, and in developed nations. Iceland and Greece are one thing, but if a G7 nation like the UK falls prey to the banks, the reaction may be severe.

This theme of national sovereignty versus corporatism will gain more traction over the next five to ten years.

Italy Seizes Bank of America, Dexia Assets in Derivatives Probe

By Elisa Martinuzzi

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s financial police are seizing 73.3 million euros ($102 million) of assets from Bank of America Corp. and a unit of Dexia SA as part of a probe into an alleged derivatives fraud in the region of Apulia.

The police are sequestering a further 30 million euros that the municipality was set to place in a fund managed by the banks on Feb. 6, according to an e-mail from the prosecutor’s office in Bari today. The prosecutor also asked that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America be banned from doing business with Italian municipalities for two years. A hearing is slated for next month.

Prosecutors allege that when the banks arranged swaps and created a fund that invests money the region set aside to repay 870 million euros of borrowings due in 2023, they misled the region about the economic advantage of the package. Banks skewed the swaps to their advantage to hide fees, the prosecutor said.

Apulia, located in the heel of Italy, joins more than 519 municipalities that face 990 million euros in derivatives losses, according to data compiled by the Bank of Italy. In Milan, prosecutors seized assets from four banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS AG and requested they stand trial for alleged fraud. Hearings started in Milan this month...