09 March 2010

Wall Street Excluded from European Government Bond Sales

The Ugly American is a novel that was published in 1958, and was later made into a movie starring Marlon Brando. It tells the story how America was losing the hearts and minds of the people in Asia after its heroic performance in the Second World War by the predatory business practices and exploitation of US multinationals. The book was a bit of a scandal, coming on the heels of Nixon's visit to South America where he was spat upon by angry mobs.

At the time people talked about the way in which US corporations were alienating the developing world (we called it 'third world' then), and how it would create a generation of political difficulties for the US around the world. This was an initial wake up call to the American public, which was lost and forgotten in the fervor of the Go-Go Sixties. What was good for General Bullmoose was good for the USA. Or so we all thought.

Regrettably, once again US corporations, the Wall Street banks, are busy alienating the world against America's interests through their unethical and shockingly predatory business practices. It will be interesting if Asia and South America pick up this theme of banning the Wall Street banks on ethical considerations from doing certain types of business in their regions.

It would be even more significant if US financial assets were to no longer find a place with foreign investors, based on a perception of their somewhat fraudulent taint from the CDO ratings scandals. Little or no reform has yet occurred. Who will then expect anything to have changed?

The imbalances, flaws and conflicts of interest in the US financial markets are a genuine shame, and may yet cripple the economy once again. And the unwillingness of the reform President to do anything about it is even more shocking still. What is he thinking?

Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla) recently said , "There is a growing feeling on the part of Democrats that the president is getting bad advice from people who have sold out to Wall Street."

I think far too many people would agree whole-heartedly with him.

Guardian UK
Europe bars Wall Street banks from government bond sales
By Elena Moya
Monday 8 March 2010 21.36 GMT

European countries are blocking Wall Street banks from lucrative deals to sell government debt worth hundreds of billions of euros in retaliation for their role in the credit crunch.

For the first time in five years, no big US investment bank appears among the top nine sovereign bond bookrunners in Europe, according to Dealogic data compiled for the Guardian. Only Morgan Stanley ranks at number 10.

Goldman Sachs doesn't make the table. Goldman made it to number five last year and in 2006, and number eight in 2007, the data shows. JP Morgan was in the top ten last year and in 2007 and 2006 but doesn't appear this year.

"Governments do not have the confidence that the excessive risk-taking culture of the big Wall Street banks has changed and they still cannot be trusted to put the stability of the financial system before profit," said Arlene McCarthy, vice chair of the European parliament's economic and monetary affairs committee. "It is no surprise therefore that governments are reluctant to do business with banks that have failed to learn the lesson of the crisis. The banks need to acknowledge the mistakes that were made and behave in an ethical way to regain the trust and confidence of governments."

European sovereign bond league tables are now dominated by European banks such as Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank, and Société Générale, the Dealogic table shows. Their business model is usually seen as more relationship-based, while US investment banks have traditionally been focused on immediate deal-making. (A euphemism for customer face-ripping - Jesse)

Being left out of government bond sales means missing out on one of the top fee-earning opportunities this year, given the relative drought in mergers and acquisitions and stock market flotations. Western European governments need to raise an estimated half a trillion dollars this year to refinance debts and pay for bank bailouts and rising unemployment....

Investment banks insist their business areas are separated by confidentiality walls, but countries have been furious about some of their trades appearing to conflict – either on their own books, or on behalf of clients.

Goldman Sachs said its overall position in the European sovereign bond market had improved this quarter once US dollar denominated deals were included. It said its own data showed it ranked fourth in European sovereign bond sales this year...

"The power of big investment banks was a factor in the banking crisis, and it's up to regulators and customers to stand up to them, and not picking them is one of the ways," Augar said...

The EU is also trying to curb US financial power by creating its own monetary fund – a replica of the Washington-based IMF. The need of a European fund has emerged during the Greek crisis, as European politicians have insisted financial troubles should be resolved at home.