Thursday, August 27, 2009

Suffering Fools

What a foolish nation we must appear to be to the outsiders on this planet. Not long after the death of elder statesman Ted Kennedy, a champion of the underdogs in society, and promoter of healthcare as a national right, proponents of Obamacare dared suggest Congress pass “Kennedy-care” Legislation as a tribute to the late senator.
Nevermind most of these eggheads haven’t read the bill.

I had a dream last night: Nancy Pelosi had been called on the carpet before a tribunal of decision-makers. She’s sitting behind a long, low table, surrounded by fawning members of the media, camera’s clicking an popping as she leans into a large, silver microphone. The head of the Tribunal bangs his gavel for order in the large hall so that the hearing may begin.

It’s Fred Gwynne in his role as Judge Chamberlain Haller from “My Cousin Vinnie,” and he’s looking down on her from behind the bench, and he says, in that rich, southern baritone drawl, “Mizz Pelosi, before we get stahted, I need to ask you one question.”

Nancy Pelosi looks up at Judge Haller, and he asks, “Have yew read this heah healthcare reform bill, ma’am?”

Speaker Pelosi pauses…the camera’s click and whir again as she leans into the microphone, and answers, “No, your honor, not all of it, but I am sure most of my youthful staff has read most of it.”

"Did you say "youts?"

BANG! goes the gavel, and Judge Chamberlain Haller’s voice booms throughout the hall, “Adjourned!”

“Young lady,” he intones, looking down at Nancy Pelosi, “you’d best read this piece of legislation covah to covah before you come back before this court. Is that cleah, Mizz Pelosi?”
And about that time, my alarm went off.

I guess we make the rest of the world laugh.
Or scratch their heads in wonderment.

Here’s another example.
Bloomberg News reported this week Switzerland’s chief negotiator in the UBS AG tax case said the U.S. Internal Revenue Service may request names of American clients from other banks after the Swiss government agreed to hand over UBS account details. The IRS plans to target more banks, law firms and entities that help Americans hide assets.

Swiss banks manage about 27% of the world’s offshore wealth, and it’s believed that tax evasion through offshore accounts robs the U.S. of $100 billion annually. Guess when you’re doling out billions of dollars to banks and carmakers, you’ve got to collect every Swiss franc you can convert.

UBS will provide Swiss authorities with details of 4,450 accounts where “tax fraud or the like” is suspected…

Meanwhile, from the Deparment of “Do as We Say, Not as We Do,” in Washington, The Federal Reserve argued this week that identifying the financial institutions that benefited from its emergency loans would harm the companies…

“The immediate release of these documents will destroy the board’s claims of exemption and right of appellate review,” quoth a motion to stay the ruling. “The institutions whose names and information would be disclosed will also suffer irreparable harm.”

The Fed’s “ability to effectively manage the current, and any future, financial crisis” would be impaired, and “significant harms” could befall the U.S. economy as well.

So on the one hand, you’ve got the US Government suing and prevailing against the Swiss Banking system to release the private details of US Citizens with Swiss bank accounts…and at the same time, the Federal Reserve says they don’t have to tell the American Public which banks were the beneficiaries of tax bailouts to keep the skunks in business.

Yeah, that's really squared away.
The Fed has refused to name the financial firms it lent to or disclose the amounts or the assets put up as collateral under the emergency programs, saying disclosure might set off a run by depositors and unsettle shareholders.

Bloomberg News sued on Nov. 7 under the Freedom of Information Act on the premise that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the banks’ interest in secrecy.” The Court rejected the Fed’s argument that the records should remain private because they are trade secrets and would scare customers into pulling their deposits.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who sponsored a bill to require the Fed to submit to an audit by the Government Accountability Office, uttered the question that was on everyone's mind: “What has the Fed got to hide?”

“The time has come for the Fed to stop stonewalling and hand this information over to the public.” He’s right.

One attorney for the group had the inspiration to say, “Experience in the banking industry has shown that when customers and market participants hear negative rumors about a bank, negative consequences inevitably flow…”

I’m thinking experience going forward in the banking industry is going to show that what customers desire most is transparency, with a close second place for some consistency in their dealings. It’s not just a little hypocritical to force Swiss banks to give up their secrets, while at the same time feigning trade secret protection on this side of the Atlantic.

For the record, The Clearing House Association LLC, an industry-owned group in New York that processes payments between banks, filed a declaration that accompanied the request for a stay. You might be interested to learn the members of the Clearing House include ABN Amro Holding NV, Bank of America Corp., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase Inc., UBS AG, U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo & Co.

Where's Judge Haller when you need him?

No comments: