This story is intriguing from any number of levels, not the least of which because some of the regular readers of this website live in Spain, and from time to time have updated us about the dire straits not only of the Spanish economy, but the cultural assault that country – home to Cervantes, Soler, Velasquez – has been under. This article was shared by Mr. L.B., and it concerns a series of court actions against the corrupt financial oligarchs that have been responsible for so much of the country’s current economic crisis:
Consider just the first five paragraphs here, and one tidbit of information that I find highly significant in terms of its implications for the type of financial analysis of the situation that one encounters in the analyses of former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Catherine Austin Fitts:
The case of Rodrigo Rato is perhaps the most interesting among some 150 high-level corruption cases scheduled to take place this year in Spain – involving over 2,000 elite figures in Spanish society. Rato was the country’s Minister of Economics from 1996 to 2004, and a leading political force in the conservative Popular Party (PP) as well as managing director of the IMF (2004-2007) and chairman of Bankia, Spain’s largest bank (2010-12).
These institutions’ combined actions spurred Spain’s economic crash and intensifying poverty crisis, as Bankia’s massive debts were nationalized by the PP-controlled government and Rato’s bank became the main recipient of the bailout deal with the EU and IMF. From these business-government arrangements, Rato and the rest of Spain’s 1% profited while imposing austerity on the majority.
Last April, the Financial Times described Rato being shoved by a law officer during his arrest. “The touch lasted only a few seconds, but it will be seared into the mind of Rodrigo Rato — and of millions of Spaniards — for years to come,” wrote the paper. Millions saw the clip repeated on rolling TV coverage and the Internet. The Times article quotes an editorial by Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, illuminating its importance: “The precise moment in which the customs agent grabs his head… marks a point of no return, in which we leave behind an era.”
Translation: Rato and many others were no longer untouchable.
The case now underway against Rato and Bankia hinges around three aspects. First, the bank is charged with false advertising when it floated its stock for purchase. Second, it is accused of mis-selling toxic assets to unsuspecting members of the public. And third, it issued “black visa cards” to senior Bankia management, facilitating both tax evasion and bribery of politicians and government officials.(Emphasis added)
What intrigues me here is that the pattern in Spain so closely resembles Ms. Fitts’ analysis of the overarching pattern one sees in the past few years in the wake of the various bailouts of the major banksters: toxic assets were moved off the balance sheets of the banks, and shifted to the public via their governments, while more liquidity was added to the balance sheets, creating, for want of a better word, a vast slush fund in private hands.
And of course, in this mix, the major banksters seldom went to jail for two decades’ worth of casino-like behavior, but awarded themselves fat bonuses.
But wait, there’s much more going on in Spain, at least, according to this article, for the indictments did not arise from a haphazard approach, but rather from a considered strategy:
In May of 2012, on the first anniversary of the 15M movement that took to the squares in a two-month occupation that helped spur Occupy Wall Street four months later, 15MpaRato launched its plan to jail Rodrigo Rato. According to law, Spanish citizens or organizations can file complaints that judges will consider and decide whether, and whom, to prosecute. This is exactly what happened with Rato.
“One of the first things we did was publicize an anonymous dropbox, and we received information from the citizens on Rato and Bankia. This grew and grew and included receiving 8,000 pages from the bank employees,” Simona Levi from 15MpaRato told Occupy.com.
15MpaRato used global leaks, an open-source program that creates a secure Internet space to receive sensitive information. By early June of 2012, enough evidence had been collected to initiate the case against Rato. Victims were also found to stand as claimants.
Next, activists launched Spain’s first-ever political crowdfunding campaign to pay the legal fees associated with the case. The campaign reached its funding target in less than 24 hours, and the anonymous drop-box provided essential information to citizens eager to get involved. For instance, they discovered that Bankia employees had leaked internal documents that read “DO NOT SHOW THIS TO THE CLIENTS,” and were instructed to target unsuspecting customers to buy the bank’s toxic assets that should have only been sold to financial investors.
In other words, there was a definite campaign to create (1) a secure internet source for those inside the Spanish banking system to provide information that would lead to indictments, and (2) an financial effort was launched to fund it. One can expect, via some high octane speculation, that similar strategies will emerge this year in Europe, as it deals not only with an ongoing financial crisis, but also a “refugee” crisis on top of that, and governments that are increasingly isolated from popular sentiment. This is a movement, in other words, that eventually will engulf not just bankers, but the politicians who enabled them.