Banks versus the People: The Underside of a Rigged Game! (Part 1)

2007-2012: Six years that shook the banking world

2 December 2012 by Eric Toussaint

Since 2007-2008, the major central banks (the ECB ECB
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is a European institution based in Frankfurt, founded in 1998, to which the countries of the Eurozone have transferred their monetary powers. Its official role is to ensure price stability by combating inflation within that Zone. Its three decision-making organs (the Executive Board, the Governing Council and the General Council) are composed of governors of the central banks of the member states and/or recognized specialists. According to its statutes, it is politically ‘independent’ but it is directly influenced by the world of finance.

https://www.ecb.europa.eu/ecb/html/index.en.html
, Bank of England, the “Fed FED
Federal Reserve
Officially, Federal Reserve System, is the United States’ central bank created in 1913 by the ’Federal Reserve Act’, also called the ’Owen-Glass Act’, after a series of banking crises, particularly the ’Bank Panic’ of 1907.

FED – decentralized central bank : http://www.federalreserve.gov/
” in the USA, and the Swiss National Bank) have been making it their absolute priority to attempt to avoid a collapse of the private banking system. Contrary to what has been said more or less everywhere, the principal risk threatening the banks is not that a government will suspend payment of sovereign debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government.  |1|. None of the bank failures since 2007 have been caused by that kind of payment default. None of the bank bailouts organized by the various governments has been made necessary by suspension of payment by an over-indebted State. What has threatened the banks since 2007 is the structured private-debt holdings they have gradually built up since the major deregulations, which began in the late 1970s and culminated during the 1990s. The balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. sheets of private banks are still packed with bad assets |2| which range from completely toxic assets Toxic assets An asset that becomes illiquid when its secondary market disappears. Toxic assets cannot be sold, as they are often guaranteed to lose money. The term “toxic asset” was coined in the financial crisis of 2008/09, in regards to mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, all of which could not be sold after they exposed their holders to massive losses. – veritable time bombs – to non-liquid assets (meaning they cannot be sold or shifted on financial markets), and include assets of which the value is completely over-estimated in the banks’ balance sheets. The sales and depreciations of assets banks have booked until now in order to reduce the weight of these explosive assets have been insufficient. A significant number of them depend on short-term financing (either provided or guaranteed by the Public Authorities with taxpayers’ money) to stay afloat |3| and handle debts that are themselves short-term. That explains why the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, which in fact amounts to a very large hedge fund, has been on the brink of bankruptcy three times in four years – in October 2008, in October 2011 |4|, and again in October 2012. During the most recent episode, in early November 2012, the French and Belgian governments provided aid amounting to 5.5 billion euros (53% of which was borne by Belgium) to recapitalize Dexia SA, a moribund financial company whose equity Equity The capital put into an enterprise by the shareholders. Not to be confused with ’hard capital’ or ’unsecured debt’. has melted away. According to Le Soir: “The equity of the Dexia parent company dropped from 19.2 billion to 2.7 billion euros between the end of 2010 and the end of 2011. And at group level, total equity has become negative (-2.3 billion euros on 30 June 2012).” At the end of 2011, Dexia SA’s immediately outstanding debts amounted to 413 billion euros, and the amounts due under derivative contracts stood at 461 billion. Added together, those two figures amount to more than 2.5 times Belgium’s GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
! And yet Dexia’s senior executives, Belgian vice-prime minister Didier Reynders, and the dominant media are still claiming that the problem afflicting Dexia SA is largely caused by the sovereign debt crisis in the southern part of the Euro zone. The truth is that Dexia SA’s holdings in Greece did not amount to more than 2 billion euros in October 2011 – 200 times less than the amount of its immediately outstanding debts. In October 2012, Dexia’s shares were worth approximately 0.18 Euros – 100 times less than in September 2008. Despite this, the French and Belgian governments have decided once again to bail out this uncharitable organization at the cost of increasing the public debt in their own countries. In Spain, the near failure of Bankia was also caused by unsound financial packages, and not by a default on the part of any government. Since 2008, the same scenario has been replayed at least thirty times in Europe and the United States. Each time, the public authorities have come to the aid of the private banks (as they systematically do) by financing their bailouts with government debt Government debt The total outstanding debt of the State, local authorities, publicly owned companies and organs of social security. .

Return to the beginning of the crisis in 2007

The gigantic private-debt house of cards began to collapse when the speculative real-estate bubble in the United States burst (followed by Ireland, the UK, Spain, etc.). The real-estate bubble burst in the United States when the price of homes, of which there was an oversupply, began to fall because more and more homes were without buyers.

The interpretations given by the mainstream media were dominated by partial – or deliberately fallacious – explanations for the crisis that struck the United States in 2007 and had a tremendous contagious effect, mainly on Western Europe. Regularly in 2007 and during the better part of 2008, it was explained to the public that the crisis had started in the United States because low-income people had gone into too much debt to acquire homes they were not able to pay for. Irrational behavior on the part of the poor was pointed to as the cause of the crisis. But beginning in late September 2008, after the failure of Lehmann Brothers, the dominant narrative changed and the finger was pointed at certain black sheep of the world of finance who had perverted the virtuous operation of capitalism. But the lies and partial explanations continued to circulate. Low-income families were no longer responsible for the crisis; it was the rotten apples in the capitalist class – Bernard Madoff, who put together a 50-billion-dollar swindle, or Richard Fuld, the boss of Lehmann Brothers.

The beginnings of the crisis go back to 2006, when the drop in real-estate prices began in the United States, caused by overproduction, itself caused by the speculative bubble Speculative bubble An economic, financial or speculative bubble is formed when the level of trading-prices on a market (financial assets market, currency-exchange market, property market, raw materials market, etc.) settles well above the intrinsic (or fundamental) financial value of the goods or assets being exchanged. In such a situation, prices diverge from the usual economic valuation under the influence of buyers’ beliefs. that inflated real-estate prices and drove the construction sector to overheat and increase its activity far in excess of solvent demand. The collapse of real-estate prices is what caused the increase in the number of households unable to meet their payments on subprime mortgages. In the United States, households often refinance their mortgages after 2 or 3 years when home prices are trending upward in order to get more favorable terms (especially since, in the subprime-loan sector, the credit rate for the first two or three years was low and fixed, around 3%, before increasing sharply and becoming variable in the third or fourth year). When real-estate prices began to drop in 2006, households who had contracted subprime loans were no longer able to refinance their home loans favorably, and payment defaults began to multiply greatly starting in early 2007, causing the failure of 84 mortgage Mortgage A loan made against property collateral. There are two sorts of mortgages:
1) the most common form where the property that the loan is used to purchase is used as the collateral;
2) a broader use of property to guarantee any loan: it is sufficient that the borrower possesses and engages the property as collateral.
companies in the USA between January and August 2007.

As is very often the case, whereas the crisis is explained simplistically by the bursting of a speculative bubble, in reality the cause lies both in the production sector and in speculation. Of course, the fact that a bubble was created and eventually burst only multiplies the effects of a crisis that began with production. The entire rickety structure of subprime loans and structured products that had been under construction since the mid-1990s, collapsed, which had terrible repercussions on production in various sectors of the real economy. Austerity policies then amplified the phenomenon further by leading to the extended period of recession-depression in which the economies of the most industrialised countries are now floundering.

The impact of the real-estate crisis in the United States and the banking crisis that followed has had an enormous contagious effect internationally, due to the fact that numerous European banks had invested massively in US structured products and derivatives Derivatives A family of financial products that includes mainly options, futures, swaps and their combinations, all related to other assets (shares, bonds, raw materials and commodities, interest rates, indices, etc.) from which they are by nature inseparable—options on shares, futures contracts on an index, etc. Their value depends on and is derived from (thus the name) that of these other assets. There are derivatives involving a firm commitment (currency futures, interest-rate or exchange swaps) and derivatives involving a conditional commitment (options, warrants, etc.). . Since the 1990s, growth in the United States and in several European economies had been supported by hypertrophy of the private financial sector and by a huge increase in private debt – household debt |5| and debts of financial and non-financial companies. On the other hand, public debt had tended to decrease between the second half of the 1990s and 2007-2008.

Thus there was a hypertrophy of the private financial sector. The volume of assets of European private banks compared to gross domestic product ballooned extraordinarily beginning in the 1990s to reach 3.5 times the GDP of the 27 member countries of the European Union in 2011 |6|. In Ireland in 2011, banks’ assets amounted to eight times the country’s gross domestic product.

The debts of the private banks |7| in the Euro zone also amounted to 3.5 times the Zone’s GDP. Debt in the British financial sector has reached unheard-of heights in proportion to the GDP – it is 11 times greater, whereas public debt represents approximately 80% of GDP.
The gross public debt of the countries of the Euro zone amounted to 86% of the GDP of the 17 member countries in 2011 |8|. Greek public debt was 162% of Greece’s GDP in 2011, while debts in its financial sector amounted to 311% of GDP – double the amount of public debt. Spain’s public debt was 62% of GDP in 2011, whereas debts in the financial sector were at 203%, or three times the amount of public debt.

A little history: The implementation of strict financial regulation after the crisis in the 1930s

The crash of Wall Street in October 1929, the enormous banking crisis of 1933, and the prolonged period of economic crisis in the United States and Europe during the 1930s led President Franklin Roosevelt, and then Europe, to strongly regulate the financial sector in order to avoid the repetition of serious stock-market Stock-exchange
Stock-market
The market place where securities (stocks, bonds and shares), previously issued on the primary financial market, are bought and sold. The stock-market, thus composed of dealers in second-hand transferable securities, is also known as the secondary market.
and banking crises. As a result, during the thirty years following the World War II, the number of banking crises was minimal. That is demonstrated by two neoliberal North American economists, Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, in a book published in 2009 entitled This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Kenneth Rogoff was chief economist of the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org
, and Carmen Reinhart, a university professor, is adviser to the IMF and the World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 180 members in 1997), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

http://worldbank.org
. According to these two economists – to whom it would never occur to call capitalism into question –, the very low number of banking crises can be explained mainly by “the repression of the domestic financial markets (in varying degrees), and the heavy-handed use of capital controls that followed for many years after World War II.” |9|

One of the strong measures taken by Roosevelt and the governments of Europe (in particular due to pressure from popular mobilization in Europe after the Liberation) consisted in limiting and strictly regulating the uses banks could make of the public’s money. This principle of protection of deposits resulted in a separation between commercial banks and investment banks, of which the US’s Glass-Steagall Act was the best-known example, but which was also applied, with certain variants, in European countries.

With this separation, only commercial banks could receive deposits from the public and benefit from government deposit guarantees Guarantees Acts that provide a creditor with security in complement to the debtor’s commitment. A distinction is made between real guarantees (lien, pledge, mortgage, prior charge) and personal guarantees (surety, aval, letter of intent, independent guarantee). . In parallel, their field of activities was reduced to making loans to individuals and businesses, and excluded the issuance of securities, shares, and all other types of financial instruments Financial instruments Financial instruments include financial securities and financial contracts. . Meanwhile, investment banks were required to derive their resources from the financial markets to be able to issue securities, shares, and other financial instruments.

Financial deregulation and the neoliberal turn

The neoliberal turn of the 1970s called those regulations into question. Within about twenty years, the deregulation of banks and the financial sector in general was complete. As Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart point out, banking and stock-market crises multiplied starting in the 1980s, and also became more and more acute.

In the traditional model inherited from the long period of regulation, banks evaluate and bear risk – that is, they analyze credit requests, decide whether or not to meet them, and, once the loans are granted, keep them on their books until they come due (this is what is called the “originate and hold” model).

Taking advantage of the profound movement towards deregulation they brought about, the banks abandoned the “originate and hold” model in order to increase their yield Yield The income return on an investment. This refers to the interest or dividends received from a security and is usually expressed annually as a percentage based on the investment’s cost, its current market value or its face value. on equity. To do that, banks invented new processes – in particular securitisation, which consists in converting bank loans into financial securities Financial securities Financial securities include equity securities issued by companies in the form of shares (shares, holdings, investment certificates, etc.), debt securities, excluding commercial instruments and savings certificates (bonds and similar securities), and holdings or shares in Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS). . The goal was simply to no longer keep credit and its associated risks on their books. They transformed these loans into securities in the form of structured financial products, which they sold to other banks or private financial institutions. This is a new banking model, known as “originate to distribute,” also called “originate, repackage and sell.” For the bank, the advantage is twofold: It reduces its risk by removing the loans it has granted from its assets, and it has additional resources to use for speculating.

Deregulation made it possible for the private financial sector, and banks in particular, to take full advantage of what is known as the leverage Leverage This is the ratio between funds borrowed for investment and the personal funds or equity that backs them up. A company may have borrowed much more than its capitalized value, in which case it is said to be ’highly leveraged’. The more highly a company is leveraged, the higher the risk associated with lending to the company; but higher also are the possible profits that it may realise as compared with its own value. effect. Xavier Dupret describes the phenomenon clearly: “The banking world has accumulated large amounts of debt in recent years via what is called leverage effects. The leverage effect consists in using indebtedness to increase the profitability of one’s equity. And for it to work, the rate of return of the selected project needs to be higher than the rate of interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. to be paid on the borrowed amount. Leverage effects became stronger and stronger over time. Obviously this causes problems. As an example, in the spring of 2008, the Wall Street investment banks had leverage rates of between 25 and 45 (for each dollar of shareholders’ equity, they had borrowed between 25 and 45 dollars). Merrill Lynch had a leverage rate of 40. That was obviously an explosive situation, since an institution that is leveraged 40 to 1 can lose its shareholders’ equity with a drop of 2.5% (1/40th) of the value of the assets acquired.” |10|

Thanks to deregulation, banks were able to develop activities requiring gigantic amounts of financing (and therefore of debt) without accounting for them on their balance sheet. They engaged in so much off-balance sheet activity that in 2011 the volume of the activities in question exceeded 67,000 billion dollars (which is approximately equivalent to the sum of all the GDPs of all the countries on the planet). This is what is referred to as shadow banking |11| . When off-balance sheet activity leads to massive losses, sooner or later it will affect the soundness of the banks who initiated it. The major banks are far and away the ones who dominate shadow banking. The threat of failure has prompted governments to come to the aid of these banks by recapitalizing them. Whereas banks’ official balance sheets show a reduction in volume since the start of the crisis in 2007-2008, the volume of off-balance sheet or shadow banking activity has not followed the same pattern. After declining between 2008 and 2010, in 2011-2012 it returned to 2006-2007 levels, which is a clear symptom of the dangerousness of the situation of private finance worldwide. As a result, the range of action of the national and international public institutions, which are in charge of – to use their vocabulary – seeing to it that finance behaves more responsibly, is very limited. Regulators have not even provided themselves with the means of knowing what the banks they are supposed to control are really doing.

The Financial Stability Board FSB
Financial Stability Board
The Financial Stability Board is an informal economic group that was created during the G20 meeting in London in April 2009. It succeeded the FSF (Financial Stability Forum) that had functioned since the G7 in 1999. The Board is made up of 26 national financial authorities (central banks and finance ministries), several international organizations and groups that devise financial stability standards. Its raison d’être is to enable cooperation in the fields of supervision and the observation of financial institutions.

Financial Stability Board : http://www.fsb.org/
(FSB), the entity created by the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). forum to be in charge of financial stability around the world, has issued its figures for 2011. “The amount of the shadow banking that escapes any regulation is 67,000 billion dollars according to its report covering 25 countries (90% of financial assets worldwide). That is 5,000 to 6,000 billion more than in 2010. This ‘parallel’ sector alone represents half the size of the total assets of the banks. Compared to the countries’ gross domestic product, shadow banking is prospering in Hong Kong (520%), Holland (490%), the UK (370%), Singapore (260%), and Switzerland (210%). But, in absolute terms, the United States remains in first place, with the share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. of this parallel sector representing 23,000 billion in assets in 2011, followed by the Euro zone (22,000 billion) and the UK (9,000 billion).” |12|

A large share of financial transactions totally escapes any official control. As we said previously, the volume of shadow banking represents half of the total assets of the banks! The over-the-counter (OTC OTC
Over-the-Counter market
An over-the-counter or off-exchange market is an unregulated market on which transactions are made directly between the seller and the purchaser, as opposed to a so-called organized or regulated market where there is a regulatory authority, such as a stock exchange.
) market, which is subject to no control by the market authorities for derivative financial products, must also be taken into account. The volume of derivatives developed exponentially between the 1990s and 2007-2008. While it declined a little at the start of the crisis, in 2011 the notional value of derivative contracts on the OTC market reached the astronomical sum of 650,000 billion dollars ($650,000,000,000,000), or approximately 10 times the worldwide GDP. The volume for the second semester of 2007 has been exceeded, and that of the first semester of 2008 is in sight. Interest-rate swaps accounted for 74% of the total, while currency-market derivatives accounted for 8%, credit default swaps CDS
Credit Default Swaps
Credit Default Swaps are an insurance that a financial company may purchase to protect itself against non payments.
(CDS) 5%, and equity derivatives 1%, with the rest distributed among a multitude of products.

Since 2008, bank bailouts have not resulted in more responsible behavior

With the financial crisis of 2007, the banks, despite being guilty of reprehensible actions and of having taken reckless risks, were given massive injections of funds through numerous and costly bailout plans. In a well-documented study |13|, two researchers set out to verify “whether the rescue operations were followed by a greater reduction of risk in new loans made by rescued banks compared to those that were not rescued.” To do that, the authors analyzed the balance sheets and the syndicated loan issues (loans granted to a company by several banks) of 87 large international commercial banks. The authors determined that “rescued banks continued to write riskier syndicated loans,” observing that “the syndicated lending of banks that later received a bailout was riskier before the crisis than that of non-rescued institutions.” Rather than serving as a remedy and an effective safeguard against abuses by banks, for a number of them the government bailout plans instead acted as a powerful incitement to continue and intensify their reprehensible practices. As the authors put it, “The expectation of state support may give rise to moral hazard Moral hazard The effect on a creditor’s or an economic actor’s behaviour when they are covered against a given risk. They will be more likely to take risks. Thus, for example, rescuing banks without placing any conditions enhances their moral hazard.

An argument often used by opponents of debt-cancellation. It is based on the liberal theory which considers a situation where there is a borrower and a lender as a case of asymmetrical information. Only the borrower knows whether he really intends to repay the lender. By cancelling the debt today, there would be a risk that the same facility might be extended to other debtors in future, which would increase the reticence of creditors to commit capital. They would have no other solution than to demand a higher interest rate including a risk premium. Clearly the term “moral”, here, is applied only to the creditors and the debtors are automatically suspected of “amorality”. Yet it is easily demonstrated that this “moral hazard” is a direct result of the total liberty of capital flows. It is proportionate to the opening of financial markets, as this is what multiplies the potentiality of the market contracts that are supposed to increase the welfare of humankind but actually bring an increase in risky contracts. So financiers would like to multiply the opportunities to make money without risk in a society which, we are unceasingly told, is and has to be a high-risk society… A fine contradiction.
and lead banks to engage in higher risk-taking” |14|.

In short, a grave crisis of private debt caused by the irresponsible actions of the major banks prompted leaders in the United States and Europe to bail them out using public funds. It was then that the “sovereign debt crisis” tune was struck up as background music to the brutal sacrifices imposed on the people. The financial deregulation of the 1990s was the fertile ground out of which this crisis grew, with its dramatic social consequences. Until they take control of international finance, the world’s peoples will be at its mercy. The struggle must be intensified, and quickly.

Translation: “Snake” Arbusto

The author thanks Patrick Saurin, Daniel Munevar, Damien Millet, and Virginie de Romanet for their help in writing this article.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7


Eric Toussaint, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liège, is president of CADTM Belgium (Committee for the Abolition of Third-World Debt), and a member of the Scientific Committee of ATTAC France. He is the author, with Damien Millet, of AAA. Audit Annulation Autre politique, Seuil, Paris, 2012.

Footnotes

|1| Sovereign debt is the debt of a State and the public entities attached to it.

|2| In general, the term “asset” refers to a product that has a realisable value, or that can generate revenues. In the opposite case, we speaks of a “liability” that is the part of the balance sheet made up of a company’s resources (the equity capital provided by the partners, provisions for liabilities, debts). See: http://www.banque-info.com/lexique-...

|3| Many banks depend on short-term financing because they have great difficulty in borrowing in the private sector at a sustainable (meaning the lowest possible) cost, in particular in the form of issuing debt securities. As we shall see, the ECB’s decision to lend slightly over 1,000 billion euros at an interest rate of 1% for a period of 3 years to more than 800 European banks was a lifeline for many of them. Subsequently, thanks to these ECB loans, the strongest ones were again able to issue debt securities to finance their activities. That would not have been possible had the ECB not acted as lender of last resort for 3 years.

|4| On the October 2011 episode, see Eric Toussaint, “Krach de Dexia : un effet domino en route dans l’UE ?” (“The Dexia crash: Is a domino effect underway in the EU?”), 4 October, 2011

|5| Household debt includes the debts American students have contracted to pay for their education. Student debt in the United States stands at a colossal 1,000 billion dollars, more than the total of the external public debt of Latin America, (460 billion dollars), Africa (263 billion ) and Southern Asia (205 billion). On the debts of these “continents,” see: Damien Millet, Daniel Munevar, Eric Toussaint, 2012 World Debt Figures, table 7, p. 9. Downloadable Soon an English version will be available.

|6| See Damien Millet, Daniel Munevar, Eric Toussaint, 2012 World Debt Figures, table 30, p. 23. This table is based on data from the European Banking Federation, http://www.ebf-fbe.eu/index.php?pag.... See also Martin Wolf, “Liikanen is at least a step forward for EU banks,” Financial Times, 5 October 2012, p. 9.

|7| Banks’ debts should not be confused with their assets; they are part of their “liabilities.” See the footnote on bank’ “Assets” and “Liabilities” above.

|8| See Damien Millet, Daniel Munevar, Eric Toussaint, 2012 World Debt Figures, table 24, p. 18. This table uses the Morgan Stanley research database, as well as http://www.ecb.int/stats/money/aggr... and
http://www.bankofgreece.gr/Pages/en...

|9| Carmen M. Reinhart, Kenneth S. Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton University Press, 2009

|10| Xavier Dupret, “Et si nous laissions les banks faire faillite ?” (“And what if we allowed the banks to fail?”), 22 August, 2012, http://www.gresea.be/spip.php?artic...

|11| See Daniel Munevar, “Les risques du système bancaire de l’ombre” (“Risks of the shadow banking system”), 21 April, 2012, See also: Tracy Alloway, “Traditional lenders shiver as shadow banking grows,” Financial Times, 28 December, 2011

|12| See Richard Hiault, “Le monde bancaire ‘parallèle’ pèse 67.000 milliards de dollars” (“The ‘parallel’ banking system is worth 67,000 billion dollars”), Les Echos, 18 November, 2012, http://www.lesechos.fr/entreprises-...

|13| Michel Brei and Blaise Gadanecz, “Have public bailouts made banks’ loan book safer?”, Bis Quarterly Review, September 2012, pp. 61-72. The citations in this paragraph are from this paper.

|14| Ibid.

Author

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.


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