It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

Truthout has the article It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors by Ellen Brown.  I’ll give you a small snippet here to try to give you the gist of the story.  You’ll have to follow the link above to get an full idea of the horrifying picture.

The 15-page FDIC-BOE document is called “Resolving Globally Active, Systemically Important, Financial Institutions.”  It begins by explaining that the 2008 banking crisis has made it clear that some other way besides taxpayer bailouts is needed to maintain “financial stability.” Evidently anticipating that the next financial collapse will be on a grander scale than either the taxpayers or Congress is willing to underwrite, the authors state:

An efficient path for returning the sound operations of the G-SIFI to the private sector would be provided by exchanging or converting a sufficient amount of the unsecured debt from the original creditors of the failed company [meaning the depositors] into equity [or stock]. In the U.S., the new equity would become capital in one or more newly formed operating entities. In the U.K., the same approach could be used, or the equity could be used to recapitalize the failing financial company itself—thus, the highest layer of surviving bailed-in creditors would become the owners of the resolved firm. In either country, the new equity holders would take on the corresponding risk of being shareholders in a financial institution.

No exception is indicated for “insured deposits” in the U.S., meaning those under $250,000, the deposits we thought were protected by FDIC insurance. This can hardly be an oversight, since it is the FDIC that is issuing the directive. The FDIC is an insurance company funded by premiums paid by private banks.  The directive is called a “resolution process,” defined elsewhere as a plan that “would be triggered in the event of the failure of an insurer . . . .” The only  mention of “insured deposits” is in connection with existing UK legislation, which the FDIC-BOE directive goes on to say is inadequate, implying that it needs to be modified or overridden.

Would someone with more expertise than I please read the article and tell me that this story is way overblown.  Otherwise, this article published today could start a bank run on Monday.

Calm down, maybe. Here are two sections I found in the joint FDIC-BOE paper linked to above in the original blog post. Ellen Brown may be right that there is no mention of the U.S., but at least this is what is discussed for the U.K.

17 In the U.K., the Banking Act provides the Bank of England with tools for resolving failing deposit-taking banks and building societies. Powers similar to those of the FDIC are available, including powers to transfer all or part of a failed bank’s business to a private sector purchaser or to a bridge bank until a private purchaser can be found. The Banking Act also provides the U.K. authorities with a bespoke bank insolvency procedure that fully protects insured depositors while liquidating a failed bank’s assets. These powers have proved valuable; for example, during the crisis they allowed the authorities to transfer the retail and wholesale deposits, branches, and a significant proportion of the residential mortgage portfolio of a failed building society to another building society.
34 The U.K. has also given consideration to the recapitalization process in a scenario in which a G-SIFI’s liabilities do not include much debt issuance at the holding company or parent bank level but instead comprise insured retail deposits held in the operating subsidiaries. Under such a scenario, deposit guarantee schemes may be required to contribute to the recapitalization of the firm, as they may do under the Banking Act in the use of other resolution tools. The proposed RRD also permits such an approach because it allows deposit guarantee scheme funds to be used to support the use of resolution tools, including bail-in, provided that the amount contributed does not exceed what the deposit guarantee scheme would have as a claimant in liquidation if it had made a payout to the insured depositors. That is consistent with the contribution requirement that is already imposed on the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the U.K. in the exercise of resolution powers10 and simulates the losses that would have been incurred by those deposit guarantee schemes during bank insolvency. But insofar as a bail-in provides for continuity in operations and preserves value, losses to a deposit guarantee scheme in a bail-in should be much lower than in liquidation. Insured depositors themselves would remain unaffected. Uninsured deposits would be treated in line with other similarly ranked liabilities in the resolution process, with the expectation that they might be written down.

The authors of the joint report obviously are fully aware of the issue of insured depositors. I can interpret the lack of mention of the U.S. in two ways. Either they didn’t mention the U.S. insured depositors because they would be handled in a way similar to those in the U.K. Or, they didn’t mention the U.S. insured depositors because they specifically would not be handled in the same as their U.K. counterparts.

Doing a little more searching in the document, I find the following comforting section:

47 Similarly, because the group remains solvent, retail or corporate depositors should not have an incentive to “run” from the firm under resolution insofar as their banking arrangements, transacted at the operating company level, remain unaffected. In order to achieve this, the authorities recognize the need for effective communication to depositors, making it clear that their deposits will be protected.

Since I am searching the document for relevant sections rather than reading the document in its entirety from beginning to end, I do run the risk of missing the context in which these paragraphs appear. This is to warn you, that if you really care, you ought to read the FDIC-BOE document thoroughly yourself.

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