Excerpt from “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century” – Published on Global Resear.ca, by Ellen Brown, March 17, 2011.
… Towards a New Global Currency?
Is the Group of Twenty Countries (G20) envisaging the creation of a Global Central bank? Who or what would serve as this global central bank, cloaked with the power to issue the global currency and police monetary policy for all humanity? When the world’s central bankers met in Washington in September 2008 at the height of the financial meltdown, they discussed what body might be in a position to serve in that awesome and fearful role. A former governor of the Bank of England stated:
The answer might already be staring us in the face, in the form of the Bank for International Settlements BIS (also on wikpedia) … The IMF tends to couch its warnings about economic problems in very diplomatic language, but the BIS is more independent and much better placed to deal with this if it is given the power to do so.
And if the vision of a global currency outside government control was not enough to set off conspiracy theorists, putting the BIS in charge of it surely would be. The BIS has been scandal-ridden ever since it was branded with pro-Nazi leanings in the 1930s. Founded in Basel, Switzerland, in 1930, the BIS has been called “the most exclusive, secretive, and powerful supranational club in the world.” Charles Higham wrote in his book Trading with the Enemy that by the late 1930s, the BIS had assumed an openly pro-Nazi bias, a theme that was expanded on in a BBC Timewatch film titled “Banking with Hitler” broadcast in 1998. In 1944, the American government backed a resolution at the Bretton Woods Conference calling for the liquidation of the BIS, following Czech accusations that it was laundering gold stolen by the Nazis from occupied Europe; but the central bankers succeeded in quietly snuffing out the American resolution.
… The Last Domino to Fall:
While banks in developing nations were being penalized for falling short of the BIS capital requirements, large international banks managed to skirt the rules, although they actually carried enormous risk because of their derivative exposure. The mega-banks took advantage of a loophole that allowed for lower charges against capital for “off-balance sheet activities.” The banks got loans off their balance sheets by bundling them into securities and selling them off to investors, after separating the risk of default out from the loans and selling it off to yet other investors, using a form of derivative known as “credit default swaps.”
It was evidently not in the game plan, however, that U.S. banks should escape the regulatory net indefinitely. Complaints about the loopholes in Basel I prompted a new set of rules called Basel II, which based capital requirements for market risk on a “Value-at-Risk” accounting standard. The new rules were established in 2004, but they were not levied on U.S. banks until November 2007, the month after the Dow passed 14 000 to reach its all-time high. On November 1, 2007, the Office of the Controller of the Currency “approved a final rule implementing advanced approaches of the Basel II Capital Accord.” On November 15, 2007, the Financial Accounting Standards Board or FASB, a private organization that sets U.S. accounting rules for the private sector, adopted FAS 157, the rule called “mark-to-market accounting.” The effect on U.S. banks was similar to that of Basel I on Japanese banks: they have been struggling to survive ever since.
The mark-to-market rule requires banks to adjust the value of their marketable securities to the “market price” of the security. The rule has theoretical merit, but the problem is timing: it was imposed ex post facto, after the banks already had the hard-to-market assets on their books. Lenders that had been considered sufficiently well capitalized to make new loans suddenly found they were insolvent; at least, they would have been if they had tried to sell their assets, an assumption required by the new rule. Financial analyst John Berlau complained in October 2008:
Despite the credit crunch being described as the spread of the ‘American flu,’ the mark-to-market rules that are spreading it were hatched [as] part of the Basel II international rules for financial institutions. It’s just that the U.S. jumped into the really icy water last November when our Securities and Exchange Commission and bank regulators implemented FASB’s Financial Accounting Standard 157, which makes healthy banks and financial firms take a ‘loss’ in the capital they can lend even if a loan on their books is still performing, even when the ‘market price’ [of] an illiquid asset is that of the last fire sale by a highly leveraged bank. Late last month, similar rules went into effect in the European Union, playing a similar role in accelerating financial failures…
The crisis is often called a ‘market failure,’ and the term ‘mark-to-market’ seems to reinforce that. But the mark-to-market rules are profoundly anti-market and hinder the free-market function of price discovery… In this case, the accounting rules fail to allow the market players to hold on to an asset if they don’t like what the market is currently fetching, an important market action that affects price discovery in areas from agriculture to antiques.
Imposing the mark-to-market rule on U.S. banks caused an instant credit freeze, which proceeded to take down the economies not only of the U.S. but of countries worldwide. In early April 2009, the mark-to-market rule was finally softened by the FASB; but critics said the modification did not go far enough, and it was done in response to pressure from politicians and bankers, not out of any fundamental change of heart or policies by the BIS or the FASB. Indeed, the BIS was warned as early as 2001 that its Basel II proposal was “procyclical,” meaning that in a downturn it would only serve to make matters worse. In a formal response to a Request for Comments by the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, a group of economists stated:
Value-at-Risk can destabilize an economy and induce crashes when they would not otherwise occur… Perhaps our most serious concern is that these proposals, taken altogether, will enhance both the procyclicality of regulation and the susceptibility of the financial system to systemic crises, thus negating the central purpose of the whole exercise. Reconsider before it is too late.
The BIS did not reconsider, however, even after seeing the devastation its regulations had caused; and that is where the conspiracy theorists came in. Why did the BIS sit idly by, they asked, as the global economy came crashing down? Was the goal to create so much economic havoc that the world would rush with relief into the waiting arms of a global economic policeman with its privately-created global currency?