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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 05 April 2019

Daily briefing - 05 April 2019

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Clothing brand Patagonia has long partnered with business to produce co-branded outerwear, and its sleeveless jacket is so popular with bankers and Silicon Valley types that it's known in industry circles as the "finance bro" uniform. Now snooty Patagonia is saying it will only collaborate with "mission-driven businesses", and companies with good environmental practices. Now finance bros will have to go upmarket, going for the kind of expensive puffer gilets that are apparently all the rage in Spain. When Andrea Orcel was photographed for in Davos earlier this year — a trip that turned out to be very, very expensive — many readers were amazed to see that he appeared to be wearing some kind of puffer jacket under his suit. Didn't someone tell him he looked daft?

All this talk of bank mergers should have warning lights flashing for the global economy. Japan's Finance Minister Tara Aso said today that mergers of regional banks could be allowed, in efforts to avoid the worst effects of prolonged low interest rates. "Profitability at regional banks has taken a hit as the Bank of Japan's super-loose monetary policy has triggered a collapse in spreads between lending rates and financing rates, which depresses bank margins," writes Reuters. "BOJ's ultra-easy monetary policy is making it tough for commercial banks to earn profits out of lending, a problem that cannot be fixed through bank mergers, the chairman of a major regional bank in southern Japan told Reuters last month."

Swedbank chairman Lars Idermark rounded off a week of firings and resignations this morning but he won't be the last to go as a result of the Baltic money laundering scandal (which he called "regrettable"). "It has been difficult, given the tense situation in media, to gain support for proportions and facts, and to correct direct errors," Mr Idermark said. "In addition, we must always respect bank privacy, and applicable laws and regulations that a bank must follow on the markets where it operates. This has added extra complexity to the communication aspect." Mr Idermark's statement suggests that the blame lies with the media rather than the bank, and adds to the sense that Swedbank has been laid low by pesky outsiders rather than its own failings. As Lafferty News wrote last week, it is the work of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in exposing Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that led to the discovery of the enormous criminal enterprise. Little surprise he had to go.

Where was all this money bound for? The accounts of shell companies in the US. "Despite all of the money we're spending -- and we're spending a lot of money to keep criminal money out of our institutions -- it's still getting in every single day, right by all those controls," HSBC's top compliance officer Jennifer Calvery told Bloomberg last month. "So we're not doing as well as we'd like to be doing." In time-honoured tradition, it's important to complain loudly about the economic costs of compliance, and to deflect the blame elsewhere. Tom Cardamone, managing director of Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based organization tracking illegal money flows worldwide, tells Bloomberg that criminals are attracted to US banks because of the legitimacy they confer through shell company accounts. "There's no logic to why the U.S. still allows anonymous shell companies, when the rest of the developed world has moved toward corporate transparency," said Cardamone. "Until Congress passes a law that forces ownership out into the open, the U.S. will lag other countries with this weak spot."

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