A bank , building society that uses factional reserves, lends long and pays out short is only going to exist should confidence be kept in it. The “Run on the Rock” in the summer of 2007 saw people queuing to get their cash out of the Northern Rock which resulted in the first systematic run on a bank since the 1866 run on the Overend, Gurney & Company bank in the UK.
Readers of this site will know that a bank can only exist with the legal and accounting privilege that allows them to use current creditors – i.e. the depositors of the Presbyterian Mutual Society (PMS) – to lend out a multiple number of times to property loans and other entrepreneurial loans. Readers will also know that when they deposit money they in effect lend it to the bank and become a creditor to the bank. A deposit of cash into a bank/Mutual means you as the depositee lend money to the bank/Mutual That is, to be very clear, when you deposit, you cease to own the money – the bank does. This was established by law in 1811 in Carr V Carr and reaffirmed in Foley V Hill 1846.
The Society’s audited accounts for the year ended 31st March 2008 showed £305m of loans and £5m of liquid assets to pay up to £310m on demand deposits. So one can deduce that there was only £5m of cash supporting £310m IOUs to its creditors, the depositors. This means that the PMS multiplied its credit creation to the tune of 62 times! This is nearly twice the average of all the banks licensed by the Bank of England. In fairness to the Society, they did pay out £21m before they were left with only £5m of cash, so £26m of cash was in their vaults when the run happened. Thus a more conservative 12 x credit was created out of thin air or a leverage ratio of 1 part cash to 12 parts credit existed in this Society.
A quick refresher on how the banking system allows this creation of credit out of thin air can be found here http://www.cobdencentre.org/2010/02/a-day-of-reckoning/ where I say, “ It is often forgotten but when you place £1m in a savings account (in cash) in say the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has no legal reserve requirement, they then lend £970k (in credit) , keeping on average 3% of cash back in reserves, to an entrepreneur in say HSBC, who then deposits that money in HSBC. We now have one claim to the original £1m and one claim to the £970k. The money supply has moved from £1m to £1.97m – just like magic! This is credit expansion.
The reality is that across all the banks in the United Kingdom licensed by the Bank of England, we have for every £1 of money (in cash), £34 in claims to money (credit)!”
The Administrators’ report tells the sorry story of events in summary which I list underneath, but one glaring fact is omitted. This is that the very Government of the UK actually triggered the loss of confidence in this Bank. When our Prime Minister in his own words was “saving the world” he ordered a full guarantee , government backed, on all deposits. The PMS, which had 10,000 members, went into administration following a rush by savers to withdraw their money at the height of the banking crisis in October 2008. People withdrew their money as they learned the Society was not covered by the government’s bank deposit guarantee scheme. Previously they were content to leave their money in the Society. For the purposes of this article, it is not needed to debate the point: was it or was it not a bank that should have been supported by this guarantee? The salient point being that not being guaranteed scared people into making withdrawals where little existed before.
From the Administrators’ report of the12th January 2009 that can be down loaded here http://www.presbyterianmutualsociety.co.uk/files/Administrator’s%20Proposals%2012.1.09.pdf the Society was placed into Administration by the Directors on 17th November 2008. The following are selected quotes from this report which speak for themselves:
“the demand for withdrawals by members of their investments exceeded its cash reserves;”
“the members’ investments were historically withdrawable on demand but the cash was invested by the Society in longer term investments such as property and loans.”
“For the Society to allow members to withdraw their investments on demand and invest members’ money in longer term investments, the Society required a high degree of confidence among its members that their investments were secure. However this confidence has been severely tested by the current economic climate and eventually the demand by members for withdrawals exceeded the Society’s cash reserves. …I believe it will be difficult for the Society in its current form to continue as a going concern.”
“loan capital will be treated as creditors and will therefore be paid in preference to members’ shares.”
As you will be aware the Society does not benefit from the deposit guarantee scheme.
During the month of October 2008 the Society experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of requests for repayment of members’ investments. It was common practice for the Society to repay investments on receipt of a request, and payments of £21 million were made up to Friday 24th October 2008, leaving £4 million in the Society’s bank account.
An emergency meeting of the Society’s Board of Directors was convened on 25th October 2008 and it was resolved that:
…the 21 day notice period for the repayment of members’ investments be invoked in respect of requests received from members as at that date and any new requests received from members.
On 6th November 2008 the Society’s Board of Directors met again and it was reported that the demand among the Society’s members to withdraw their investments had increased which further exacerbated the Society’s liquidity. It was also reported at this meeting that legal proceedings had been commenced by three members seeking repayment of their investments. It was resolved by the Society’s Board of Directors on 6th November 2008 that the Society should be placed into Administration so that its assets could be protected, subject to enabling legislation being passed to permit the Society to go into administration.
During the period 27th October 2008 to 17th November 2008, the Society had received requests for withdrawals in excess of £50 million but the Society had cash reserves of only £4 million to meet such requests.”
Now this would have been the story of every bank in the UK if the government had not acted as it did as we were ‘panicking’ as a nation. We should also note that all banks are in the same precarious situation as the PMS was with regard to lending long and paying out short still, to this day. Do we need to live like this?
The Future Safe Way to Run Banks and Provide Interest for Savers and Lending to the needs of Trade.
If banks were mandated to hold 100% reserves of cash in their vaults, they could issue their bank statements saying what they owe you each month and you would know that you actually had cash in the vault to support your deposit that is represented by your bank statement. The bank statement after all is only a thing that would more accurately be called a “bank IOU statement.” Should you want interest you could ask for the cash you have deposited to be placed in a highly liquid government bond that could be converted into cash when you need it, paying you a rate of interest. Should you want a higher rate of interest, you can lend your money i.e. cease ownership and place in a bond that has in turn been lent to an entrepreneur for 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years etc with the highest rate of interest being given for the longer term locked away and lent to somebody.
The Solution for Paying Out 100% of the PMS Depositors’ Lost Money- £310m – Now, Today
Following the work of 5 Nobel Prize winners and the founder of the American Chicago School, I would suggest the following written about in the Day of Reckoning article;
The Bank of England immediately issues notes to cover all the deposits i.e. redeem all the depositors for 100% cash notes and coins to be placed in their accounts. Please note, this costs the Bank of England the price of paper and the ink and nothing else and IS NOT INFLATIONARY and generates no liability to the UK taxpayer – see next point.
At the same time, get the administrator of the PMS to delete all current creditors (the depositors) as these have now been redeemed from the bank’s books by the Bank of England. The deleting of these bank obligations means that the money the depositors did lend on deposit to the PSM no longer exists, so for the sake of argument, if there was £310m of deposits, these have been redeemed in cash by the Bank of England and the equivalent amount of deposits have been removed from the money supply. Cost to the Bank of England = zero and cost to the UK tax payer = zero. Money supply stays the same.
The PMS in administration now has only assets i.e. loans from entrepreneurs /people who are repaying the loans or mortgages. These can now continue to get repaid, but instead of paying the creditors of the PMS, there are now none, so these loans can go into paying off the National Debt.
This way all parties win.
A courageous politician in Northern Ireland or in mainland GB could well put forward a Private Members’ bill which could be the first legislative move to establishing Honest Money.
The Day of Reckoning article linked to above provides the start of the legislative solution to the whole UK wide banking system whose model is sadly no different to that of the little PMS.