Why Even the Best Banks are Insolvent and Inherently Dishonest
We are told that Barclays is a good bank and it did well not to take the taxpayers shilling. We are told that it has recovered and is prospering and this indeed is a sign of the economic recovery.
Part of the mission of the Honest Money Movement is to explore and expose these fallacies.
Banks only exist with entrenched legal and accountancy privilege. Privilege for all sectors of the political spectrum is a bad thing. Trade Union privilege to operate a closed shop cuts back on employment and price gouges the customers who buy the goods that the closed shop workers produce. A group of countries who restrict the price of say oil will push up the price of oil and gouge their customers and so on and so forth. All privilege is bad.
Contrast Normal Commercial Activity…
Any business in this country from the plumber to BP will have current creditors, those people it owes money to such as suppliers and current debtors, those people who owe it money for the goods and services sold. It is a legal offense to not pay your assets and your liabilities as and when they fall due. Indeed as a company director you become personally liable should you trade in this position whilst you are insolvent.
…With That of a Bank
A bank has current creditors: on the whole, these are people like you and me who have our salaries or savings paid or deposited into our accounts on our behalf. We do not actually “own our money” that is deposited in the bank. The bank does.
This may come as a surprise to you. However this is a very well established point of law. Since 1811 in Carr v Carr, this has been the case. So you and I are the current creditors to the bank i.e. we are owed money by the bank. In fact your bank statement is just an IOU from the bank acknowledging that it owes you however much it says on the statement on demand.
The assets of the bank are those people to whom the bank has lent its (formerly your) money to i.e. all the borrowers of loans. As has been so clearly displayed during this crisis, they have lent their money out (formerly yours) over 33 times on average to borrowers. I explain the money credit creation multiplier here for a refresher on understanding this process. So when more than 1 of 33 of us wish to withdraw our money that is on demand, the bank can not pay it back as it does not have it.
I enclose a link to the balance sheet of the UK’s largest company, BP here here. Page 106 has the balance sheet.
|Non Current liabilities
This would suggest that BP has current liabilities marginally greater than their current assets. No doubt the timing of the payment to suppliers is carefully balanced off otherwise their auditors could not sign off the accounts if they thought the company could not pay off its assets as and when they fall due.
Contrast this with the Barclays Bank full year 2009 results shown on this spreadsheet.
See tab 4 where we have the consolidated balance sheet. There are just assets and liabilities and there is not a distinction in their accounts between current liabilities i.e. your and my money that has been deposited that is on demand now and a long term liability such as a mortgage to pay off a loan on some property they may occupy etc over a long period of time. There is £322 billion of money on deposit in current creditors that could be withdrawn “on demand” as that is what the bank tells you that you can do with it. Indeed you only deposit it that way because you need to make sure payments happen on demand. They have no requirement to provide you with the ability to make this happen despite the fact that you may have deposited money there!
So unlike BP and any commercial business from the lowest one man band plumber to the mighty BP, who have to account for keeping payments set aside to cover their current liabilities, a bank is not required to. Indeed, it is specifically allowed not to by accounting law and legal privilege under law. If the deposit base of Barclays wanted what it thought was “its” money back i.e. it wanted the £322 billion redeemed into cash or taken out of the bank and moved to another, then as there is no corresponding current asset to pay for this and only assets that have long term payment implications, it would have to suspend redemptions as North Rock did and hope people would wait until it could try to sell some of its long term assets or collect in its loans. In reality, this would be a run on a bank. Barclays by its very nature is inherently insolvent and can only exist by this accounting / legal privilege that does not apply to any other non bank business in the UK!
One of the first things you will ever learn in a law of contract course is that an agreement is reached between parties and a contract established when an offer is accepted with a mirror image of understanding , from the Latin “pacta sunt servanda” or agreements must be kept. So it would strike me that as the vast majority of people think that they deposit their money and it remains their money in a bank and that the law and accounting standards say otherwise, there is a very good argument that there is not a contract in place between any depositor and bank. Certainly as most depositors also want easy access.
I commissioned a survey for the Cobden Centre in Oct 2009 with ICM over 2,000 people. 74% of people think that they are the legal owner of the money in their current account rather than the bank. Paradoxically 61% know that their money is lent out even though 67% want convenient (now) on demand access. The full results of this survey will be published shortly in another paper.
Now we can understand how the banks have the biggest salaries, the biggest bonuses , the biggest offices, the most plush terms and conditions of employment and so on and so forth. If you do not have to provide for your creditors then you can use their money to do what you like with and this is what happens!
Just to give you an idea what this would mean for me in my company Seafood Holdings Ltd if I was allowed to do what the banks are allowed to do. As of December 2009, I had trade current creditors of £8.276m against trade debtors of £12.275m. If I was a bank, I could pick up the full £8.276m and pay a dividend or bonus and still be lawful. I could build a megalomaniac size corporate head office and stick a gold plated statue with me dressed in a Roman Caesar like uniform to please my demented ego! I could behave like the worst most vulgar of City bankers.
We must always remember their key service other than the safe keeping of our money is to act as an intermediary between saver and borrower. This is “Captain Mannering” style boring banking. Like and estate agent who mediates between buyer and seller of houses, he has a High Street presence like most providing a consumer service. Places like the City of London / Canary Wharf and Wall Street etc can only exist as they do today on this legal privilege and on the welfare state of credit whereby we allow them to exist at the tax payers’ expense.