Thing One: Banks Gone Wild, Vol. 23: I'm starting to think the Mayans were not talking about a 2012 Apocalypse for the whole entire world, but just for one very small part of the world, the banks. Because 2012 is turning out to be an awful year for them.
British bank Standard Chartered becomes the latest house o' money to get itself into a spot o' trouble. Allegedly, like HSBC, Standard Chartered just can't ever stop letting horrible people launder money, all of the time! In this case it was the Iranians, and quite a bit of money -- $250 billion over nearly a decade, alleges the New York State Department of Financial Services. (Warning: Link takes you to the New York Times, which has finally fixed its leaky paywall.) Unlike HSBC, this here bank "strongly rejects" the charges.
Whatevs, StanChart, you're now a contestant in Bank Jeopardy. Along with the aforementioned HSBC (laundering), other contestants this year include JPMorgan Chase (London Whale, Libor, you name it), Citigroup (Libor, stupid CEO pay package), Barclays (Libor) and many, many more. There's also a junior-league Bank Jeopardy, for other financial-sector goof-ups like Peregrine Financial (Ponzi scheme) and Knight Capital (killer robots).
What does Standard Chartered lose for playing today? Just 20 percent of its stock-price value inside of a few hours, according to Reuters. And maybe its ability to do business in New York for a while, according to Bloomberg. And what do the rest of us lose? Just a little more of our dwindling confidence in banks, and money, and America.
Thing Two: Have A Heart Surgery: HCA, the nation's biggest hospital operator, found out a couple of years back that some of its hospitals were pushing patients into unnecessary and dangerous heart procedures, The New York Times reports (again, behind a now-solid paywall). The company admitted to investors yesterday that it is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office, but has gotten all squirrelly about what it knew and when it knew whatever it knew.
Thing Three: The Two Faces Of Fed: So here is the state of American economic policy in a nutshell (again with the paywall): One Fed official, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, yesterday says he thinks the economy is in an awful state and that the Fed needs to buy some more bonds to help. Another Fed official, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, yesterday says he thinks all this consarned stimulus is makin' us soft and weak. When he says whoa he means whoa, ya danged varmint! Guess who wins the argument? That's right, Yosemite Richard. Meanwhile, millions continue to suffer in unemployment.
Thing Four: Put That Mortgage Application Down. Mortgages Are For Closers Only: The Fed yesterday said Americans may be starting to feel a little frisky again and want to take out mortgages, because interest rates are approximately zero and realtors are telling them house prices are never going to fall again. But the funny thing is, the Wall Street Journal writes (again with the paywall), banks still don't want to lend money to anybody.
Thing Five: Worst Buy: Remember Best Buy? That blue-and-yellow store where you go to test out electronics before you buy them on Amazon? Its founder wants to take the company private, The New York Times writes (no paywall this time). The trouble is, this is likely not possible and anyway probably wouldn't help the company, which loses about a billion dollars a year.
Thing Six: Mind The Gap: There is a very large economic-policy gap between President Obama and his rival for the world's worst job, Willard Mittens Romney, observes Ezra Klein of the Washington Post (no paywall): You see, Obama "has policies," while Romney "does not have any policies." You see the difference?
Thing Seven: Is Our Children Eating? One of the latest, sorriest fights in our sorry Congress is over whether to keep up a program to provide fresh fruit and vegetables in school cafeterias, the Washington Post reports. The Republican-dominated House wants to make it so it's not always fresh fruit and veggies all the time, how about some nice canned peaches or frozen peas? Shockingly, that is also the position taken by the canned-and-frozen-food lobby, which is squaring off against the farm lobby in a battle to the lobbyist death. Or so we can all hope.
Thing Seven And One Half: Ugh, sorry, it's a slideshow, and at another site to boot, but I cannot get enough of Dr. Leo Spaceman from "30 Rock," so here is an Uproxx.com slideshow of the greatest Dr. Spaceman moments. Because everything about this is disgusting!
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Calendar Du Jour:
3:00 p.m. ET: Consumer Credit for June
After Market Close:
Heard On The Tweets:
@mattyglesias: Jamaica's tax code must really incentivize sprinting.
@tkb: $2.5 Billion is what it costs NASA to put a 1-ton robot on a planet 350 Million miles. It's also McDonald's annual ad budget.
@TheStalwart: The internet's getting sucky. All these companies closing off other companies is a reverse of what made the internet cool the last few years
@maxkeiser: Solve global bank crisis in one move: ban limit orders. (this would destroy the HFT industry as it's currently iterated).
-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.
Below are just some of the banks involved with less than friendly characters and countries:
Bank Of America
In July, a federal probe revealed claims that the drug cartel Los Zetas had used accounts at Bank of America <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/los-zetas-laundered-money-bank-america_n_1658943.html" target="_hplink">to launder drug money.</a> Drug traffickers allegedly used accounts at BofA to purchase aircraft to transport cocaine, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-06-29/banks-financing-mexico-s-drug-cartels-admitted-in-wells-fargo-s-u-s-deal.html" target="_hplink">according to Bloomberg.</a>
Since it's founding in 1940, the Vatican Bank has reportedly been involved in transactions with criminals and shady politicians, the German paper <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/a-growing-vatican-bank-scandal-threatens-catholic-church-image-a-842140.html" target="_hplink"><em>Spiegel</em> reports</a>. One such incident involved Roberto Calvi, known as "God's Banker" because of his extensive dealings with the Vatican, who was found hanged beneath London's Blackfriars Bridge in 1982, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/may/12/roberto-calvi-blackfriars-bridge-mafia" target="_hplink"><em>The Guardian</em></a> reports. Renewed allegations of the Vatican Bank <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/21/jp-morgan-chase-closes-vatican-bank-account.html" target="_hplink">laundering money</a> may have contributed to the forced departure of former bank head Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/9319414/Ex-head-of-Vatican-bank-planned-to-give-dossier-to-Pope.html" target="_hplink"><em>The Telegraph</em> reports.</a>
In 2009, UBS claimed that U.S. government pressure was forcing it to close nearly 19,000 offshore accounts, according to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/business/09ubs.html" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a>. Such accounts were regarded as a means of avoiding disclosures to the IRS and could be viewed "as criminal evidence, not just of tax evasion but also of money laundering," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/business/09ubs.html" target="_hplink"><em>NYT</em> reported at the time</a>.
In 2005, Riggs Bank plead guilty to laundering the money of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and the government of Equatorial Guinea, <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/banking/2005-01-27-riggs_x.htm" target="_hplink"><em>USA Today</em> reported</a>. The laundering scandals led to the sale of Riggs to PNC Bank, according to <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/print-edition/2012/04/27/following-scandal-riggs-bank-sold-to.html" target="_hplink"><em>The Washington Business Journal</em></a>
In 2010, Wachovia was fined $150 million by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/business/18launder.html" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a> reports.
In 2010, Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, the former governor of the state of Quintana Roo, was indicted for conspiring to smuggle "hundreds of tons" of illegal drugs into the U.S. as well as laundering $19 million through a Lehman Brothers account, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-10/former-mexican-governor-used-lehman-to-launder-drug-funds-u-s-says.html" target="_hplink">Bloomberg reports</a>. Five years earlier, former Lehman Brothers broker Consuelo Marquez admitted she funneled about $11 million in drug proceeds through a Lehman account.
In 2009, Credit Suisse was fined $536 million by U.S. authorities for allegedly hiding the identities of Iranian clients in order to move millions of dollars into the U.S. banking system against U.S. sanctions, the <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8417239.stm" target="_hplink">BBC reports</a>. It was also accused of similar activity for Libyan, Burmese and Sudanese clients.
In 2007, the U.S. Justice Department charged Lloyds Bank with helping its client Lycourgos Kyprianou, former chairman of Cypriot software maker AremisSoft, launder millions of dollars, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2007/10/16/lloyds-tsb-cyprus-markets-equity-cx_vr_1016markets10.html" target="_hplink"><em>Forbes</em></a> reports. In 2009, the British-based bank was fined $350 million for disguising funds from Iran and Sudan so that they could be funneled into the U.S. banking system against national sanctions, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/10/lloyds-forfeits-350m-to-us" target="_hplink"><em>The Guardian</em> reports</a>.
In July 2012, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations announced that it would detail its findings on breakdowns of money laundering safeguards at HSBC, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, HSBC has been the subject of investigation by the Senate and two U.S. attorney offices since January. (h/t <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-hsbc-launderingbre8680x3-20120709,0,6711100.story" target="_hplink"><em>Chicago Tribune</em></a>)