Tired of waiting for IMF and World Bank recognition of its financial muscle, China stepped aside to lead the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) inviting the rest of BRIC to join as cofounders. Unexpectedly, there's been a bit of a global stampede to get in an application as founding member. Here's a helpful infographic. And here are some widely divergent points of view pontificating on the geopolitics of finance.
"Never before had electronic equipment been so exposed to the elements. [T]hey could easily jam or run out of product. They could erroneously dispense several bank notes instead of just one—all without the owner's knowledge. They were activated by plastic or paper tokens that would only activate for the operating bank and, in some cases, only that particular bank location. Some banks would keep the token in the machine and return it to the customer (by post) once the account had been debited. As a result, early ATMs were standalone, clunky, unfriendly, and inflexible."
The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution - "Unregulated banking with access to government guarantees is an enticing business model. It offers the profits of excessive risk-taking in good times, and allows passing on the inevitable losses to taxpayers in bad times." [more inside]
"Of the top 100 Swiss companies, 49 give shareholders a consulting vote on the pay of executives. A few other countries, including the United States and Germany, have introduced advisory "say on pay" votes in response to the anger over inequality and corporate excess that drove the Occupy Wall Street movement. Britain is also planning to implement rules in late 2013 that will give shareholders a binding vote on pay and "exit payments" at least every three years. Minder's initiative goes further, forcing all listed companies to have binding votes on compensation for company managers and directors, and ban golden handshakes and parachutes. It would also ban bonus payments to managers if their companies are taken over, and impose severe penalties — including possible jail sentences and fines — for breaches of these new rules."
"We decided to go on an adventure through the financial statements of one bank [Wells Fargo], to explore exactly what they do and do not show, and to gauge whether it is possible to make informed judgments about the risks the bank may be carrying. We chose a bank that is thought to be a conservative financial institution, and an exemplar of what a large modern bank should be."
What's Going On In Japan? "Really Japan is quite a remarkable case, since neither fiscal nor monetary policy seems to be working to achieve the anticipated results. This year Japan will have a fiscal deficit of around 10% of GDP and gross government debt will hit 235% of GDP, yet the country is still struggling to find growth. Instead of reiterating old dogmas (whether they come from Keynes or from Hayek) more people should be asking themselves what is happening here. This is not a simple repetition of something which was first time tragedy and is now second time tragedy, it is something new, and could well be a harbinger for more that is to come, elsewhere. Oh, why oh why are economists not more curious?" [more inside]
Economics blog VoxEU debates Why do we need a financial sector? Serious, important and very dull articles discuss the trade-offs and myths of innovation, and whether the sector is overrated, critical or a contributor to the wider economy.
Chext is a site that enables the user to enter transactions and track their bank balance via SMS. People sharing a bank account can also get updates when money is spent from the account by the other person. [more inside]
Open Letter TO JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. The Democrat from Springfield responds to the Chase CEO's letter to shareholders.
Interview with Gary Gorton (pdf) - Fascinating look at private institutional bank money creation (really) and subsequent run on the shadow banking system that hearkens back to the late-19th century banking crises with securitization playing the role of checking before the advent of deposit insurance. "Gorton is a lucid narrator of a complex tale." (via via)
Patsy Campbell has been fighting her foreclosure in Florida courts for the past 25 years. She has not made a mortgage payment since 1985 while foiling the efforts of several banks to evict her from her home in Okeechobee, Florida.
The Irish Banking Crisis: A Parable - What happened when the Irish stood up to the bankers in the 1970s? cf. Why Wall Street won't get shrunk & The Inequality That Matters [more inside]
Betting Against the American Dream. In 2005, just as Wall Street started to get cold feet about the housing market, the Magnetar hedge fund helped create a new wave of billion-dollar mortgage-backed securities, pushed bankers to include riskier sub-prime mortgages, and then shorted the securities, making millions when the bubble finally burst. Traders on both sides of the deals pocketed enormous fees even if their banks went under when the securities failed. Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, This American Life, and NPR's Planet Money track down some of the big winners in the housing/financial crisis. No time to read or listen? It seemed so much like a scheme from The Producers, they even recorded a show tune to explain it all. (Previously, 2, 3)
Might the consumer banking revolution be coming? "Yodlee is the engine behind the online banking operations of most banks in America — and, for that matter, of mint.com... and it's now going to open up that database to software developers around the world." With mobile internet adoption soaring, the birth of iBanking may not be that far behind. An upgrade of payment and financial information systems could be closer than you think. [more inside]
A software engineer blogs about the inept and insecure way in which a bank asks customers to file a claim when they're the victim of fraudulent transactions. Dozens of customers chime in with similar experiences, over the course of months. The bank in question contributes nothing to the conversation, and the system remains both insecure and broken today [that last link is probably blocked by your browser or operating system, but don't worry - the form on the page doesn't work anyway].
Confused about the banking crisis? Confused by banks in general? This American Life's latest show Bad Bank (streaming, mp3) is a highly informative (and entertaining) overview of how banks work, and what problems they--and we all--face in this current crisis. Produced by another great NPR show, Planet Money.
Worse Than the World Bank? Export Credit Agencies--The Secret Engine of Globalization The amount of investment that export credit agencies (ECA) support worldwide is significantly greater than the total amount of lending from the World Bank, IMF and all other multilateral institutions combined. ECA's account for the single biggest component of developing country debt and half of all new greenhouse gas-emitting industrial projects in developing countries have some sort of ECA support. Investments in places like Guatemala, South Africa, Pakistan, Chile [PDF], have had unacceptable social, environmental and economic consequences. Administered or backed by a government, an ECA uses taxpayer money to make it cheaper and less risky for domestic corporations to export or invest overseas. ECAs privatize the profit and socialize the risk while negatively impacting indigenous cultures and enironments, all with little or no governmental oversight or public awareness of the matter. So what can we do about it? [PDF]