The American Interest, July-Aug 2010 (online May 18, 2010) –
As I write this, the U.S. Senate is debating a major financial reform bill in which the credit default swap, a kind of derivative, plays a significant part. An amendment to that bill, proposed by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would ban banks from proprietary trading. There are a lot of high-rolling bankers who do not want that amendment to pass, because it will mess up their plans to repatriate foreign profits into the United States, untaxed, by trading in derivatives on their own accounts. The clearinghouse ICE Trust U.S. forms a central part of these plans.
What is ICE Trust U.S., and who owns it? ICE US Holding Co., which was established in 2008 as the parent of ICE Trust U.S., is located in the Cayman Islands. Yet none of the owners of ICE US Holding Co. are based in the Caymans. Among the owners of the Cayman‘s company are Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, which are headquartered in New York. Bank of America, which now owns Merrill Lynch, is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
One year ago, a group of financial institutions quietly launched ICE Trust, a new and theoretically safer way to trade derivatives, a key element of the financial crisis. As lawmakers debate reform, banks at the center of the storm are remaking the market”and stand to profit.
As the financial crisis exploded with full force in 2008, it was obvious that something was gravely wrong with the huge, unregulated market for derivatives.
Lehman Brothers had $738 billion of these contracts”which are based on the value of some other asset, such as a stock or a bond or a hog belly”on its books when it failed on September 14, 2008.
Lehman certainly wasn‘t alone. Over the next few months, insurer AIG reported as much as $53.5 billion of derivatives losses”losses that were linked to nearly one third of its $182.5 billion federal
American International Group (AIG) operated a captive insurance scam that involved fraudulent use of offshore tax havens. Currently, the U.S. government has invested over $40 billion in AIG, with the U.S. getting nearly 80 percent of its stock.
This puts the U.S. in a unique position to investigate the internal operations of a giant corporation with a reputation for using the offshore system for tax evasion.
U.S. authorities could begin their investigations with a look into a very curious practice that was revealed 15 years ago in a case that was never exposed by the mainstream press and which insurance insiders say is endemic.
AIG would keep a portion of a client’s inflated insurance premium and send the rest to the client’s offshore reinsurance company. AIG would earn a higher commission. The client would write off the entire amount as a business expense and enjoy the extra cash offshore, tax free.
This story tells how notorious fraudster Victor Posner made an AIG deal to stash reinsurance profits in Bermuda.
The world‘s biggest banks and multinational corporations have set up a shadowy system to secretly move trillions of dollars”a system that can be exploited by tax evaders, drug runners and even terrorists.
In the tax haven of Luxembourg, a little-known outfit called Clearstream handles billions of dollars a year in stock and bond transfers for banks, investment companies and multinational corporations. But a former top official of this “clearinghouse” says Clearstream operates a secret bookkeeping system that allows its clients to hide the money that moves through their accounts.
NEW YORK–A controversial European book that might help authorities track terrorist funding sources remains unpublished and relatively unknown in the United States.
”Entitled Revelation$,it exposes a secret banking system that might be used by terrorists. At the center is a clearinghouse in Luxembourg called Clearstream, which transfers money for international banks and major companies.
Written by a former high-ranking Clearstream official and a French journalist, its publication last February by Les Arenes in Paris triggered the firing of Clearstream’s top officials, a judicial inquiry in Luxembourg, and invitations to the authors to address members of the European Parliament and the French parliamentary commission on financial crime and money-laundering.