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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Banks Face New U.S. Moves Against Laundering Yet Politicians Site Bitcoin As The Source For These Illicit Funds (huh?)

Banks Face New U.S. Moves Against Laundering
Yet Politicians Site Bitcoin As The Source For These Illicit Funds (Huh?)

Is Bitcoin More Dangerous Than “CARTEL Money”?

Principle #1: For wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

I think by now we have all heard the big accusation against Bitcoin – that it is used for “money laundering” – made especially by the money cartels (the U.S. and European Central Bank first).

First off, that doesn’t make sense to me. A currency is supposed to be neutral – that is its purpose. So, accusing a currency of money laundering is like jailing a knife for murder. But, that’s not precisely the point we’re addressing here.

Rather, the question is: do the cartels do the same thing that they condemn?

You Bet They Do!

Read this story on HSBC. Then read this one on Wachovia. These banks laundered hundreds of billions of dollars – knowingly – for violent drug lords. And it gets worse: No one from either bank went to jail. Neither bank was shut down. Neither bank suffered more than a minor fine.

So, how much of a concern can money laundering really be to the cartels and their politician partners? Clearly none, or very close to none.

And, since the cartels accuse Bitcoin of being used for bad things, let’s be clear about the situation: Every mafioso on the planet uses cartel money. So do all the drug smugglers, terrorists, and pornographers.

Does Bitcoin accuse the money cartels? Nope. Bitcoin has no official operators to speak for it at all.

It is true that many Bitcoin users accuse the cartels of being manipulators, but, at least for now, there is no Bitcoin cartel that is even capable of manipulating the currency.

So, round one goes to Bitcoin: The cartels very clearly condemn themselves, and Bitcoin clearly does not.

Principle #2: Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light.

When Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto posted his Bitcoin paper in 2008, he laid everything open for all to see. Then he wrote the Bitcoin program and left it “open source,” so anyone could see the programming.

The process of creating cartel money, on the other hand, is mostly hidden, purposely confused, and isn’t even taught to most Econ majors. And if you think that’s just my opinion, here’s one from the esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith:

The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it.

The argument is made, of course, that the process of creating dollars, etc. is very complicated, and that people don’t understand it because of that.

I don’t think that’s true, but even so, let’s compare it to Bitcoin: Making bitcoins is also complex, but Bitcoin enthusiasts have been working night and day to explain their new currency and how it works. I’ve seen them cornering people at birthday parties, trying to make them understand.

Round two goes to Bitcoin also. Bitcoin wants to be seen and known, and the cartels surely do not.

It all comes down to the reason “why.”

Satoshi Nakamoto began the original Bitcoin document by saying that he wanted to, “allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.” He goes on to say that he was creating,

an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.

In other words, Satoshi wanted to remove the necessity of one man ruling another in the area of money. Furthermore, he did it, then went away.

As for the motives of the cartel, we can’t really tell. The visible heads of the Federal Reserve are certainly not the owners of the Federal Reserve, and the US government refuses to reveal the names of the owners.

Perhaps the closest real examination of their motives comes from a renowned professor who worked for them for a few years. Professor Carroll Quigley of Georgetown – and a major influence on none other than Bill Clinton, wrote this in his book Tragedy And Hope:

The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank… sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent rewards in the business world.

So, was Quigley right? I have no solid proof that he is, but he would be an awfully hard witness to impeach. One substantiation that comes to mind is a recent comment by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. In the midst of a political fight, he complained, “The banks own the Senate.”

That’s not really proof either, but it is interesting.

You can make up your own mind on the banks, but Satoshi’s motives are fairly well beyond question.

I think it is clear that from a moral standpoint, Bitcoin is far, far better than cartel money. (As are silver and gold.)

So, the next time you hear someone calling Bitcoin dangerous and evil, don’t let them get away with it!

The Justice Department has put Wall Street on notice that it plans additional enforcement actions against banks that haven't done enough to stem the flow of illicit funds into the U.S. financial system.

A top Justice Department official said banks have stepped up efforts to guard against money laundering in the wake of several high-profile federal enforcement actions, but the U.S. is still finding problems as it investigates banks.

"I think [banks] still need to do more," said Mythili Raman, the acting assistant attorney general who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "It's not as if our enforcement actions are over. There's more to come, and that suggests to me that there are still banks that haven't gotten the message."

Banks have come under increasing pressure from regulators and law enforcement to bolster their anti-money-laundering efforts as part of a broad attempt to eradicate money laundering by going after the financial institutions they say enable such activity.

Prosecutors are increasingly bringing cases under the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions to take a range of steps to ensure customers' money doesn't come from criminal activity.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which oversees the largest national banks, has begun tying deficiencies in a bank's anti-money-laundering program to its formal rating of bank management, which can form the basis for enforcement actions and affect a bank's ability to raise capital.

In 2012, HSBC Holdings PLC paid $1.9 billion after admitting violations of the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws. Regulators also reached a smaller settlement with Standard Chartered PLC and cited Citigroup Inc. and J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. for deficient money-laundering controls. Citigroup and J.P. Morgan said they are working to fix the issues. Last year, the Federal Reserve cited problems with the anti-money-laundering program at M And T Bank Corp., delaying a proposed merger.

The increased focus on banks is a shift for law enforcement, which traditionally added money-laundering charges when prosecuting alleged drug dealers or mobsters for other crimes. It also went after specific individuals or institutions that allegedly helped them launder money in specific instances.

The use of the Bank Secrecy Act leaves banks exposed to prosecution simply for having inadequate controls that leave them vulnerable to drug or other illicit money.

"It was a hook where the federal government could go in and go after drug dealers etc.," said Asheesh Goel, co-chairman of the anticorruption and international risk practice at law firm Ropes And Gray LLP. "Now what we're seeing is money-laundering enforcement for money-laundering enforcement's sake."

The shift hasn't gone unnoticed by banks, which are trying not to run afoul of the law. The industry has asked the government for guidance on how to oversee bank accounts for businesses that sell marijuana legally under state law but in violation of federal drug laws, meaning the Justice Department could consider their funds criminal proceeds. The department is drafting guidance for banks, people familiar with the matter said, but the planned memo won't draw clear lines about what banks can and can't do.

For banks, the increased focus on whether they understand the source of their customers' money represents a challenge and expense. Industry representatives say it could also shift more money into the shadows.

"It creates this awkward situation where instead of being more inclusive and bringing entities into the banking system where the records are available for law enforcement when they need them, banks are now saying 'we are not going to offer these products and services,'" said Rob Rowe, a vice president at the American Bankers Association. "Then it goes underground or offshore, and law enforcement no longer has access to the information."

Banks, he said, don't always have the ability to figure out whether a customer's business is legitimate. "Bankers don't make good junior G-men," he said.

Ms. Raman said the Justice Department isn't interested in prosecuting banks every time criminal proceeds slip into the financial system but is looking for a pattern of problematic behavior. "We're not looking for one-offs," she said. "We need to show a willful violation of their duties to ensure that there's an effective compliance program in place."

She said that by forcing banks to scrutinize customers more carefully, they can make it harder to launder money through the U.S. financial system.

"When I say we want the institutions to harden themselves against these threats, it's because at the end of the day we don't want, as a country, our U.S. dollars to be the way that criminal proceeds are flowing through and across the world," Ms. Raman said.

Monty Henry, Owner


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