Saturday, January 23, 2016

Italians Ban Shortselling - I Don't Feel So Bad

Christopher Cox was a minion for the hegemon when he banned shortselling of financials in 2008/9.  I've only mentioned I lost out by his action now that the Chinese banned shortselling a few months ago to world-wide opprobrium.

The problem with bitching (only suckers beef) about getting screwed by the government is no one wants to believe it, your listener figures somehow you had it coming, plus shortselling, betting a company goes down in value, sounds vaguely corrupt.  In shortselling you put your own money on the line by buying stock you believe is overvalued (usually for some nefarious activity of the company directors.)  In this way shortsellers are the only regulation stock markets need. And if you as shortseller (regulator) are right, you get paid.  If you are wrong, you lose money.  In a free market, regulators naturally emerge, no one appoints them, they cannot be bribed.  This is just one instance where no hegemon is required out of all instances where the hegemon manifests.  In all instances where the hegemon manifests, there is a better provision of service than the hegemon can offer.  No exceptions.

There is a version of shortselling, in which market actors do not put up money, naked shortselling, which is vaguely illegal, but certainly morally evil.  I am not down with that.

Now Comes the Italian Christopher Cox banning shortselling on the world's oldest bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA:
Italian market regulator Consob imposed a ban on short selling of Monte dei Paschi’s stock for the remainder of Monday’s session through Jan. 19, in an attempt to stabilize shares of the world’s oldest bank, which have dropped about 34 percent this year.
“I confirm Monte Paschi’s financial, economic stability,” Chief Executive Officer Fabrizio Viola said in e-mailed statement after markets closed. “The stock decline is not justified by fundamentals or management events,” he said, reiterating that the bank remains focused on its bad-loan disposals.
Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, Italy's third biggest bank, and the worst in bad loans to assets in the Eurozone last check. It has been bailed out twice since 2009, meaning it is Zombie, has died twice, and now requires intensive care in the morgue, since it stinks so bad.  Which is too bad, for a Catholic bank nearly 550 years old.  But it is a good opportunity to explain what happened in banking, and the meaning of the word interest.  
The prohibition was against usury, “where more is asked than is given.”  The Latin noun usura means the “use” of anything, in this case the use of borrowed capital; hence, usury was the price paid for the use of money.  The Latin verb intereo means “to be lost”; a substantive form interisse [sic] developed into the modern term “interest.”  Interest was not profit but loss.*
As these things go, once the camel got its nose in the tent, there was no getting the toothpaste back in the tube.  Eventually some whimsical future earnings could be counted a loss, and thus be added to a loan, and over time.  The practice became so widespread the term "interest" shifted from meaning a doubtful loss to what it clearly is, a gain on a loan.

Before this change, and under the original meaning, it was fine to charge for bookkeeping and storage of money (properly defined usually gold or solver or both) for others, since to manage all this was not a charge on lending but a fee for services.
In the mid-15th century, the Franciscan Friars petitioned the Vatican for permission to establish a different kind of loan bank that would offer loans at rates high enough only to cover their costs. These nonprofit banks became known as the "monti di pieta," because they took "pity" on the poor. The first began operating in 1467, in Perugia, offering small loans in exchange for interest rates as low as 5 percent. Customers provided collateral for the loans, usually by leaving jewelry or clothing. These banks now became known as "banchi di pegni" or pawnbrokers.
Banchi di pegni soon began appearing throughout Italy--and later inspired similar banks throughout Europe--and were for the most part set up by Franciscans. The city-state of Siena, however, took a different approach, and instead founded its own Monte di Pieta in 1472. The bank was backed by a 5,000-florin loan from the city, raised through levying taxes. Members of the city's most prominent family were then granted seats on the board. Unlike at other banks, which were usually dominated by a single family, leadership at the Siena bank rotated among the families. In this way, the bank was guided only by the best members of each generation.
"Rates high enough only to cover costs" is what the Savings and Loans (Thrifts) of my youth once esteemed.  Credit Unions were co-ops to this end.  But all that changed in the 1980s to accommodate the opportunity to lend credit at usury and the fast-track channel to the end by buying up S&Ls, and of course, there was a huge S&L crisis in the late 1980s.  Then the "losses" were tens of billions.  (By 2008, tens of trillions, since there were no real consequences for those who benefitted in the 1980s, Bushes, John McCain, etc).  Credit unions are closest to the original, but no longer true to form.  We could use a renaissance in Credit Unions, dealing in bene-credit.

Collectivization that is the inexorable rationale of capitalism, the point of usury (now called interest).  None of these things would be problems in the free market, but inexpensive credit and money transfers are an ancient hallmark of the Islamic hawala system...  it was growing in the west but after 9-11 the hawaladars were crushed by the feds in USA.

The Monte dei Paschi was started by Franciscans, and the first pope named Francis is hammering Vatican finance.  He personally uses the word usury (he knows what it means).  Dealing in usury killed the oldest bank in the world, and a Catholic bank.

Here and now, at least for the next 40 years, anyone starting up a business, or has a viable concern, would do well to create his own bank, de facto, by extending credit (bene-credit) at no interest (no usury) for whatever tenor is standard for the industry.  Refuse to accept certainly credit cards, but also debit cards, and work the old fashioned vendor financing.  Your receivables would be tantamount to laddered bonds.  While you are in control of collection, the fruit is too high and sparse to be mulcted by the hegemon.

The paper I excerpted above is cited below, and I have reservations on the good padre's interpretations and conclusions.  Mine are more radical, and I'll deal with them if and when I get a book on this out.

*  The Church and Usury:  Error, Change or Development?
A Research Paper Submitted
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for
the Degree of Master of Arts in Theology
Father Gary L Coulter
Submitted August 15, 1999

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