July 10, 2012
From Grant Williams, author of Things That Make You Go Hmmm,
Attempts to manipulate free markets invariably end badly – after all, they are, supposedly, by their very nature, free.
Over the past few weeks, the exposure of the Libor-rigging scandal has monopolized the headlines of the financial press and inveigled its way onto the front pages of every major news publication in the world through the sheer size and scale of the story.
Something as big as this just CAN’T be hidden from the public.
Only… it can.
It has been. It no doubt still is to a certain extent. I’m not going to go through all of the events of the past few weeks as you are no doubt familiar with them, but [simply understanding how LIBOR works makes for a simple conclusion].
I’m afraid it’s rather obvious. Given that almost half the reported inputs that help establish the Libor rate are discarded immediately, Barclays simply CANNOT have manipulated the Libor rate alone. Period.
What’s more, to effectively ensure the rate is set at the price required, you’d need to not only establish the highest and lowest 25% of prices, but then ensure the remaining 50% average out to the required rate and, based on the fact that there are 16 banks that submit rates, that would mean about 13 of the 16 involved would need to be complicit.
As a very good friend of mine put it earlier this week; at best this is a cartel, at worst it’s outright fraud on a scale that is completely unprecedented.
So for five years there have been attempts to fix the Libor rate and, take it from me, during that time, many inside the financial industry were familiar with the rumors of such manipulation but it was another huge scandal with such highpowered connected interests that it would no doubt be brushed squarely under the carpet. Forget ‘too big to fail’. This was ‘too deep to prove’.
Libor is so important to so many people in the financial industry that the question of why it was manipulated really ought to be framed differently:
Assuming you COULD manipulate something as important and potentially beneficial as the Libor rate with such ease for years, why wouldn’t you?
The answer to this question would ordinarily be:
“Because it’s illegal and government regulators would throw the book at us”
So, working from the ground up; we have a set of traders looking to produce the best profits they can for personal gain, the major bank they work for and who should be supervising them with a need to disguise the level of its own funding costs and above them all, a government seeking to keep borrowing costs down in the middle of a gigantic financial storm. From such alignments of interest are the greatest of conspiracies born.
In my humble opinion, the Libor scandal (which has a LONG way to go before it has played out and which will claim a LOT more scalps) will mark a fundamental change in the treatment of financial conspiracy theories in the media. The sheer amount of coverage it will undoubtedly receive will signal a shift in attitude towards the exposing of such scandals rather than the blind-eyes that have been regularly turned in recent years.
But perhaps, most-of-all, watching how quickly those in high places begin to throw each other under the bus, it will hasten the end of many other possible government conspiracies as exposing such events becomes an exercise in self-preservation. Prime amongst conspiracy theories that may soon be finally proven to be either valid or the figments of overactive imaginations, are those alleged in the gold and silver markets.
The allegations concerning precious metal price manipulation predate those surrounding Libor by decades but until now day they have remained similarly acknowledged within financial circles and ignored without. That may well be about to change.
Unencumbered by liability, the rising price of gold has always been a barometer of governmental failure to protect the purchasing power of fiat currency and the best indication of the damage that inflation does.
Forget inexorably rising gold prices. Forget the corrections that shake loose hands from the wheel at every turn. In the broader context they carry far less relevance than the intrinsic values that gold provides a consistent yardstick to.
A look at the value of assets measured in ounces of gold remains the most consistent way to get a sense of their real value and the charts below demonstrate all too clearly the true performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and average US house prices over the long term when measured in gold ounces.
If the long-stated claims about government-sanctioned, bank-led manipulation of precious metals markets put forward so eloquently by the likes of Ted Butler, Bill Murphy & Chris Powell at GATA as well as Messrs. Sprott, Sinclair, Davies et al are eventually proven to have any validity whatsoever, the fallout from the Libor scandal will prove to be (to use the words of Jamie Dimon) just another “tempest in a tea pot” as the precious metals are the very underpinnings of the entire global financial system. Conspiracy or no, it would be a blessed relief to get closure no matter what the truth turns out to be.