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Bully Banks

Written By: - Date published: 9:32 pm, February 12th, 2013 - 25 comments
Categories: loan sharks - Tags:

Good for Damien O’Connor. He’s calling for an enquiry into possible mis-selling of interest rate swaps to farmers. Good on Fairfax’s Rob Stock too, who has written extensively about this issue in the Sunday Star-Times.

In Britain, it’s a huge story; their Financial Services Authority has said that more than 90% of these interest rate derivatives could have been mis-sold. Compensation is going to be paid; the only question is whether it will be in the millions or billions. The Telegraph has a dedicated section covering the story, and a website “Bully Banks” has been set up to campaign for redress.

Here in New Zealand our banks are requiring farmers who have been caught by the fine print with higher interest rates and break fees to sign confidentiality agreements if they are to get any relief at all. Damien O’Connor is right to call for a select Committee enquiry – someone needs to looks under this rock.

Here the Commerce Commission is still deciding whether to investigate.


25 comments on “Bully Banks”

  1. MrSmith 1

    Ha! the commerce commission that was paying it’s way under Clark but now is nothing but a cowling gimp. I wouldn’t hold my breath Mike.

  2. Afewknowthetruth 2

    Since bankers own the world, including all western governments, they can do whatever they like, knowing they will NEVER be held to account. Okay, there might be a slap over the wrist with a wet bus ticket, but nothing more than that. EVER.

  3. Tim 3

    Don’t you just love the new buzzword of “mis-selling” that’s now being applied to fraudulent activity?
    The shysters accidently misrepresented services and products so they could make a fast buck.

    • McFlock 3.2

      Oh, I’m sorry. Did I commit fraud? I’m so dreadfully embarrassed at being caught…

    • emergency mike 3.3

      Yeah love the ‘mis-selling’ –

      Oh did we sell those rehypothecated non-existent assets that we knew were bullsh*t but told people they were a good deal? Now that you’ve found out about it, i guess we shouldn’t have done that. It’s not that we are lying fraudsters, it’s just that, what with all the hurly-burly involved in using our massive amounts of money to make even more money while contributing nothing to society, sometimes we mis-sell things in order to make even more money. Usually no one notices, and the people who we f*cked over just become losers, and we make more money. But I guess this time we will have too cough up a little money to make people shut up about our mis-selling. Oh dear it seems I’ve just mis-bought a big pile of cocaine and misplaced it up my nose.

      • Tim 3.3.1

        Apparently Prosser “mis-spoke” too in Winnie’s world at least.
        We should call bullshit every time we see this sort of crap!

  4. Good on you Mr Damien O’Connor, this is very relevant to the major issues that are going on globally and require addressing and will raise public awareness. This is GREAT news. Good one Labour!

  5. BLiP 5


    Oooh, look . . . the bankers’ drones are coming in for your Fonterra shares. Suprise, surprise.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    O’Connor is on to it. It would also be very worthwhile to widen the scope of the inquiry to include local councils.

    • saarbo 6.1

      It may have turned bad for the farmers but for a period they were paying 5% for long term debt while the rest of the market paid 9% to 11%, I dont want to defend banks but these farmers had some upside from these deals also. Personally I would like to see Labour doing something for the rights of farm workers.

  7. saarbo 7

    My understanding is that these instruments were only sold to farmers with debt in the vicinity of $5m plus. So very wealthy farmers only.

    I think there is an issue here but Labour should make sure that they keep or shift their focus on to the right place…and that is farm workers, who are getting a raw deal by some very wealthy/large farmers.

    The wealth gap in farming is now huge, workers now have virtually a zero chance of purchasing a farm as established farmers purchase up to 8 to 10 farms. There are a number of issues here, but the workers are treated terribly, when bad farm owners cant get NZ workers they look for foreign workers. There are a number of farm workers who would look to shift to labour if it could develop some good policies in this area.

  8. Pascal's bookie 8

    yay. Good on Damien.

    This thing has the potential to low up with enough force to mean the crown will be needed to bail someone out. Getting light on it as early as possible, is a great idea.

    If it doesn’t blow up, all to the good. But if the government refuses to have a look at what is going on now, and it does blow up, then god help them, because no one else will.

  9. DH 9

    I agree there needs to be a full inquiry on it. There really is no pressing commercial or financial justification for farmers to buy into interest rates swaps and I’m pretty sure that an inquiry will find they were coerced into them…. sign up or you don’t get your loan or the interest rate on your loan will be higher etc etc.

    As with all frauds they need to follow the money. Both parties to a swap can’t lose so they need to look into who exactly are the other parties who are profiting from farmers losses. (who wants to bet it’s the banks)

    I think Damien O’Connor would do us all a big favour if he explained in plain English how these things worked too, I’m good at this stuff and I’m still struggling to grasp it properly.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      The libor scandal affected hundreds of billions in investments like interest rate swaps.



      • DH 9.1.1

        Yeah I’ve read a few of the explanations but they don’t really explain it very well or show how it is the borrower is the one who always seems to end up losing on the deal. As I said, the nature of swaps is that both parties can’t both lose at the same time so who actually is making all the money?

        Floating interest rates have fallen a lot over the last few years and by my reckoning anyone with a fixed interest stake in a swap should be gaining, which leads me to think these farmers all had floating interest rate loans and are paying an over the top rate on the fixed interest of a swap. But if they wanted fixed interest why buy swaps when they could have fixed their interest in the first place? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

        • Colonial Viper

          Yeah I’ve read a few of the explanations but they don’t really explain it very well or show how it is the borrower is the one who always seems to end up losing on the deal. As I said, the nature of swaps is that both parties can’t both lose at the same time so who actually is making all the money?

          Typically in these situations the bank has successfully offloaded bad derivatives investments (the interest rates swaps) off their own books and on to the books of their overly-trusting clients.

          The same idea as a bad stockbroker who finds out that their brokerage holds a portfolio of loser stocks of failing companies which are going to crash, but convinces their ‘valued clients’ that the stocks are worth investing in, so unloads the problem to their clients, making themselves money in the process. In other words, the stock broker (or bank) unethically positions themselves on the good end of the trade, and their client (victim) on the losing end of the trade.

          This is not unlike banks who put out press releases saying “oh shit! Mortgage interest rates are going to rise so all you homeowners better lock in todays low rates with some fixed terms!”

          And then a year later when you look back, mortgage rates have actually fallen, you are stuck paying more, and the bank is very happy thank you.

          • DH

            None of that really explains it though ( not for me anyway). On the face of it a swap is a contract between two retail borrowers. Farmer A has a fixed interest loan and wants a floating loan. Farmer B has a floating interest loan & wants fixed interest. So they do a swap.

            Now if the swap got out of balance then one farmer would gain & the other would lose. The point here is that it’s only the borrowers who gain or lose. Not the banks. Whoever managed the contract gets a cut but that’s just a margin-based fee and not the difference between fixed & floating.

            The Libor business doesn’t really explain where the banks made on the deal because the gains still should have gone to the other party to the swap contract. (well that’s how I see it this far)

            • cheforsure

              Your understanding is basically corrcet – the banks make a margin, which is often collected as a fee. It should be remebered that at the time, common consenses was that high interest rates were the new normal.

              Odd for farmers to get into this though, unless they are really big. Swaps make sense when each party has a competitive advantage in either fixed or floating loans.

              • DH

                That still doesn’t explain how the banks made on the Libor business. From what I can gather the Libor was only used to set the floating rate on the swap contract and didn’t affect the management fee that banks made on the contract. The only party to gain from manipulating the Libor would be one side of the swap, and if the swaps were just between two retail borrowers why would the banks break the law to benefit someone else?

                It seems more like the swaps looked to be rigged from the beginning, ie;

                1/ Banks force borrower to take out a loan with an interest type they knew would be on the losing side of a swap.

                2/ Banks coerce borrower to take out a swap contract

                3/ Banks take the other side of the swap contract without revealing their interest.

                4/ Banks make a killing by manipulating the Libor to advantage their side of the swap.

                That would make more sense to me but I’ve never seen it explained how it all worked in reality so I’m still a bit in the dark

                • cheforsure

                  LIBOR is the rate at which British banks will loan each other money. The LIBOR rate is only available for certain ‘credit worthy’ (big) banks. The Libor scandal was about a bank artificially reducing LIBOR to make that bank’s risk profile look better than it was. It would have also made speculating on derivatives easier too as you would have certainty on interest rates over everyone else.

                  How this links to swaps, is that Libor is usually used as the underlying interest rate benchmark that banks use.

                  I was incorrect when I said the margin is only a fee. After looking again, many charge there margin as an interest rate e.g 0.25%.

                  Swaps are fine and responsible tool for big companies for risk management purposes. Again, weird for anyone else to use them really, but a lot people assumed you get a free lunch pre GFC.

                • Colonial Viper



                  Bets involving Eurodollar futures—which allow traders to take bets on how interest rates will move over certain time periods—caused Barclay’s submitters to alter the lending rates they reported to the BBA that would make up LIBOR. Eurodollar futures (and the derivatives related to them) accounts for some $360 trillion in global trade, and typical contracts involve at least $1 million.

                  It’s no surprise, then, that Barclays stood to gain a lot of money off of even small changes in the LIBOR rate—generally just a few basis points.

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    There’s really only one solution for this – all loans caught up in the fraud need to be declared null and void.

    • Tim 10.1

      +1 After all they were “mis-sold”. It was all an accident apparently so nullifying and voiding seems a reasonable solution.
      Costs of course awarded to the instigator of this accident – the “mis-seller”
      Stand Down!
      Thankyou Kimu Savvy

  11. Rogue Trooper 11

    just what we need- more financial compensation

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