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Our $20 million bill for Nats’ expediency

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 pm, September 1st, 2010 - 27 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, class war, labour, national - Tags: , ,

One of the frequent criticisms of political journalism is that it is more concerned with the art or sport of politics – awarding politicians points for doing things that they judge to be good politics – than with the substance of their policies and how they handle issues. Case in point was John Armstrong’s piece:

“National’s strategy was simple. Act decisively. Deal with the problem in total in a day. Get it off the political agenda. Bury it, don’t just sweep it under the carpet. This meant making some decisions to simplify and thus expedite the payout by, for example, not worrying about such criteria as a depositor’s citizenship and tax residency. This will cost an extra $20 million.”

Armstrong frames that like it’s a good thing. But let’s put the same facts another way:

‘Questions over why every taxpayer is bailing out a small number of mostly rich investors (the average deposit in SCF was $45,000) out after they investing in a company that should never have received the government guarantee in the first place, have the potential to be politically damaging for National if the issue drags out. So, the Government ignored the rules of that guarantee and paid out all the depositors, including ineligible ones, at an additional the cost of $20 million’

That is an absolute scandal, an utter disregard for taxpayer. For purely political reasons, National just spent $20 million of our money.

It’s not the only fishy thing around SCF. We can argue till the cows come home over whether the whole bail-out was even legally required (Cactus Kate and others think not). We can argue about the giant rort that seems to have occurred with SCF bond buyers making more than a 40% return in as little as a day due to the Government’s decision to pay back SCF’s debt as well as its depositors. But, one thing is absolutely clear: this $20 million did not have to be spent.

National’s priority was to pay out its South Island supporters ( I read somewhere they’re worried they could lose Rangitata) and kill the issue. We’re being footed with the bill for National’s political expediency.

So, forgive me if I don’t congratulate Key and co for their crisis management skills.

Now, I’m no 3rd floor political strategist but if Labour ever gets their act together on this issue they might like stop with facetious claims that had National grown the economy faster SCF could have been saved and, instead, to ask why the guarantee was extended to SCF in April this year and why the Government went beyond the terms of the guarantee to the cost of $20 million.

In particular, they might like to look at section 6 of the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme Act, bearing in mind that Bill English extended SCF’s guarantee on April 1:

Minister may give guarantee (1) The Minister may, on behalf of the Crown, give a guarantee in writing for a period that ends on or before 31 December 2011 in respect of any or all debt securities issued by an eligible entity if it appears to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in the public interest to do so.(2) The Minister may give the guarantee on any terms and conditions that the Minister thinks fit.

But then, I’m no 3rd floor strategist.

27 comments on “Our $20 million bill for Nats’ expediency”

  1. Scott 1

    Getting the overseas investors out of the picture will probably save the taxpayer more money in the long run. It was done to ensure that the Government will be the sole creditor in the receivership and can call the shots when it comes to selling the assets of SCF. That way it will probably be able to achieve a better price.

    Armstrong is right that it was a smart move, even if (as always) he seems more interested in the politics of the Government’s action than whether it was the right thing to do.

    • BLiP 1.1

      In first with the Blinglish National Ltd™ “official version”, eh Scott? Perhaps you can be a little more specific than “probably” – the names of the foreign investors for whom the government broke the rules to spent my money would be interesting. How long before we get that information?

      The only thing smart about this issue is the fact that National Ltd™ have pulled of a billion dollar shell game sleight of hand move right in front of the public eye. But, never mind, Clueless is off to see the Queen – did you know? – just like Dick Whittington – perhaps she’ll make Lord Mayor of London when he scarpers with his suitcase full of money.

      • Scott 1.1.1

        “In first with the Blinglish National Ltd™ “official version”, eh Scott?”

        You’re accusing me of being a Bill English supporter? I can’t stand the man. It is possible to dislike a government without disliking every single thing it does. They’re bound to get it right occasionally. In this case they did.

        “Perhaps you can be a little more specific than “probably””

        It’s not that complicated. When a company is in trouble and multiple creditors are scrambling around to get paid and assert rights, things can get messy and potential buyers can be deterred. I don’t see it matters who the overseas investors were.

        If the govt hadn’t done this people would be attacking them in six months time for failing to spend a bit more to secure a better sale price.

    • Loota 1.2

      Yeah, we’re going to crucify National over this, over the next 12 months. Over and over again.

      About 1.77 billion times.

  2. TightyRighty 2

    45k? way to lower the bar on being rich. all issues aside, terming someone with 45k rich is a bit low brow wouldn’t you agree eddie? a useful bit of information might be the average age of the depositors. but that would diminish your spin wouldn’t it?

    • Ari 2.1

      $45,000 was not the income of those investors, it was the amount invested. As in “oh, look what I had left between the couch, $10,000! Let me find a few more of those and put them together in a fund.”

      Anyone who’s investing that kind of money is taking a big risk and ought to know it.

      • TightyRighty 2.1.1

        not really taking a risk, see the last labour moved to shore up confidence in the finance industry by guaranteeing the deposits of all people in selection of finance houses. government backed security for your deposit? bring it on.

        • Marty G 2.1.1.1

          it was national’s decision to extend scf’s guarantee in april of this year.

          and it was treasury that failed to carry out proper oversight.

          you may recall that cullen never wanted to put in the guarantee but at the height of the financial crisis he was advised that everyone else had done it and there would be capital flight if nz didn’t.

          • TightyRighty 2.1.1.1.1

            but you guys always say capital flight won’t happen when taxes are raised etc, so it’s only when treasury advises to do something because of the risk of capital flight that it actually occurs? get your myths straight boyo.

            the capital flight would have been to safe deposit options, like the big 4, kiwibank, psis and tsb and all the other stable institutions. the ones who paid the fees to fund the deposit guarantee scheme i might add, $600m dollars worth i believe.

            it’s not like cullen ever really cared about treasury advice and it’s also not good listening if you come up with shoddy policy withing 48 hours of said advice.

    • Marty G 2.2

      how many kiwis,even retirees, have $45k to put in a finance company? and that’s just the average – as always, it’ll be a smaller subsection with the lion’s share

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      45k that they can lose without worrying about it – yeah, I’d call them rich. Unless they were stupid, which is possible – they do vote NACT after all, and didn’t have that money to begin with in which case they should lose everything.

      • TightyRighty 2.3.1

        no shit they should lose everything. but 45k is not masses of money if you have been saving all your life. so i want to know, before anybody with 45k in the bank starts feeling persecuted for being dilligent and hard working, what the average age of investors was? if it’s 22 then yes they are probably quite wealthy. If, as i suspect it’s closer to 60 then the vast majority will have worked hard and saved to achieve that.

      • Lanthanide 2.3.2

        “which is possible – they do vote NACT after all”
        Citation needed that all investors in SCF vote National, please.

        You’re no worse than Fisiani making hyperbolic crap up.

  3. Cactus Kate 3

    I would have to agree that compared to other New Zealanders, having $45,000 in a deposit does sadly put you in a wealthier category than many others. Today those people have every right to ask the questions they are asking. Why bailout people (and paying out on the DoG’s is a bailout) with more money than I’ve got?

    If you argue against welfare (as I do) for the poor then you have to be consistent and argue against it for the not-so-poor.

    Given Treasury’s steadfast announcement today in response to my post that SCF did not breach the guarantee, I am more interested now to know for how long officials have known the precise potential exposure and that risky lending that was still being written during the guarantee period. If SCF disclosed what they were doing then that is about the only conclusion I can draw to Treasury’s claim that SCF did not breach the DoG.

    Labour started the nonsense however the original DoG with SCF was signed in the first two weeks of the National government in 2008.

    Labour should be asking how long this was going on.

    • Lazy Susan 3.2

      Appreciate your great analysis of this Cactus but take issue with

      Labour started the nonsense

      This was not nonsense – Labour implemented the scheme at the time of the global credit crunch. Most developed countries had put in place similar schemes and without it there would have been a flight of capital from NZ to safer havens.

      The “nonsense” is that SCF was allowed to write up millions of dollars of dodgy loans and get themselves so far underwater before anything was done about it.

      The “nonsense” is that this government has coughed up $1.7 billion of taxpayers money so readily without any analysis of what their true obligations are and how best to meet them. They’ve already admitted $20 million they were not even obliged to pay. Compare this to the penny pinching that is going on in such areas as early childhood education.

      This is a gift for Labour – a fairly easy to understand mighty f*** up by National. A simple “privatise the profits socialise the losses” story but on a gigantic scale. If Labour don’t run with this one I really will despair.

      • outofbed 3.2.1

        If Labour don’t run with this one I really will despair.

        gee you have lasted this long ?

    • pollywog 3.3

      Why bailout people (and paying out on the DoG’s is a bailout) with more money than I’ve got?

      …cos Rich Whitey will always look after their own first.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    We can argue till the cows come home over whether the whole bail-out was even legally required (Cactus Kate and others think not).

    I’m wondering if it’d be possible to make a police complaint about it actually.

    In particular, they might like to look at section 6 of the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme Act, bearing in mind that Bill English extended SCF’s guarantee on April 1:

    What are you getting at with that because I can’t see anything.

    The RWNJs complained about the $800k used for the election card that Labour used and now their in there giving away 25 times that amount and nary a whisper can be heard.

  5. Carol 5

    And some of the investors have A LOT of money spare for investing, and sped the decline of SFC:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/banking-finance/4085964/The-rich-blamed-for-SCFs-fall

    South Canterbury Finance’s collapse appears to have been caused in part by rich investors pulling out cash to get below new limits for the government’s deposit guarantee scheme.

    Trustee Executors regional manager Yogesh Mody said “many investors” with deposits above the $250,000 limit that will apply to the revised scheme from October 12 had been “rearranging” their investments to get below that figure ahead of the deadline.

    • Loota 5.1

      Yeah like instead of having one of their family trusts having $500K in SFC, have $250K in each of two family trusts and hold it in SFC.

  6. just saying 6

    Did Key chuck in the interest for them too?

  7. quasimodo 7

    Forgive me for sounding cynical, but it looks as though Key’s minders have removed him as far as possible from the blowback of the SCF collapse. They don’t wish to tarnish their prized electoral asset, and he gets to resurface after a discreet interval with a bit of the reflected glory of President Sarkozy and PM Cameron.

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