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Tavakoli On the Reserve Currency Discussions

Guest Post: Tavakoli On the Reserve Currency Discussions

Courtesy of Jesse’s Café Américain, and special thanks to Janet Tavakoli.

Janet TavakoliHere is a commentary from Janet Tavakoli on the Robert Fisk article in yesterday’s Independent.

It is remarkably well grounded and thoughtful in its analysis and is well worth reading.

This is a guest post at Le Café Américain, but links to her site and other important essays are contained herein.

Her insights are a welcome palliative to some of the astonishingly shallow commentary we have seen and heard from the financial media.

Of course we would agree that this discussion has been ongoing for many years, as such a discussion fills the void in the evolution of global finance after the breakdown of the original Bretton Woods Agreement, and the closing of the gold window by Richard Nixon.

The point which we have made, perhaps not nearly so well, is that the actions of the Fed and the Treasury over the last ten years have brought the world to what appears to be a tipping point, something that will finally precipitate a change in what has long been a de facto equilibrium; a sea change if you will.

A major precipitant to the current action appears to be the quinquennial rebalancing of the SDR, which will be occurring in 2010. That, and the widespread financial fraud which Wall Street perpetrated on foreign investors, which has been seriously underplayed by the American media.

This is the scenario which was forecast here in 2005, when it became apparent that Greenspan and his governors, together with the Treasury, were not going to act in a manner that would promote a sustainable environment for the status quo.

And further, that the serial sociopaths on Wall Street would keep pushing their luck to the limit, face-ripping their way around the world with our trading partners and creditors until they hit the wall in the form of a break in confidence and an irreparable loss of trust, triggering a significant financial blowback.

Although there was some hope that Obama and his economic team might be able to turn the tide, that hope is fading quickly. And so here we are today.

China Defaults, Currency Basket Threatens Dollar
TSF – October 6, 2009

By
Janet Tavakoli

Robert Fisk exposed revived discussions by the Gulf States, China, France, Japan, Brazil, and Russia to replace the dollar as the benchmark oil trading currency with a basket of currencies including gold within 10 years.

This proposal is not new and discussions have been ongoing for decades. But other extraordinary moves in the capital markets suggest we should take this threat to the dollar’s position very seriously. For example, China has $2.3 trillion in currency reserves (about 70% in dollars), and China knows how to get its way.

In November 2008, Chinese banks said they would no longer play by our rules. Top tier banks (Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China) reneged on derivatives contracts. They failed to come up with billions in collateral on dollar/yen FX trades, which were out of the money after the yen’s October appreciation. This should have been headline news in every financial newspaper, but it wasn’t. Chinese banks defaulted.

They may have been partially motivated by U.S. malfeasance in the capital markets that caused losses in Asia. The U.S. squandered its credibility and our cover-ups have done nothing to restore it.

Most credit support annex agreements would say that closing out these trades would be an event of default, and then the cross default on all the trades would kick in with the same counterparty. But the credit of the Chinese banks was better than many of their counterparties. Everyone was forced to renegotiate contracts with the Chinese banks.

From the perspective of the derivatives markets, this is earth shattering. What would have happened if AIG had done the same thing? (Hey, Goldman, UBS, and others…you want your collateral? Well…Stuff It!)

At the end of August 2009, China signaled that state owned oil consumers: Air China, COSCO, and China Eastern could default on money-losing commodities derivatives contracts.

If we had been paying attention, the U.S. should have done everything in its power to correct our mistakes, clean up the mess in our financial system—instead of sweeping it under the carpet—and turned our efforts to maintaining the credibility of the capital markets and the credibility of the dollar.

Janet Tavakoli is the president of Tavakoli Structured Finance, a Chicago-based firm that provides
consulting to financial institutions and institutional investors. Ms. Tavakoli has more than 20 years of experience in senior investment banking positions, trading, structuring and marketing structured financial products. She is a former adjunct associate professor of derivatives at the University of Chicago’
s Graduate School of Business. Author of:
Credit Derivatives & Synthetic Structures (1998, 2001), Collateralized Debt Obligations & Structured Finance (2003), Structured Finance & Collateralized Debt Obligations (John Wiley & Sons, September 2008).
 

Tavakoli’s book on the causes of the global financial meltdown and how to fix it is: Dear Mr. Buffett: What an Investor Learns 1,269 Miles from Wall Street (Wiley, 2009).

 


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