DOCUMENTS RAISE AWKWARD QUESTIONS FOR WASHINGTON, IMF & BERLIN
A written document giving firm dates and detailed actions for a planned Greek default has been in the possession of two top Wall Street bank currency trading bosses since the second week in January. The Slog has separate but corroborative sources affirming the existence of the document, and a conviction among senior bank staff that – at least at the time – the plan represented “a timetable, not a contingency”. The plan gives a firm date of March 23rd for default to be announced after the close of business.
Senior bankers on Wall Street have been given detailed documentation setting out a timetable to Greek default, including firm dates and technical ‘orders’ about last use of the euro as a currency there. The revelation arrived at Slogger’s Roost last Monday, since when I have been trying to obtain corroboration. This arrived in the early hours of today (Thursday). One of the banks is Barclays Capital (Barcap) run by controversial figure Bob Diamond. The other must remain anonymous for the time being, in order to protect sources.
The document asserts that Greece will officially be declared in default by all the ratings agencies after the close of business on Friday march 23rd . At the weekend all Greek bank accounts will be frozen, with emergency measures detailed to prevent the flight of capital. Included in the paperwork is a list of very limited exceptions to the ‘no withdrawals’ order. All major banks ‘are instructed not to deal with euro exchange as of open of business in Greece on Monday 25th march. All Greek markets will close for one day ‘at least’.
As yet, I have been unable to establish the source of the documents. But one of my informants admitted, “I have strongly suggested to Greek business friends and clients that they sell up fast, do a sale and leaseback on property, empty bank accounts, and change to a hard currency.”
I have little doubt that such a critical path analysis leading to default in Athens can be easily brushed aside as contingency planning. But this is not the impression Slog sources were given: and its existence is bound to further raise suspicions in ClubMed about the real intentions of ‘EU Nord’, Washington and the Troika – especially the IMF. In particular, the alleged creation of the document both supports (and/or coincides closely with):
1. Washington going cold on further IMF funding
2. IMF intervention in the Athens debt talks
3. Persistent rumours surrounding Wolfgang Schauble’s plans
4. Evidence previously assembled by The Slog concerning Americo-German coordination
5. A string of delaying tactics by senior EU and Troika officials since mid January.
Reviewing the timeline of the Greek Debt Marathon, the back end of it is pretty obviously one of persistent sabotage from Berlin, Brussels, and the IMF:
1. It’s the second week of January 2012, and the bondholder deal is a few small steps away from lawyers crossing t’s and dotting i’s. Enter Schauble saying the haircut is nowhere near short enough. Bondholders’ leader Charles Dalloran walks out.
2. The Troika barges into the Athens/Bondholder talks, and they turn into chaos, then grind to a halt.
3. FinMinCom meets in Brussels and several encouraging noises are made about progress towards a deal ‘over the weekend’. Enter Merkel bearing demand to fire the Greek Government and replace it with an EU commissioner. This produces four more days of circular delay, following which Nicolas Sarkozy declares that the German demand was never a demand.
4. Lucas Papademos gets personally involved and strikes a deal with Dalloran. Then he extracts the support of all Party leaders for the deal. We’re almost there. Enter Schauble and Brussels saying no, your economy’s worse than we thought – we need a closer haircut and more savings.
5. The troika is now talking direct to the bondholders with Athens outside the loop. The creditors feel on the back foot. They agree to a lower percentage rate for the new bond issues and a 70% haircut. Venizelos meanwhile focuses on finding additional savings. Papademos intervenes again with leaders and creditors. We are now ‘hours away’. Mario Draghi says no, the haircut is too close for the ECB, and not enough for everyone else.
6. Draghi relents a little, the bondholders say they are “tentatively flexible”. We’re two small steps away from a deal. Enter Schauble moaning about £325m of savings unaccounted for…a thousandth of the total Greek debt.
6. Tempers get inflamed back in Athens. Greek leaders start muttering about doing what they have to do, getting the deal signed, and then having elections. Berlin and FinMinCom demand that all Greek Party leaders sign a document ordering them to stick to the deal regardless of election results. This loses another two days….but the bondholders are still keen to sign.
7. The German Bundesbank leaks a story to German newspaper Handelsblatt saying the Greeks will not be able to satisfy bondholder demands, and thus technical default is now a certainty. The story is traced back to the office of anti-bailout hawk Jens Weidmann.
8. Deutsche Mittelstands Nachtrichen runs a story claiming another 2.5 bn euro hole has been found in the Greek budget proposals. The story is deconstructed by The Slog and others and turns out to be complete bollocks. But the FinMinCom meeting in Brussels is postponed, and replaced with a conference call.
9. Merkel says she doesn’t trust New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras. Athenian leaders must now sign another pledge after the additional 325m euros of savings have been found and agreed. They all sign (Wednesday morning – yesterday – 15th February).
10. Yesterday afternoon, the EU finance ministers’ conference call begins to talk about cutting its losses. A firm proposal is tabled – by Berlin, it seems – to divide the next bailout tranche into smaller slices. The next Com meeting is put off for six days.
11. Schauble describes the Greek debt as “a bottomless pit”. Merkel joins the fray by suggesting the bailout be put back until after the April elections. This clearly makes no sense, as from March 16th Greece will be in technical default without more money. But Schauble adds that indeed, Greece should postpone its elections…..and “install a technocrat government similar to Italy’s.”
12. Wen Jiabao makes nice noises about what a fine place Europe is to visit, but van Rompuy and Barroso come away predictably empty-handed.
13. Thursday dawns with everyone wondering where we are. Venizelos accuses “forces trying to push Greece out of the eurozone”. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert calls this “false” and adds, “I can state quite clearly on behalf of the federal government that Germany has taken no such decision.” Nobody said you had, Ducky. Berlin briefs on amphetamines about Angela Merkel being ‘resolutely opposed to default’. A majority of market opinion leaders and bondholders think the EU is bluffing, reports the FT. But a French source tells The Slog earlier today he thinks Germany “is talking from a position of strength. There is no doubt in our minds [in the Elysees] that Berlin has the necessary plans in place.”
We’re but an hour into the working day EU time (1hr ahead of GMT) and already the main EU players are busy installing further roadblocks. Boss of radio Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Further considerations are necessary regarding the specific mechanisms to strengthen the surveillance of programme implementation and to ensure that priority is given to debt servicing.” An intention as vague as that could take forever to fulfil….or until March 23rd.
A senior German official quoted by Reuters has added: “Questions remain that are very important to Germany and other member states about the sustainability of the programme.”
Ultimately, not even the Germans can see into the future: this is get off the pot time….but only if you’ve been devious for some time about being on the pot in the first place. The Slog’s recent profile of Angela Merkel demonstrated beyond too much doubt that the Fuhrerine in Berlin is more than capable of being devious.
In the last three weeks, several EU officials have pumped out the line – over and over again – that Greek default is no longer the bogeyman people thought it was….or to be more precise, they told us it was. “It would have led to a credit crunch immediately and hurt us all,” said a senior eurozone official. “Now, the odds [of such a catastrophic impact] are something like 10-20%. It’s still possible, but it’s not a certainty.”
First of all Draghi pumps money into the banking system, then the Troika/Berlin axis slows everything down. Now awkward facts come to light about the existence of ‘a plan’ which would protect America – by dumping the Greek contagion – and help the eurozone by concentrating the bailout cash available to save the bigger players: Italy, Spain and France. An unpleasant phrase is doing the rounds in Brussels at the moment: ‘amputate and corterise’. It’s certainly beginning to look like that. And without doubt, that’s the way Mario Monti sees it.
Were I Greek, Portuguese or Irish, I’d be a worried man this morning.