Of course Mitt Romney’s arrival in London was awkward. Mitt Romney’s arrival anywhere is awkward.
But don’t think that Romney’s jaunt across the pond has been a complete disaster.
Aside from some public relations missteps, he has accomplished precisely what he set out to do.
Romney’s bumpkin-in-chief beginning in London was epic: he suggested the Brits had done a poor job organizing the Olympics, violated international security protocols and struggled to keep the names of his hosts straight. Britain’s Sun, a particularly conservative tabloid, went so far as to dub him “Mitt the Twit” on a frontpage that the Brits—and plenty of American Democrats—will dub a “keeper.”
What with an aide making cryptic comments about how Romney has a better understanding than President Obama of “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” nothing about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s step onto the global stage seemed to go right.
Except, of course, for the real purpose of the trip, which was to collect cash from the most scandal-plagued of London’s financial insiders— and to assure the embattled banksters that he would, if elected, use the power of the presidency to protect them from regulation and oversight.
That task Romney managed with the agility of the “vulture capitalist” described by his Republican primary foes.
Within the well-guarded confines of London’s posh Mandarin Oriental hotel Thursday night, Romney met with at least 250 of the top bankers, speculators and financial manipulators in the world—including representatives of Barclays, the bank that recently paid almost $500 million in fines after its officials were charged with providing false information to interest-rate regulators.
Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond had to withdraw as a co-chair of Romney’s London fundraiser festivities—after Diamond was forced out of his position and then dragged before a Parliamentary select committee for a round of “what did you know and when did you know it” questioning about the filing of false reports and the manipulation of global markets. Embarrassing? Not really. The no-shame-when-it-comes-to-money-grabbing Romney campaign just made another Barclays insider a co-chair, along with representatives of of Bank of Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Wells Fargo Securities—and, of course, Bain Capital Europe.
What was Romney thinking?
First and foremost, he wanted the estimated $2 million in campaign contributions that the global financiers ponied up Thursday night.
But the Republican presidential candidate came to London to offer the the scandal-plagued bankers something in return for the checks that were delivered in increments of as much as $75,000: reassurance that he really is one of them. And that a Romney presidency would serve their interests.
Referring to the signature Wall Street regulatory reform of the Obama presidency, Romney reassured the bankers that “I’d like to get rid of Dodd Frank and go back and look at regulation piece by piece.”
While he couldn’t quite get the hang of international diplomacy, Mitt Romney was entirely comfortable standing on foreign soil and promising international bankers that, as president, he would take care of them.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 27, 2012
Mitt Romney will show his true colors tonight, when he slips behind closed doors in a foreign capital to collect money from international bankers who are mired in scandal.
The presidential contender is officially in London to cheer on the US team in the Olympics. But Romney doesn’t always cheer for Team USA. When it comes to global economics, Romney remains very much the “vulture capitalist” his Republican primary foes decried. And tonight, he’ll be swooping into central London to party with masters of the universe who know no country—and, it would appear, no ethical bounds.
London is abuzz over the Libor (London InterBank Offered Rate) scandal, which saw some of the biggest banks in the world report false interest rates in order to fool investors and game the international economy. Bob Diamond, the top man in Barclays Bank, had to resign from his position after that bank paid almost $500 million in fines.
Not to worry. Another Barclay’s insider (chief lobbyist Patrick Durkin) took Diamond’s place as a co-chair for the Romney event, along with officials of Bank of Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Wells Fargo Securities—and, of course, Bain Capital Europe.
As the investigation of banks implicated in Libor rate-fixing expands, Romney’s decision to go ahead with the London fundraising events is an act either of boldness or recklessness. The presumptive Republican nominee for president seems to think he can get away with raising as much as $2 million at a series of fund-raising events held on foreign soil. The cheapest of Romney’s “lavish” London events has a $2,500-per-person entry fee, while the evening gathering where the most scandal-plagued of international bankers will mingle with their favorite American charges from $25,000-per-person to $75,000 a head.
That’s the kind of event that candidates like to keep secret.
But grassroots activists in the United States are upping the ante by demanding that Romney immediately reveal the names of the bankers and financial insiders attending his London fundraising events. In particularly, they are pushing for the release of any and all information relating to Romney’s interactions with donors associated with Barclays and any other institutions that have been linked to the Libor scandal.
The Center for Responsive Politics identifies Barclays as the largest source of campaign donations to Romney, and a Maine state legislator who has been in the forefront of campaign finance reform and corporate watchdog fights wants to know more about the relationship between Romney and the Barclays donors.
“Americans have a right to know who Romney’s donors are so they can understand what policy agendas are in line with those donations,” says Maine State Representative Diane Russell, D-Portland. “We all have the right to donate to political campaigns, and the responsibility to own up to those donations. It’s part of the democratic process.”
Russell has launched a national petition drive demanding that Romney come clean about the Barclays ties and the London fundraising event.
It’s time we return to government of, by and for the people—not government of, bought, and paid for by special interests. The job of a Wall Street banker is to get a good return on their investment, and unfortunately, they’ve taken those skills to Washington—and now the presidency.
Mitt Romney is attending an elite London fundraiser—$25,000 to $75,000 per plate—hosted by the CEOs at the center of the Libor scandal threatening our already fragile economy. Executives of at least three other banks under investigation are co-chairs of the fundraiser, according to invitations obtained by The Washington Post.
At the same time, too many Americans are falling out of the middle class when they are working hard to climb the ladder into it. In fact, middle-class workers have seen their incomes drop by nearly 8 percent in three years and their wealth disappear by a staggering 40%.
We believe politicians should work for us, not their corporate sponsors. It is time for Mitt Romney to fully disclose his donors—and how much they are giving to his campaign.
Russell set out to collect 10,000 signatures.
She’ll get them. And a lot more.
Mitt Romney’s connection to Barclays and the Libor scandal is a big deal. Americans have a right to be angry that a man who wants to be president of the United States jets off to London to collect checks from international banksters. And the more they learn about Romney, Barclays and Libor, the angrier they’ll get.
By: John Nichols, The Nation, July 26, 2012
“Banksters,” the cover of the Economist magazine charges, depicting a gaggle of bankers dressed as extras off the “Goodfellas” lot. The editors were reacting to Libor-gate, the collusion among traders of major banks to fix the London interbank offered lending rate, the most recent, most obscure and the most explosive revelation from what seems a bottomless pit of corruption in global banks.
Once more the big banks are exposed in systematic fraudulent activity. When Barclays agreed to a $450 million fine for trying to rig the Libor, its CEO offered the classic excuse: Everyone does it. Once more the question remains: Will CEOs and CFOs, as well as traders, be prosecuted? Or will they depart with their multimillion dollar rewards intact, leaving shareholders to pay the tab for the hundreds of millions in fines?
The Barclays settlement exposed that traders colluded to try to fix the Libor rate. This is the rate used as the basis for exotic derivatives as well as mortgages, credit card and personal loan rates. Almost everyone is affected. Fixing the rate even a few hundreds of a percentage point could make Barclays millions on any single day — money taken out of the pockets of consumers and investors. Once more the banks were rigging the rules; once more their customers were their mark.
The stakes are staggering. The Libor should be as good as gold. It pegs the value of up to $800 trillion in financial instruments. The collusion was systematic and routine. Investigations are underway not only in the United Kingdom but also in the United States, Canada and the European Union. Those named in the probes are all the usual suspects: JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, UBS, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UBS and others. This wasn’t rogue trading, as the Economist concludes; it was more like a cartel.
The Economist writes that what has been revealed here is “the rotten heart of finance,” a “culture of casual dishonesty.” Once more the big banks are revealed to have allowed greed to trample any concern about trust, respect or legality.
As investment analyst David Kotok suggests, consider the implications of the Barclays settlement: The general counsel tells the bank’s directors that the bank is offered a settlement for a half-billion dollars in fines, with the resignation of the chair of the board, the chief executive and the chief operating officer, with others to follow. The board, knowing the evidence, agrees to take that deal. Other banks are in line for the same level of culpability.
We are five years since Wall Street’s excesses blew up the global economy, and the scandals just keep coming. Each scandal reinforces the need for tough regulation and tough enforcement. Each scandal proves over again the importance of breaking up the big banks. Each scandal raises the question of personal responsibility. How come borrowers are prosecuted for defrauding their banks, but bankers seem never to be prosecuted for defrauding their customers? George Osborne, the conservative British chancellor of the Exchequer, put it succinctly: “Fraud is a crime in ordinary business — why shouldn’t it be so in banking?” He is demanding action: “Punish wrongdoing. Right the wrong of the age of irresponsibility.”
We haven’t heard anything like that out of Washington. Libor-gate once more exposes how lax this administration has been on the banks — and how irresponsible and, frankly, craven Republicans and Mitt Romney have been on this question. Romney echoes the know-nothing Republican right’s call for repealing what little bank regulation has been passed since the financial collapse — primarily the Dodd-Frank legislation. He touts deregulation in the wake of a global economic calamity caused in large part by the misguided belief that banks can police themselves.
Not surprisingly, Romney and Republicans are raking in donations from Wall Street. But they are catering to banksters that know no shame. For example, one of the most powerful Wall Street lobbying groups is the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, which has been leading the drive to weaken Dodd-Frank and exempt derivatives from transparency. Its chair was Jerry del Missier, the COO of Barclays, who lost his job and apparently his chairmanship in Libor-gate. Why are we not surprised?
Last January, Barclays’ hard-edged CEO Robert E. Diamond Jr. announced that it was time for bankers to get their brass back. “There was a period of remorse and apology for banks,” he declared. “I think that period is over.” More and more of the customers defrauded by bankers might agree. They are tired of fake remorse and ritual apology. That period is over. It is time for prosecutions to begin.
By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 10, 2012