Three former Barclays bank employees have now been charged with “conspiracy to defraud” in the continuing Libor scandal, bringing the total to 13 people charged in America and the U.K. It has been reported that three ex-ICAP brokers are next on the list for helping traders manipulate interest rates.
Three former Barclays bankers have been charged “in connection with the manipulation of Libor” interest rates, the Serious Fraud Office said.
The SFO alleges the three – Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas – “conspired to defraud between 1 June 2005 and 31 August 2007″.
They will appear at Westminster Magistrates court at a date to be confirmed. (source)
Libor is an interbank benchmark used to set the interest rates on trillions in loans all over the world. The investigation into Libor’s deliberate manipulation began in 2008, and it has come to light that traders at various banks all over the world have benefited financially from turning in false interest rate reports since.
Thus far, Barclays and other mega banks including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland have been forced to pay billions in regard to rigging interest rates.
The Wall Street Journal is also reporting that authorities in the United States, United Kingdom and EU are currently investigating a group of traders from various banks for manipulating Euribor, the euro interbank interest rate, as well.
The news comes on the heels of a rash of banker suicides.
Jan. 26, 2014
William Broeksmit, 58-year-old retired Deutsche Bank senior manager with close ties to co-chief exec. Anshu Jain, was found hanging dead at his home in London. It was reported as an apparent suicide. Police quickly declared that Broeksmit’s death was not suspicious.
Jan. 28, 2014
Two days later Gabriel Magee, 39, reportedly leapt to his death from the 33rd story of JP Morgan’s European headquarters in London sometime around 8 a.m. Magee was the bank’s VP in CIB Technology. His death was also quickly ruled “non-suspicious”. There was no indication Magee was going to kill himself at all. In fact, Magee’s girlfriend had received an email from him the night before saying he was finishing up work and would be home soon.
The London Coroner’s Office is set to hold a formal inquest into Magee’s death, but not until May 15th.
Jan. 29, 2014
Chief Economist at Russell Investments, 50-year-old Mike Dueker, was reported missing on Jan. 29. He was found dead off the side of a highway leading to Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington. A Pierce County detective said he may have jumped over a four-foot fence and fallen some 40-to-50 feet down an embankment in another apparent suicide. Although the detective maintained Dueker was having trouble at work, a Russell spokeswoman said Dueker was in good standing.
Dueker, a prior assistant VP and research economist for the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, had worked at Russell for five years, during which time he developed a business-cycle index that forecast economic performance.
Feb. 3, 2014
Ryan Crane, a 37-year-old JP Morgan trading exec., was found dead in his Stamford, Connecticut home. He was an executive director, a rank above vice president, in the bank’s Americas Program Trading group. Cause of death is awaiting determination via toxicology report.
Feb. 4, 2014
57-year-old Richard Talley, former investment banker at Drexel Burnham Lambert and founder of Centennial, Colorado-based American Title Services, was found dead in his garage with eight nail gun wounds to his torso and head. They were reportedly “self-inflicted”. His company was under investigation at the time of his death.
Just last month, JP Morgan Chase, America’s biggest bank, admitted wrongdoing and was fined $461 million for willfully violating the Bank Secrecy Act in relation to Bernie Madoff’s multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. “When JPMorgan suspected Mr. Madoff’s fraud, it focused on its own investment exposure and saved itself approximately $250 million. If it had given the same attention to its anti-money laundering responsibilities, it could have saved itself $2 billion, and potentially saved thousands of other fraud victims untold misery and loss,” stated Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery.
JP Morgan also owns over 60% of the total notional of all US gold derivatives ($108.2 billion).
While all these instances could be entirely unrelated in any way, others are wondering if the heat intensifying in the Libor scandal, the hint at other major interest rate scandals, and the rash of recent banker suicides is suggesting a bigger global financial implosion to come.
Read more at Freedom Outpost
Before you feel to sorry for JP Morgan or Jamie Dimon, you should probably know that since this case came to light Investment Firms like JP have been given INTEREST FREE loans worth HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF “DOLLARS” that YOU pay interest for. Those ones and zeros transferred via the Federal Reserve’s “discount window” have been used to hedge monopolies in every sector, and are re-loaned at interest 10 times over using “Fractional Reserve Lending” policies. The White House and the Fed claim that these TRILLIONS were “injected” to grow the economy… What a SCAM!
For JPMorgan, the deal resolved an array of state and federal investigations. Under the terms of the settlement, JPMorgan will distribute the $13 billion to several states, the Justice Department and an alphabet soup of federal agencies, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Some money is also earmarked to help struggling homeowners.
Dennis Kelleher, the head of Better Markets, was an instant critic of the deal. When the settlement was completed in November, Mr. Kelleher questioned why the Justice Department declined to air its accusations in a lawsuit before settling with JPMorgan. A settlement reached after a lawsuit would have been subject to judicial approval.
Instead, the Justice Department published on its website an 11-page “statement of facts” outlining the bank’s wrongdoing. The actual settlement deal, a 16-page document detailing the terms of the settlement, is also public.
But Better Markets argues that those documents have some important omissions. The Justice Department, the lawsuit notes, “did not disclose the identity of a single JPMorgan Chase executive, officer or employee, no matter how involved in or responsible for the illegal conduct.”
Better Markets also highlighted some ambiguity about the breadth of the wrongdoing covered in the deal. One government document stated that the investigation spanned from 2005 and 2008, while another document refers to activity from 2005 to 2007.
“This contract was the product of negotiations conducted entirely in secret behind closed doors,” the lawsuit said. “No one other than those involved in those secret negotiations has any idea what JPMorgan Chase really did or got for its $13 billion because there was no judicial review or proceeding at all regarding this historic and unprecedented settlement.”
Read the rest HERE
If the stock market were already crashing then it would be simple to blame the dismally sad rash of dead bankers in the last week on that – certainly that was reflected in 1929. However, for the third time in the last week, a senior financial executive has died in what appears to be a suicide.
As Bloomberg reports, following the deaths of a JPMorgan senior manager (Tuesday) and a Deutsche Bank executive (Sunday), Russell Investments’ Chief Economist (and former Fed economist) Mike Dueker was found dead at the side of a highway in Washington State. Police said the death appeared to be a suicide.
Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, was found dead at the side of a highway that leads to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was 50.
He may have jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before falling down a 40- to 50-foot embankment, Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer said yesterday. He said the death appeared to be a suicide.
Dueker was reported missing on Jan. 29, and a group of friends had been searching for him along with law enforcement. Troyer said Dueker was having problems at work, without elaborating.
Dueker was in good standing at Russell, said Jennifer Tice, a company spokeswoman. She declined to comment on Troyer’s statement about Dueker’s work issues.
But as Michael Snyder noted recently, if the stock market was already crashing, it would be easy to blame the suicides on that. The world certainly remembers what happened during the crash of 1929…
Historically, bankers have been stereotyped as the most likely to commit suicide. This has a lot to do with the famous 1929 stock market crash, which resulted in 1,616 banks failing and more than 20,000 businesses going bankrupt.
The number of bankers committing suicide directly after the crash is thought to have been only around 20, with another 100 people connected to the financial industry dying at their own hand within the year.
Dueker had also been a research economist at the St. Louis Fed:
He published dozens of research papers over the past two decades, many on monetary policy, according to the St. Louis Fed’s website, which ranks him among the top 5 percent of economists by number of works published. His most-cited work was a 1997 paper titled “Strengthening the case for the yield curve as a predictor of U.S. recessions,” published by the reserve bank while he was a researcher there.
So, with stocks a mere 4% off their highs, are so many high ranking and well respected bankers committing suicide?
Read more at Zero Hedge
(Reuters) – Pepsico, Nestle and Cisco on Friday announced major investments that together totaled more than $7 billion in Mexico, where the government has pushed through a series of economic reforms that aim to boost foreign investment and growth.
Mexico has embraced free trade policies in recent decades, and has drawn growing investment interest after President Enrique Pena Nieto made a landmark reform drive in his first year in office, pushing major telecommunications, energy, banking and tax legislation through a divided Congress.
“It is very encouraging to see the enthusiasm that has been awoken by our country due to the structural changes that are happening,” Pena Nieto said at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
Pepsico (PEP.N) said it would spend $5 billion in Mexico over five years to strengthen its food and beverage business, adding it planned to expand its production capacity by adding new manufacturing lines and expand delivery routes.
The company said the investment was expected to create 4,000 new jobs.
The Pepsico investment comes despite a new levy on soft drinks and junk foods included in Pena Nieto’s tax overhaul.
Nestle (NESN.VX) said it planned to invest $1 billion in Mexico over five years, building two new factories and expanding a third in its sixth-biggest market.
The world’s No. 1 food maker said it would build an infant nutrition factory in Jalisco and a pet-food factory in Guanajuato, as well as expanding an existing cereal factory.
The investment would create 700 direct jobs, Nestle said.
The Mexican factories will produce goods for the wider region. For example, about 40 percent of the output from the baby food factory will be exported to Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the third major investment announcement at Davos, Network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) said it would direct $1.35 billion into Mexican manufacturing operations and a support center this year.
Pena Nieto has said that foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mexico totaled $28 billion during the first 9 months of 2013.
FDI was boosted last year by the Belgian-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (ABI.BR) acquisition of Grupo Modelo (GMODELOC.MX), which went through at the end of May and brought in about $13 billion.
Separately, Mexican state-run company Pemex will sign a cooperation memorandum with Russia’s No.2 oil producer Lukoil (LKOH.MM) on Friday, Pemex chief executive Emilio Lozoya told Reuters, as the country is opening up its energy sector in a move to boost production.
Lozoya said that Pemex and Lukoil would share information on the deep water and shale deposits that Mexico currently lacks the expertise to tap.
The planned cooperation between Lukoil and Pemex comes after Pena Nieto last month signed a bill into law that ended the country’s 75-year-old oil and gas monopoly.
Under the legislation, which is still being mapped out, foreign companies will be able to enter the sector as Pemex is seeking to bring in expertise and boost efficiency.
“There are dozens of new players who now come and look at the opportunities that are opening up in Mexico,” Pemex CEO Lozoya said.
Lozoya said he met with various companies in Davos that expressed interest in exploration and production projects in Mexico as well as refining, petrochemicals and transportation businesses that are now open to private investment.
As a private company, Lukoil is struggling to get large new deposits in Russia, including offshore, and is actively pursuing a foreign expansion to maintain its production levels.
$1.1T spending bill: 85.2B for military ops in Afghanistan and aid to Israel; funding for Wall St. oversight slashed
Regulation, taxes and debt knock the U.S. out of the world’s top 10.
World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.
For 20 years, the index has measured a nation’s commitment to free enterprise on a scale of 0 to 100 by evaluating 10 categories, including fiscal soundness, government size and property rights. These commitments have powerful effects: Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress. Botswana, for example, has made gains through low tax rates and political stability.
Those losing freedom, on the other hand, risk economic stagnation, high unemployment and deteriorating social conditions. For instance, heavy-handed government intervention in Brazil’s economy continues to limit mobility and fuel a sense of injustice.
It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.
But as the U.S. economy languishes, many countries are leaping ahead, thanks to policies that enhance economic freedom—the same ones that made the U.S. economy the most powerful in the world. Governments in 114 countries have taken steps in the past year to increase the economic freedom of their citizens. Forty-three countries, from every part of the world, have now reached their highest economic freedom ranking in the index’s history.
Hong Kong continues to dominate the list, followed by Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada. These are the only countries to earn the index’s “economically free” designation. Mauritius earned top honors among African countries and Chile excelled in Latin America. Despite the turmoil in the Middle East, several Gulf states, led by Bahrain, earned designation as “mostly free.”
A realignment is under way in Europe, according to the index’s findings. Eighteen European nations, including Germany, Sweden, Georgia and Poland, have reached new highs in economic freedom. By contrast, five others—Greece, Italy, France, Cyprus and the United Kingdom—registered scores lower than they received when the index started two decades ago.
The most improved players are in Eastern Europe, including Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. These countries have gained the most economic freedom over the past two decades. And it’s no surprise: Those who have lived under communism have no trouble recognizing the benefits of a free-market system. But countries that have experimented with milder forms of socialism, such as Sweden, Denmark and Canada, also have made impressive moves toward greater economic freedom, with gains near 10 points or higher on the index scale. Sweden, for instance, is now ranked 20th out of 178 countries, up from 34th out of 140 countries in 1996.
The U.S. and the U.K, historically champions of free enterprise, have suffered the most pronounced declines. Both countries now fall in the “mostly free” category. Some of the worst performers are in Latin America, particularly Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia. All are governed by crony-populist regimes pushing policies that have made property rights less secure, spending unsustainable and inflation evermore threatening.
Despite financial crises and recessions, the global economy has expanded by nearly 70% in 20 years, to $54 trillion in 2012 from $32 trillion in 1993. Hundreds of millions of people have left grinding poverty behind as their economies have become freer. But it is an appalling, avoidable human tragedy how many of the world’s peoples remain unfree—and poor.
The record of increasing economic freedom elsewhere makes it inexcusable that a country like the U.S. continues to pursue policies antithetical to its own growth, while wielding its influence to encourage other countries to chart the same disastrous course. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom documents a world-wide race to enhance economic opportunity through greater freedom—and this year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction.
Can you blame the Ukraine now for not wanting to be a part of the EU?
My first thought upon reading this was the well-worn phrase: The lunatics are running the asylum.
From Reuters: “Analysis: America to Europe: Stronger banking union would help boost growth.”
The United States has a message for Europe: If you want to help your ailing economy, consider pledging taxpayer money from across the euro zone to help troubled banks.
Washington dispatched Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this week to Paris, Berlin and Lisbon in part to convey concerns about the euro zone’s need to revitalize banks crippled by a debt crisis.
The issue has jumped up the United States’ worry list, overshadowing a previous spat with Berlin about criticism of Germany’s export-driven economic model.
Speaking in Paris on Tuesday, Lew urged Europeans to go beyond the deal struck last month to create shared institutions for winding down failed banks.
Washington “would like to see more action taken” to create common backstops for banks and to insure they have enough capital to make enough loans to create jobs, he said.
“The more capital that there is in European banks, and the stronger the backstops are, the better it is for the European economy, the U.S. economy and the world economy,” he said.
The more I pondered, however, it struck me that what Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is proposing is not crazy, it’s evil. (Please note that I am calling the idea “evil,” not Mr. Lew. Thank you for noticing.)
How would you like to visit Las Vegas, put your life savings on black, at the roulette table, knowing if you win you’re rich, and if you lose, the House is going to steal money from everyone else in the casino (and in the city outside) to bail you out? Would such an arrangement change your betting behavior?
This is what Jack Lew is saying should be done by Europe for its irresponsible banks. Of course, he’d never propose or support the same kind of theft here, right?
Read more HERE
Via Global Research
Karen Hudes is a graduate of Yale Law School and she worked in the legal department of the World Bank for more than 20 years. In fact, when she was fired for blowing the whistle on corruption inside the World Bank, she held the position of Senior Counsel.
She was in a unique position to see exactly how the global elite rule the world, and the information that she is now revealing to the public is absolutely stunning. According to Hudes, the elite use a very tight core of financial institutions and mega-corporations to dominate the planet.
The goal is control. They want all of us enslaved to debt, they want all of our governments enslaved to debt, and they want all of our politicians addicted to the huge financial contributions that they funnel into their campaigns. Since the elite also own all of the big media companies, the mainstream media never lets us in on the secret that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way that our system works.
Remember, this is not some “conspiracy theorist” that is saying these things. This is a Yale-educated attorney that worked inside the World Bank for more than two decades. The following summary of her credentials comes directly from her website…
Karen Hudes studied law at Yale Law School and economics at the University of Amsterdam. She worked in the US Export Import Bank of the US from 1980-1985 and in the Legal Department of the World Bank from 1986-2007. She established the Non Governmental Organization Committee of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association and the Committee on Multilateralism and the Accountability of International Organizations of the American Branch of the International Law Association.
Today, Hudes is trying very hard to expose the corrupt financial system that the global elite are using to control the wealth of the world. During an interview with the New American, she discussed how we are willingly allowing this group of elitists to totally dominate the resources of the planet…
A former insider at the World Bank, ex-Senior Counsel Karen Hudes, says the global financial system is dominated by a small group of corrupt, power-hungry figures centered around the privately owned U.S. Federal Reserve. The network has seized control of the media to cover up its crimes, too, she explained. In an interview with The New American, Hudes said that when she tried to blow the whistle on multiple problems at the World Bank, she was fired for her efforts. Now, along with a network of fellow whistleblowers, Hudes is determined to expose and end the corruption. And she is confident of success.
Citing an explosive 2011 Swiss study published in the PLOS ONE journal on the “network of global corporate control,” Hudes pointed out that a small group of entities — mostly financial institutions and especially central banks — exert a massive amount of influence over the international economy from behind the scenes. “What is really going on is that the world’s resources are being dominated by this group,” she explained, adding that the “corrupt power grabbers” have managed to dominate the media as well. “They’re being allowed to do it.”
Previously, I have written about the Swiss study that Hudes mentioned. It was conducted by a team of researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. They studied the relationships between 37 million companies and investors worldwide, and what they discovered is that there is a “super-entity” of just 147 very tightly knit mega-corporations that controls 40 percent of the entire global economy…
When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.
But the global elite don’t just control these mega-corporations. According to Hudes, they also dominate the unelected, unaccountable organizations that control the finances of virtually every nation on the face of the planet. The World Bank, the IMF and central banks such as the Federal Reserve literally control the creation and the flow of money worldwide.
At the apex of this system is the Bank for International Settlements. It is the central bank of central banks, and posted below is a video where you can watch Hudes tell Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com the following…
“We don’t have to wait for anybody to fire the Fed or Bank for International Settlements . . . some states have already started to recognize silver and gold, the precious metals, as currency”
Most people have never even heard of the Bank for International Settlements, but it is an extremely important organization. In a previous article, I described how this “central bank of the world” is literally immune to the laws of all national governments…
An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe. It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks. It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City. It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws. Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.“ The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system. Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does. Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”. During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on. The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.
This system did not come into being by accident. In fact, the global elite have been developing this system for a very long time. In a previous article entitled “Who Runs The World? Solid Proof That A Core Group Of Wealthy Elitists Is Pulling The Strings“, I included a quote from Georgetown University history professor Carroll Quigley from a book that he authored all the way back in 1966 in which he discussed the big plans that the elite had for the Bank for International Settlements…
[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basle, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world’s central banks which were themselves private corporations.
And that is exactly what we have today.
We have a system of “neo-feudalism” in which all of us and our national governments are enslaved to debt. This system is governed by the central banks and by the Bank for International Settlements, and it systematically transfers the wealth of the world out of our hands and into the hands of the global elite.
But most people have no idea that any of this is happening because the global elite also control what we see, hear and think about. Today, there are just six giant media corporations that control more than 90 percent of the news and entertainment that you watch on your television in the United States.
This is the insidious system that Karen Hudes is seeking to expose.
Over twenty years ago, the estate recovery clause was added to Medicaid. If you are 55 or over and receive Medicaid coverage, the state you live in can seize your estate when you die to recover the costs they paid out for your health care.
By and large, a large percentage of the people receiving Medicaid have been the low income sector and poverty sector. Once they start receiving Medicaid, there is little if any incentive for them to try to work and get off the system. In fact, it seems that government created the system in such a way as make it more lucrative to be poor and stay poor than to try to work and make something of one’s self. In that light, why shouldn’t the state seek repayment of what they’ve paid out for someone’s laziness?
Under Obamacare, the estate recovery may hit millions more Americans. Before Obama could pardon the millions that would have lost their healthcare, there were millions that already had lost their policies. Many of these people cannot afford the new policies being offered to them through the Obamacare exchange programs.
Thanks to Obamacare, the qualifications for Medicaid have been changed to allow more lower income people of all ages to apply. Twenty-six states adopted the new Medicaid standards which means that more people will be applying and receiving Medicaid coverage than ever before.
With more people receiving Medicaid the system will quickly become drained of resources, which means that states need to find new ways to generate enough revenue to pay for them. Enacting the estate recovery clause is one way that some states may be forced to turn.
It’s possible that if Sofia Prins of Port Townsend, Washington had not read the fine print for her fiancé’s, Gary Balhorn, Medicaid application. What she read shocked her as it said that if you’re 55 or older and receive Medicaid, the state can require your estate to pay back coverage after you die. Prins realized that in the truest sense, Medicaid is not free insurance, rather it is a loan against a person’s estate.
The Seattle Times picked up their story and word started to spread. In states like Washington, the lower Medicaid standards are allowing more Americans to qualify for Medicaid. If they do, they are then not eligible for any of the federal subsidy for the purchase of healthcare.
So if you are 55 to 64 and receiving Medicaid, you had best warn your heirs that the state you live in may be coming for all or part of your estate to recover the cost of your free healthcare. If they want to know why this is being enforced more now than in the past, remind them that Obama has always been about redistributing the wealth. By that I meant he wants redistribute it from us to the government. Therefore, you’re better off spending it all or giving to your family while you are still alive so there is no estate for them to seize.
Read more at http://godfatherpolitics.com/13727/states-seize-estates-payback-cost-medicaid/#c0AIYT75LMuT0z2Y.99
Bitcoin enthusiast Mike Caldwell puts away his coins at his office in Sandy, Utah, September 17, 2013.(Reuters / Jim Urquhart)
The United States government hasn’t decided on the legality of Bitcoin just yet, but federal regulator have determined that a Utah man must stop mining and selling physical copies of the crypto-currency to online customers.
Mike Caldwell of Sandy, UT has for years been offering a novelty of sorts for sale over the internet. In exchange for a nominal fee, he’ll hand-mint personalized, tangible Bitcoins that are then shipped around the world and used for online transactions. Each coin is protected by several levers of security, including a touch-sensitive hologram, and Caldwell says he’s minted the equivalent of around $82 million dollars’ worth of the items.
Production of his “Casascius” physical Bitcoin has been recently brought to a halt, however, after Caldwell received a letter from the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FINCEN. He announced on his website in late November that he had suspended taking orders “pending resolution of some concerns I have as to regulatory issues,” and now two weeks later he’s opened up and admitted that his Bitcoin business is the latest to be busted by federal regulators.
“They considered my activity to be money transmitting,” he told Wired’s Robert McMillan of the FINCEN letter, and the Treasury insists that such activity adhere to certain regulations.
Caldwell isn’t convinced he’s doing that, though, and isn’t sure what the future holds for the Casascius coin.
The coins are made in Caldwell’s Sandy residents and are crafted from real metal. The 1 BTC item, worth around $863 as of this writing, is minted from solid brass and weighs around an ounce. He had been up until now selling other denominations as well, including the 25 BTC version electroplated with gold.
“Each Casascius Bitcoin is a collectible coin backed by real Bitcoins embedded inside,” his website still reads. “Each piece has its own Bitcoin address and a redeemable ‘private key’ on the inside, underneath the hologram.” That key is accessed with a unique 8-digit code printed on the outside of each coin
“In order to redeem the BTC kept on the coin, you simply enter the physical coin’s 8-digit code into your Bitcoin client of choice,” Geek.com’s James Plafke explained earlier this year. “Considering the value of the Bitcoin is stored on the card embedded within the coin and not upheld by the coin itself, if you remove funds from the coin, your shiny 25 BTC coin won’t be worth 25 BTC anymore.”
Therein lies part of Caldwell’s argument. He told Wired that he doesn’t take any sort of fiat currency, including the US dollar, from Casascius customers, and essentially offers just a practically worthless piece of metal whose value exists only online. His whole transaction process is rather primitive, as well: someone pays him in Bitcoin for the order, and then he mints the coin and ships it through the US Postal Service. And because there’s no bank account linked to his business, there’s no dollars to seize, either.
Caldwell was making around $50 off of each of his coins, but has suspended operations until he figures out how to handle the feds.
“It’s possible,” he told Wired of exiting the Bitcoin business. “I haven’t come to a final conclusion,”
In the meantime, he said he’s spent $5,000 worth of legal fees in just two weeks trying to figure out how not to trample on the toes of the Treasury.
And as far as the other branches of government go, the consensus for now is that buying and selling with Bitcoin isn’t necessarily breaking any laws. The Department of Justice said Bitcoins can be “legal means of exchange” during a Senate committee hearing last month, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank “does not necessarily have authority to directly supervise or regulate these innovations or the entities that provide them to the market.”