By Kevin Brekke, Editor: Metals & Mining Division
The EU continues its chainsaw juggling act. The austerity pledge from France is holding about as well as its Maginot Line, while Greece has sworn to meet its fiscal targets in 2014 2015 2016 soon, and the Italians promise they’re going to kick some serious fiscal butt as soon as the country returns from holiday.
Spain reassures that it will squarely confront its need to raise worker productivity whenever the unions call an end to protests against austerity. And the Portuguese high court ruled it is unconstitutional for civil servants to work for less than twice the wages of their private-sector counterparts.
This chronic “the sky is falling” in the EU had induced investor news-cycle fatigue and rendered last year’s black-swan threat level from red to this year’s collective yawn…
… until Cyprus tossed another chainsaw into the act. The Cyprus looting of private wealth was a cold-shower reminder of the tenuous security of assets that are concentrated within reach of a single government – doubly true of nations in a desperate fiscal situation whose financial sector is about to topple.
The blatant theft of depositor money in Cypriot banks was at first peddled as a one-off emergency measure. Then a Freudian slip by the head of the Eurogroup finance ministers, Mr. Dijsselbloem, suggested this would be the new pattern for similar future events. Much back-pedaling and “clarification” ensued.
But don’t bother squinting as you try to read the lips of mumbling bureaucrats. Just follow what they’re doing and you won’t get blindsided.
What have they been up to? In October 2011, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) – a tentacle of the Bank for International Settlements, the central bank for central bankers – released a report that proposed a new regime to resolve financial-institution instability.
In the report, the FSB calls for solvency support for banks without taxpayer exposure and the allocation of losses to shareholders and unsecured and uninsured creditors. Deposits at a bank are considered a loan, and if a bank fails, its depositors become unsecured creditors for amounts that exceed the insurable limit.
It gets worse. To protect the integrity of the financial system, controls on both endogenous (the bank itself) and exogenous (other firms and cross-border cooperation) capital movement can be implemented. This is exactly what happened in Cyprus. To prevent capital flight out of the banking system, the movement of money out of or between banks was restricted, as well as capital sent outside the country.
The G20 has fully endorsed the plan, and its implementation is complete or under way in member jurisdictions. The US is a G20 member, so don’t kid yourself into believing it can’t happen in America. It can and will. The Cyprus event has been carefully framed as an anomaly when in fact it is part of a well-orchestrated script.
In the Year of Our Overlord 1 AF
January 1, 2014, will mark the start of Year 1 AF – “after FATCA.” In the run-up to the US reporting regime’s full implementation, many foreign banks have opted not to accept US persons as clients, and we can see why. FATCA is a huge burden on foreign financial institutions in terms of time and resources needed to identify, track, and report on their US clients.
Today, it is nearly impossible to find a foreign bank that will open an account for an American without them visiting the bank and delivering a stack of notarized paperwork to prove they are who they say they are. Other banks that had welcomed US persons have suspended doing so in anticipation that further demands on their time will be announced.
In fact, one bank we spoke with during our research on internationalization has done just that. Lloyds TSB has stopped opening accounts for Americans, pending a review of FATCA later this year. Our contact at the bank did not sound optimistic that the policy would be reversed. This is a trend we expect will gain traction.
And as if Americans seeking to internationalize weren’t already facing stiff headwinds, a recent leak of internal documents linked to offshore entities will likely add some force. In early April, millions of emails and other records were leaked with information on thousands of account and company owners in the British Virgin Islands, a popular offshore banking center. The leak exposed several high-profile clients that are allegedly “hiding” assets from their home tax authorities.
This is just the kind of news that will embolden the offshore-means-tax-evasion governmenteers to twist the reporting screws a little bit tighter.
When Is Now
The incremental creep of crises continues to aggravate the financial landscape and provokes increasingly desperate responses from Western governments, particularly the US.
Yet in spite of all the words unleashed and regulations imposed against offshore investing, it remains unquestionably legal. How long it will continue to be legal is questionable.
Is it easy? No. But neither is getting your luggage and shoes through airport security. The situation for the easy movement of capital and assets across borders is dire, but it is not hopeless if you have the right information.
FATCA has effectively acted as stealth capital controls, as the regulations dissuade foreign financial institutions from doing business with Americans, discouraging all but the most persistent investors from pursuing an international wealth preservation strategy.
As the pieces come together, a clear picture emerges: Americans are just one financial crisis away from triggering the provisions of the G20-backed FSB financial resolution regime. And that almost certainly will include restrictions on the movement of capital. Once your money is trapped inside the US, any type of concocted emergency “tax” can be imposed on your wealth.
Additional taxes are just one of many steps your home government can take to grab a share of your hard-earned wealth. Wise investors disperse their assets internationally to minimize this risk, and though it’s getting late in the game, there’s still time for you to join them.
You can learn about moving your cash offshore… setting up an offshore LLC… investing in international stock markets… and internationalizing yourself, including getting a second passport. It’s all available in an information-packed special report titled Going Global 2013. You won’t find a better resource for internationalizing your life and your assets. Get started today.