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EU courts: The right to ECB opacity

by talos Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 05:33:27 AM EST

Reuters: ECB right not to disclose Greece-related documents: court

Bloomberg News asked the ECB in August 2010 to disclose two documents entitled "The impact on government deficit and debt from off-market swaps. The Greek case" and "The Titlos transaction and possible existence of similar transactions impacting on the euro area government debt or deficit levels".

The ECB refused access to the documents. Bloomberg News challenged that decision in the General Court.

"In today's judgment, the General Court dismisses that action," the court said in a statement.

The judges agreed with the ECB that it could not disclose the first document because the information it contained was outdated, posing a substantial risk of severely misleading the public in general and financial markets in particular.

"In a very vulnerable market environment, that disclosure would affect the proper functioning of the financial markets. Thus, disclosure of the information contained in that document would undermine public confidence as regards the effective conduct of economic policy in the EU and Greece," the statement said.

The court also found that the content of the second document was closely connected with the first, and that the ECB had not made a mistake in assessing that its disclosure too "would undermine the economic policy of the EU and Greece"

This obviously stinks to high heaven...

front-paged by afew


Back in June when Blomberg first sued the ECB for this information, the European Central Bank refused, claiming that:

Disclosing the files when Bloomberg News first sought them in 2010 would have "fueled negative perceptions about Greece's ability to honor its debt," ECB lawyer Marta Lopez Torres said at a hearing of the European Union's General Court in Luxembourg today. "It's the same now with Spain" which "isn't able to borrow money," she said. "Markets are reacting in very volatile ways. It's affecting the euro economy."

We had run into Titlos here at Eurotrib, in the beginning of the crisis, in February 2010, when Zero Hedge had run a story on it. Le Monde had a story about the dealings between Goldman Sachs and Greece a month later.

As the Guardian reports:

Georg Erber, a specialist in financial market regulation at the German Institute for Economic Research, told Bloomberg: "The courts are bending the rules to legalise the policies of the European institutions and help stabilise the region. It reveals implicitly that the EU was well informed about what was going on and didn't take steps to avert the crisis."

If ECB and EU inaction is documented in these transactions, it is more than a small wonder why the Greek government is doing nothing to aid Bloomberg in its request. It would certainly show that the escalation of the debt crisis was permitted by the powers that be in Brussels and thus would allow Greece a stronger negotiating hand. In fact, it would seem quite likely that the Greek government and the Bank of Greece could have in their ownership similar documents, that might show the exact same thing.

Finally: whose interests is the General Court protecting here supposedly? Their statement that "disclosure of the information contained in that document would undermine public confidence as regards the effective conduct of economic policy in the EU and Greece" is laughable. Given the actual economic policy that followed, public confidence as regards the effective conduct of economic policy in the EU and Greece should have been undermined. This is a political call they are making, and quite obviously contrary to the interest of public transparency and democracy in the EU. I hope Bloomberg takes the ECB to the ECJ. And European institutions and organizations should support and aid them...

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I hope Bloomberg takes the ECB to the ECJ.

But

Bloomberg News challenged that decision in the General Court.

"In today's judgment, the General Court dismisses that action," the court said in a statement.

The General Court is the ECJ, Well, at least the Court of First Instance.

So you hope that Bloomberg appeals the ruling.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 03:18:21 AM EST
Yes, appeal. I was referring to the Reuters article that made a distinction between the General Court and the ECJ:
The ruling, in a case brought by news agency Bloomberg News, can be appealed on points of law only to the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, within the next two months


The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 04:58:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PNing your PN, the General Court is part of the CJEU, the Court of Justice of the European Union. The higher instance is known as European Court of Justice (ECJ) or if you want the Court of Justice of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Not of course to be confused with the European Court of Human Rights within the Council of Europe which has nothing to do with the EU except sharing the same flag and some such.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 09:04:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From yesterday's Salon, quoting Eurointelligence:
ECB right not to disclose documents to Bloomberg

The General Court in Luxembourg ruled that the ECB had the right not to disclose the documents on the economic situation in Greece in 2010. "Disclosure of those documents would have undermined the protection of the public interest so far as concerns the economic policy of the European Union and Greece," Reuters quotes from the court ruling on Thursday.  The court agreed with the ECB that it could not disclose the first document because the information it contained was outdated, posing a substantial risk of severely misleading the public in general and financial markets in particular. The court also found that the content of the second document was closely connected with the first, and that the ECB had not made a mistake in assessing that its disclosure too "would undermine the economic policy of the EU and Greece". The ruling can be appealed the the European Court of Justice within the next two months.

And the commentary:
(The European Court has thus established an important legal principle. If you claim to act in the public interest, you can break the law. And the definition of the public interest rate, is, of course,  a political one.)


I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 03:21:55 AM EST
Who appointed the General Court, Nixon?  Oh wait, not even his own appointees on the SCOTUS bought that bogus argument.  We've gone a Hell of a long way down hill when a judge can write, "Disclosure of those documents would have undermined the protection of the public interest...", obviously mean, "Disclosure of those documents would have undermined the protection of the 1%...", and just get away with.  People just aren't supposed to know where their taxes go or why.
by rifek on Sun Dec 2nd, 2012 at 05:23:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now the EU has no political or fiscal union, but it has 'national interest', and that is embodies by the ECB which is the only monetarily sovereign entity.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 03:23:40 AM EST
Not a nation when not.

But we are always the prey, and the money flows ever more upwards, as we stand in ever longer dole lines.

by redstar on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 01:34:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The devilish games of falsification are being portrayed as secretive or hidden, and yet there are articles such as this one published many years ago:

http://www.risk.net/risk-magazine/feature/1498135/revealed-goldman-sachs-mega-deal-greece

Equally murky is the exact effect of Goldman Sachs' transactions on Greece's publicly reported national accounts. Since the deficit was a comfortable 1.2% of GDP in 2002, it is more likely that the cashflows were either used to help lower the debt/GDP ratio from 107% in 2001, to 104.9% in 2002 (by funding buybacks) or to lower interest payments from 7.4% in 2001 to 6.4% in 2002. But why did the large negative market value of the swaps not appear on the liability side of Greece's balance sheet?

The answer can be found in ESA95, a 243-page manual on government deficit and debt accounting, published by the European Commission and Eurostat in 2002. As revealed by Piga, the drafting of ESA95's section on derivatives was the subject of fierce arguments between the government statisticians and debt managers of certain eurozone countries.

The statisticians wanted derivatives-related cashflows to be treated as financial transactions, with no effect on deficit or interest costs, and with the derivatives' current market value stated as an asset or liability. The debt managers opposed this, insisting on having the freedom to use derivatives to adjust deficit ratios. The published version of ESA95 reflects the victory of the debt managers in this argument with a series of last-minute amendments.

The countries all knew, but the finance ministries (i.e. debt managers) purposely chose to prevent Eurostat from counting currency swaps as debt. I have LOADS of other sources showing almost all the eurozone countries did the same deal, including one by Germany that was 50x bigger than GS and Greece.

Goldman of course claimed that Eurostat was consulted:

http://www.risk.net/risk-magazine/news/1593054/corrigan-goldman-sachs-consulted-eurostat-greece-curr encyswaps

Eurostat then claimed ignorance:

http://www.risk.net/risk-magazine/news/2070897/eurostat-continues-deny-knowledge-greece-goldman-swap s

Eurostat is apparently like many of us. The past is the past. There is no history there. But of course, Eurostat is then also claiming incompetence by claiming ignorance since the publishing trail for the deal is widely known. Only Eurostat, the media, policy elites pretend to be unaware.

Perhaps the powers that be are relying on journalistic amnesia. After all, the very person who wrote the original 2003 article, Nick Dunbar, recently wrote a piece about the deal in which he seemed to aver that the deal was first uncovered in 2010. Either Dunbar has much editorial oversight in his work or else he has a severe amnesia about the things he himself has previously written about.

Did people know? Well, if you're following the budget deficit reports of the countries in the Eurogroup's sights, you already know that statistical manipulation is still occurring. Whereas Ireland has been prevented from properly logging the outstanding banking debt that the nation is responsible for, Portugal has been allowed to shift debt (1.9% of GDP) from its current account to a pension account which is strictly off the books and thus allows Portugal to meet its requirement.

http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/portugal-gradually-shuffles-its-way-up-towards-the-front-of-the-debt- queue/

Ireland of course has a tax regime that is not much to the eurozone's liking. "No soup for Ireland!"

And, finally, Greece entered the eurozone process in 1999 with a 1.3% deficit. Three years later, it was over, but only if you used another accounting method which the EU doesn't even use anymore:

http://insidegreece.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/umbrella-union-10-myths-about-greece-and-the-crisis/

   However, this issue is totally removed from that of forged statistics. It has become a throwaway line for commentators and journalists to write that Greece fibbed its way into the euro. This misconception is largely driven by the decision of the New Democracy government that came to power in March 2004 to conduct an audit of public finances that led to Greece's budget deficit figure being revised upward, above the 3 percent of gross domestic product limit for euro-area members. However, the deficit increase was largely down to the conservative administration changing the way military expenditure was recorded. Rather than record the spending when the procurements were delivered, it attributed them to the date when the orders were made. This exposed a weakness in the way that the eurozone treated statistics. By failing to agree on a uniform system for all, it allowed statistics to be open to political manipulation in several member states, not just Greece. It is an issue that the European Commission has only addressed over the last few months. As Dimitris Kontogiannis revealed in Kathimerini English Edition recently, the EU now uses the delivery method to record procurements, which means Greece's deficit when it joined the European Monetary Union in 1999 met the 3 percent target.

        According to the Commission's database, several other countries' deficits, including France and Spain, were over 3 percent. Some will argue that this is irrelevant now and in a sense it is. But the regular rehashing of this myth has contributed to the impression among commentators, as well as average Europeans, that Greece has to answer for an original sin even though this offense was never committed. Establishing the truth has to be the first step to rebuilding trust.

This story is out there for a specific reason. It's a canard meant to deflect from the games of the banksters. "We didn't know!" Bullshit, they knew, it was published everywhere and widely known. To say the banksters were ignorant is to tow their water and let them off the hook.

Of course, this also begs the question: why is there a subpoena for this information when there are sources already out there? A little research should also do the trick.

by Upstate NY on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 10:35:56 AM EST
There is a subpoena because Bloomberg newsies do not do research and investigation. They reprint press releases and the occasional official document.

If it doesn't come pre-written, they're not interested.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 01:47:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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