By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 5, 2020 ~
It’s called “Going Direct.” That’s the financial bailout plan designed and authored by former central bankers now on the payroll at BlackRock, an investment manager of $7 trillion in stock and bond funds. The plan was rolled out in August 2019 at the G7 summit of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – months before the public was aware of any financial crisis. One month later, on September 17, 2019, the U.S. Federal Reserve would begin an emergency repo loan bailout program, making hundreds of billions of dollars a week in loans by “going direct” to the trading houses on Wall Street.
The BlackRock plan calls for blurring the lines between government fiscal policy and central bank monetary policy – exactly what the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve are doing today in the United States. BlackRock has now been hired by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Canada, and Sweden’s central bank, Riksbank, to implement key features of the plan. Three of the authors of the BlackRock plan previously worked as central bankers in the U.S., Canada and Switzerland, respectively.
The authors wrote in the white paper that “in a downturn the only solution is for a more formal – and historically unusual – coordination of monetary and fiscal policy to provide effective stimulus.”
We now understand why, for the first time in history, the U.S. Congress handed over $454 billion of taxpayers’ money to the Fed, without any meaningful debate, to eat losses on toxic assets produced by the Wall Street banks it supervises. The Fed plans to leverage the $454 billion into a $4.54 trillion bailout plan, “going direct” with bailouts to the commercial paper market, money market funds, and a host of other markets.
The BlackRock plan further explains why, for the first time in history, the Fed has hired BlackRock to “go direct” and buy up $750 billion in both primary and secondary corporate bonds and bond ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), a product of which BlackRock is one of the largest purveyors in the world. Adding further outrage, the BlackRock-run program will get $75 billion of the $454 billion in taxpayers’ money to eat the losses on its corporate bond purchases, which will include its own ETFs, which the Fed is allowing it to buy in the program.
Helicopter money is also spelled out in the BlackRock plan, which explains why simultaneously with the $454 billion Congress carved out for the Fed under the CARES Act, fiscal stimulus was also “going direct” with $1200 checks and direct deposits to the little people of America and Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants “going direct” to small businesses.
One feature of the BlackRock plan that is certain to get wide public pushback in the U.S. is the proposal for central banks to buy stocks (equities). The authors write this:
“Any additional measures to stimulate economic growth will have to go beyond the interest rate channel and ‘go direct’ – [with] a central bank crediting private or public sector accounts directly with money. One way or another, this will mean subsidizing spending – and such a measure would be fiscal rather than monetary by design. This can be done directly through fiscal policy or by expanding the monetary policy toolkit with an instrument that will be fiscal in nature, such as credit easing by way of buying equities. This implies that an effective stimulus would require coordination between monetary and fiscal policy –be it implicitly or explicitly.”
In the United States, approximately 85 percent of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans. Buying stocks would simply expand and accelerate the wealth and income inequality which is already at the highest levels since the 1920s – a time when Wall Street also owned large deposit-taking banks.
The Swiss National Bank, the central bank of Switzerland, where one of the BlackRock authors previously worked, already has massive holdings of individual stocks, including $94 billion in publicly traded stocks in the U.S. according to its March 31, 2020 report that was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The BlackRock authors of the “Going Direct” plan are the following:
Stanley Fischer: Fischer was Vice Chairman of Citigroup from 2002 to 2005. Citigroup received the largest bailout in global banking history, getting $2.5 trillion cumulatively in revolving loans from the Fed and billions more from taxpayers in the financial crisis of 2007 to 2010. Fischer went from Citigroup to serve as Governor of the central bank of Israel (Bank of Israel) from 2005 to 2013. (He holds dual citizenship in Israel and the U.S.) One year later, Fischer became a Governor on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, advancing to Vice Chairman on June 16, 2014. He resigned his position at the Fed October 13, 2017 and joined BlackRock as a Senior Advisor in January 2019.
Philipp Hildebrand: Hildebrand was Chairman of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank from 2010 until he abruptly resigned in early 2012. (There was a scandal over his wife, a former hedge fund trader, making trades in currencies while he had inside information on interest rates.) Hildebrand is now Vice Chairman of BlackRock and a member of the firm’s Global Executive Committee.
Jean Boivin: Boivin is the Head of the BlackRock Investment Institute. He joined BlackRock in 2014. Prior to joining BlackRock, Boivin was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada in March 2010 where he served for two years. Boivin left the Bank of Canada in October 2012 to become Associate Deputy Minister at the Department of Finance, and to serve as Canada’s Finance Deputy at the G-7, G-20 and the Financial Stability Board.
Elga Bartsch: Bartsch heads up economic and markets research at the Blackrock Investment Institute. Prior to joining BlackRock, Bartsch was Global Co-Head of Economics and Chief European Economist at Morgan Stanley in London. According to the government audit of the Fed’s bailout programs during the 2007-2010 financial crisis, Morgan Stanley was the second largest recipient of the Fed’s bailout programs, behind Citigroup, receiving $2.04 trillion cumulatively in revolving, below-market rate loans.
On May 15, the central bank of Sweden, the Riksbank, announced that it would be using BlackRock to conduct “an analysis of the Swedish corporate bonds market and an assessment of possible design options for a potential corporate bonds asset purchase programme.”
The Bank of Canada announced in April that BlackRock has been hired as an adviser for its commercial paper, provincial bond, and corporate bond buying programs.
The Federal Reserve has given a no-bid contract to BlackRock to manage all of its corporate bond programs.
Peter Ewart, a writer based in Prince George, British Columbia, wrote the following in the Prince George Daily News about BlackRock’s role in herding central bank actions:
“The situation also shows how the economic system in both Canada and the U.S. is not classical capitalism but rather state monopoly capitalism, where giant enterprises are regularly backstopped with public funds and the boundaries between the state and the financial oligarchy are virtually non-existent.”
In the U.S., 30 nonprofits, including Friends of the Earth, U.S. Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and Take On Wall Street, wrote a letter to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on March 27 regarding BlackRock’s role in the bailout. The groups called out the Fed on the following:
“By giving BlackRock full control of this debt buyout program, the Fed is further entwining the roles of government and private actors. In doing so, it makes BlackRock even more systemically important to the financial system. Yet BlackRock is not subject to the regulatory scrutiny of even smaller systemically important financial institutions.”
The groups also assailed the Fed for its “no strings attached” oversight of how BlackRock was spending the money, writing:
“As far as is known publicly, there are no conditions or restrictions on what debt is purchased or what companies must do to qualify for debt purchases outside of their credit rating. This could mean that those companies could engage in stock buybacks or provide enormous CEO compensation packages, despite these practices exacerbating imbalances in corporate balance sheets and being a significant reason why these companies are so susceptible to the current crisis. This also means that industries that actively harm the climate – and by extension the financial system – could get unconditional support…”
BlackRock is not only a major marketer of corporate bond products. Its iShares brand includes a giant roster of stock-based ETFs. The Chairman and CEO of BlackRock is Laurence (Larry) Fink. Reuters reported last July that Fink was lecturing the European Central bank that it “will need to purchase equities to stimulate Europe’s economy, and that leaders should find ways to have investors embrace an ‘equity culture’ there.”
The “equity culture” is code for what Senator Bernie Sanders calls “socialism for the rich, and rugged, you’re on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”