Update: the FT writes that the Italian govt set to take a stake between 50% and 70% in Monte dei Paschi, up from the current 4% stake, as part of the government’s third bailout in as many years. As the FT adds, “the government rescue, which had long been resisted in Rome, is designed to draw a line under the slow-burn crisis in Italian banking that has alarmed investors and become the main source of concern for European financial regulators.”
It remains to be seen if Germany, long a critic of state bailouts, will be as agreeable.
Meanwhile, Pier Carlo Padoan, the Italin finmin, insisted that apart from a few “critical” situations, Italy’s banking system was “solid and healthy”. He vowed to “minimise, if not erase” any impact of the public intervention on the savings of ordinary citizens.
It has been nearly four years since one of the most infamous, and still largely unexplained, banker “suicides” took place, the first in a series of many: we are talking about the death of the director of communications at Monte dei Paschi di Siena, David Rossi, who allegedly jumped to his death on March 6, 2013.
Since this event has largely faded away from the public consciousness here is a quick recap: David Rossi, who was the head of communications for Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, which was founded in 1472 and which is currently seeking to finalize its third bailout since the financial crisis, died after falling – or being pushed – from a third floor window of the bank’s headquarters in a 14th century palazzo in the Tuscan city of Siena.
His death in March 2013 came at a time when the bank was pushed close to the brink of collapse over a scandal involving the loss of hundreds of millions of euros through risky investments.
While a quickly cobbled together post-mortem found that Rossi, 51, had killed himself, his family strongly suspected that he was murdered because he knew too much about the bank’s shady financial deals. As a result, earlier this year, prosecutors in Siena, where the bank is based, ordered his body to be exhumed and for the trajectory of his fall to be simulated, in an attempt to discover exactly how he died.
Nearly four years after it was first revealed that Deutsche Bank had engaged in various shady deals at the height of the financial crisis designed to mask Monte Paschi’s financial woes, on October 1 Italy finally charged the German lender and 6 of its current and former managers, including the infamous Michele Faissola (much more on him soon), Michele Foresti and Ivor Dunbar, for colluding to falsify the accounts of Italy’s third-biggest bank, Monte Paschi, and manipulate the market. Two former executives at Nomura Holdings Inc. and five at Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena were also charged.
As Bloomberg reported, prosecutors have been reconstructing how Monte Paschi’s former managers misrepresented the lender’s finances in the years through the two deals signed with Deutsche Bank in 2008 and Nomura in 2009. The investigation revealed Monte Paschi arranged the transactions to hide billions in losses that led to false accounting between 2008 and 2012, according to a prosecutors’ statement released Jan. 14, when they completed the investigation.
“It’s probably nothing…”
The headline-maker in Italy is Monte Paschi which has seen CDS soar post the regulatory ban on short-selling stock. At over 1700bps, this implies a 67% chance of default… crushing the hopes and dreams of 100s of thousands of mommas and poppas and Renzi’s dream of reelection…
As Bloomberg adds, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena’s subordinated bonds fell to a five-month low amid reports that Italy and the European Commission are in deadlock over how to boost the country’s broken banking system.
– When Stress Tests Fail – Italian Banks Are Collapsing (ZeroHedge, Oct 27, 2014):
Despite the ban on short-sales – which has never worked in the past to do anything but instil fear in traders’ holding long positions – Italian banks are in free-fall following the utter failure of Draghi’s stress tests to encourage confidence in the European banking system.
- INTESA, UBI, UNICREDIT, MONTE PASCHI SUSPENDED IN MILAN, LIMIT DOWN
Given the post-“whatever-it-takes” world of domestic sovereign bond-buying, it is no surprise that Italian govvie risk is jumping higher and the FTSEMIB is plunging.
“A relief rally would not be justified,” said Michael Woischneck, a portfolio manager at Lampe Asset Management in Dusseldorf, Germany. “There are still a lot of problems to fix, and Italian banks still have a lot of work to do. Even for the banks that passed, what is there to be relieved about? They still have to find a business model and figure out how to get unanswered questions that a stress test just cannot answer.”
– Bailout Of World’s Oldest Bank In Jeopardy, Rests On Hope That “Ship Does Not Sink” (ZeroHedge, Dec 28, 2013):
The ongoing debacle of Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi (BMPS) took a turn for the worst today. The bank’s largest shareholders (MPS Foundation) approved (read – forced through) a delay in a EUR 3 billion capital raise, which the bank needs to avoid nationalization, until May. The delay (which will cost the bank EUR 120 million in interest) allows MPS more time to liquidate their 33.5% holding before their stake is massively diluted. Management is ‘considering’ resignation and is “very annoyed,” but the city Mayor is going Nationalist with his delay-supporting comments that “we cannot let the third biggest bank in this country fall prey to foreign interests.” So Europe is recovering but they can’t even raise a day’s worth of POMO to save the oldest bank in the world?
Italy’s third-biggest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena was forced to delay a vital 3 billion euro ($4.1 billion) share sale to raise capital until mid-2014 because of shareholder opposition, plunging its turnaround plan into uncertainty.
– Who’s Next? Italy’s Monte Paschi Admits To Billions In Deposit Outflows (ZeroHedge, March 30, 2013):
It appears, given news from Italy today, that European depositors are increasingly coming to the realization that deposits in their local bank are not ‘safe’ places to put their spare cash, but are in fact loans to extremely leveraged businesses. In a somewhat wishy-washy, ‘hide-the-truth’-like statement on Monte dei Paschi’s website, the CEO admits to, “the withdrawal of several billion in deposits.” Of course, the reasons why these depositors withdrew their capital from the oldest bank in the world will never be known though of course he blames it on “reputational damage” from their derivative cheating scandal. Apparently the fact that this happened to come about six week after said scandal and the bank’s third bailout, and that the prior two bailouts did not result in such an outflow of unsecured liabilities (at least not to the public’s knowledge), was lost on the senior management, as was lost that a far greater catalyst may have been the slightly more troubling events in Cyprus in the second half of March. Unsurprisingly, as Reuters notes, the CEO declined to give a forecast on the level of deposits at the end of the first quarter of 2013; no wonder given the bank just doubled its expectations for bad loans and the ‘Cypriot Solution’ dangling over uninsured depositor hordes.
Customers’ deposits at Italian bank Monte dei Paschi fell by “a few billion euros” … the bank said in a document posted on its web site on Saturday.
– First Monte Paschi Banker Arrested With $54mm Stash (ZeroHedge, Feb 14, 2013):
Unfortunately for the apparently not quite big enough to not fail Italian bank’s former leaders, the Monte Paschi derivative debacle just won’t go away. As Reuters reports today, the first (or many) arrests have been made. Gianluca Baldassarri and four other people suspected of criminal conspiracy to commit fraud were arrested after police seized EUR40mm of apparently ill-gotten gains. The alleged fraud and bribery case charges Baldassarri (who left shortly after the arrival of the new CEO in Jan 2012) of misleading regulators over the true nature of a secret derivative contract that was found in a safe by the bank’s new management in October 2012. Echoing JPM’s London Whale, they uncovered a ‘systematic overshooting of risk limits’ in the management of the group’s EUR24bn prop book. Baldassarri was arrested quickly after the police found evidence that he was trying to cash in securities worth over EUR1mm soon after the funds were seized.
– Monte Paschi says no more derivatives losses (Reuters, Feb 7, 2013):
Italy’s Monte dei Paschi said there were no more derivatives losses beyond the 730 million euros ($988 million) it has disclosed, which have rattled financial markets and become a campaign issue ahead of parliamentary elections.
The derivative trades are at the heart of a fraud probe into former management of the world’s oldest bank, raising doubts about the effectiveness of banking supervisors, including European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, who was Bank of Italy governor from 2006 to 2011, and the role of politicians, who agreed a state bailout for the lender.
Later on Thursday at an ECB news conference, Draghi is likely to be asked how much he knew of the trades.
– The Vespa Has Crashed Into The Mountain: Italy Burning (ZeroHedge, Aug 1, 2011):
Italy undergoing a slow motion crash, with bank after bank getting halted, first Intesa, then Monte Paschi, and most recently, main bank Unicredit.
The FTSEMIB is now down a whopping 5.5% from intraday highs, led by the financial sector which may or may not last the week absent another EFSF expansion as we have speculated before.
Of course, should that happen, Italy becomes a liability and not a funder, meaning the proportional obligations of Germany and France will surge, just as we explained two weeks ago.
And more bad news: the spread between the 10 year Italy – Bund just hit an all time wide of 349, +16 bps on the session, as Italy CDS are now trading 328, +12, and Spain is 9 bps wider to 374.
Time for bailout #3, this time to rescue Italy, then Belgium and Spain, then France and the UK, until finally the Fourth Reich, in the darkness, shall bind them.
And just the country’s top (and we use that term loosely) banks: