Why Cyprus Losing its Tax Haven Status Will Surprise American Banks

Posted on March 25, 2013. Filed under: Economy, European Crisis, Financial Crisis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Madeleine Albright, Edgar Perez and Condoleezza Rice at CME Group's Global Financial Leadership Conference 2012

Madeleine Albright, Edgar Perez and Condoleezza Rice @CMEGroup’s GFLC12

Cyprus is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, located East of Greece and South of Turkey. Cyprus has always been a popular tourist destination receiving two million visitors who come to the beautiful white sand beaches to soak in the Mediterranean sun. Until a few weeks ago, Cyprus was a developed country well sought after as an offshore tax haven. As a member of the European Union, Cyprus had strict laws in place to protect the offshore financial sector. Cyprus could have been considered a low-tax haven since the country had a low tax regime in place for offshore companies and resident companies, paying just 10 percent, the lowest in the euro zone, below Ireland’s 12.5 percent and well under the 29.5 percent rate in Germany and 33.3 percent in France.

Fast forward to this Monday morning, and it was announced that the Eurogroup just reached an agreement with the Cypriot authorities on the key elements necessary for a macroeconomic adjustment program. The agreement was supported by all euro area member states (it was swiftly endorsed by euro zone finance ministers) as well as by the troika, the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission.

The program would address the exceptional challenges that Cyprus was facing and attempt to restore the viability of its financial sector, with the view of restoring sustainable growth and sound public finances over the coming years. How could they do that?

  1. Laiki (the second largest bank, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, with a history that spanned beyond 110 years) is resolved immediately, with full contribution of equity shareholders, bond holders and uninsured depositors, based on a decision by the Central Bank of Cyprus.
  2. Laiki would be split into a good bank and a bad bank. The bad bank would be run down over time.
  3. The good bank would be folded into Bank of Cyprus (BoC), as one of its branches in Limassol experienced an explosion produced by a home-made bomb. It would take 9bn Euros of the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), the support given by central banks in exceptional circumstances and on a case-by-case basis to temporarily illiquid institutions and markets. Only uninsured deposits in BoC would remain frozen until recapitalization has been effected.
  4. The Governing Council of the ECB would provide liquidity to the BoC in line with applicable rules.
  5. BoC would be recapitalized through a deposit/equity conversion of uninsured deposits with full contribution of equity shareholders and bond holders.
  6. The conversion would be such that a capital ratio of 9 percent is secured by the end of the program.
  7. All insured depositors in all banks would be fully protected in accordance with the relevant EU legislation.
  8. The program money (up to 10bn Euros) would not be used to recapitalize Laiki or Bank of Cyprus.

It was expected that these measures would form the basis for restoring the viability of the financial sector. In particular, they safeguard all deposits below 100.000 Euros in accordance with EU principles, which were initially at risk based on a prior proposal. The program stressed that there would be an appropriate downsizing of the financial sector (Cypriot banks had assets equal to 750 percent of the country’s gross domestic product), with the domestic banking sector reaching the EU average by 2018 (less than half of the current ratio), while encouraging Cypriot authorities to step up efforts in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and privatization, in addition to increasing the withholding tax on capital income and of the statutory corporate income tax rate.

What is the message that the incidents of the last week tell depositors around the world? Move your deposits out of Greece, Italy and Spain; think about outside Europe. While in the case of Cyprus a significant component came from Russian companies and individuals (an estimated $31 billion, according to Moody’s Investors Service), it is clear that the attitude of the European authorities is now to consider public deposits as the new ATM for governments, at least the uninsured deposits of 100.000 Euros or more . No matter what the authorities say to coat the pill (black money might have been present, savers have enjoyed years of high interest rates, etc.), this is a clear message that will reverberate throughout the continent: deposits are not safe anymore. The strict enforcement of the rule of law is gone, and with that the tax haven status that Cyprus worked so hard to build; Cyprus bet its future on it and lost.

Where deposits will go? America. Why? Says FDIC spokesperson David Barr: “During the current economic crisis, consumers have seen firsthand how the FDIC protects their money by swiftly making deposits available when a bank is closed. In the FDIC’s 80-year history, not a single depositor has ever lost a penny of insured money as a result of a bank failure. Our proven track record has helped prevent bank runs during some very difficult economic times.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that deposits will be coming to America shores to earn almost zero, courtesy of Fed Chairman Bernanke; depositors worldwide now know that earning zero is definitely better than experiencing a 40 percent haircut, too bad it is too late for Cypriot (and Russian) depositors.

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High-Frequency Strategists and Quants on Red Alert: The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 in Chicago

Posted on October 2, 2012. Filed under: Conference, Event Announcements, Practitioners, Strategies, Technology, Workshop | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, How High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FXIt took some time, but finally it is now a reality. The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Chicago, October 9, will finally open the door to the secretive world of high-frequency trading, the most controversial form of investing today; in the name of protecting the algorithms traders and quants had spent so much time perfecting, they almost never talked to the press and disclosed as little as possible about how they operate.

The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Chicago promises to reveal how high-frequency trading players are succeeding in the global markets and driving the development of algorithmic trading at breakneck speeds from the U.S. and Europe to India, Singapore and Brazil. The Flash Crash, the suspended BATS IPO, the botched Facebook IPO and Knight Capital’s trading malfunction  are just a few of the events in the history of high-frequency trading that will be dissected at The Speed Traders Workshop 2012.

Who should attend? Anybody involved with Algorithmic Trading, Automated Trading, Commodities, Commodities Trading, Credit Derivatives, Dark Pools Trading, Data Monitoring / Analysis, DMA Analysts, Derivatives Trading, Electronic Execution, Electronic Trading, Equity Trading, Exchange-Traded Instruments, Family Offices, Financial Engineering, Fixed Income / Currencies Trading, Futures, Hedge Funds Traders and Managers, High-Frequency Trading, Information Technology, Institutional Investors, Investment Banking, Market Makers, Operations, Options, Over-the-counter Derivatives, Portfolio Management, Proprietary Trading, Quantitative Trading, Regulatory Entities, Risk Management, Analysis and Control, Statistical Arbitrage, Structured Products Hedging and Trading Technology.

After Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Warsaw, Kiev, Beijing and Shanghai, Chicago finally has the opportunity to experience first-hand The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, seminar that will satisfy both insiders and professionals who are new to the world of high-frequency trading.

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Why Should I Urgently Schedule The Speed Traders Workshop 2012 Vienna?

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: Exchanges, Flash Crash, Regulations, Securities and Exchange Commission, Workshop | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Speed Traders Workshop 2012, How High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX

ECB’s Ewald Nowotny. Credit: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

No other than European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny called today for a regulatory ban on high-frequency trading, saying the technique of using computer algorithms to generate multiple high-speed trades had no practical value.

Reading the note from Reuters made me wonder whether Mr. Nowotny had thought about the consequences of a potential ban, when the technique already has more than 50% participation of equities trading in the continent.

“With high-frequency trading there is nothing to be regulated, it is to be banned. There is no really demonstrable net advantage from this (form of trading),” he told a panel discussion at a regulatory conference.

Mr. Nowotny, who heads the Austrian National Bank, would certainly benefit from attending one of my workshops. While I only have New York, September 25, Chicago, October 9, Dubai, October 14, Jakarta, November 16, Shanghai, November 22, and London, December 12, in my calendar for the year, I am faced with the urgent need to take my slides to Austria and add some light where darkness seems to be reigning; at least, I might schedule a stop in the Kitzbühel Alps.

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