Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

Posts Tagged ‘financial crisis’

Finding the Opportunity in Crisis – the Greece currency workshop

Posted by jembendell on October 3, 2012

Outside the Academy

The Academy in Crete

Here is the final line up for the 1.5 day event in Greece on alternative exchange and currencies…  There’s still time to register for the summit. Crisis is opportunity!

October 10th

900-1000
An introduction to money and its effects
Thomas Greco, best selling author on community currencies 1hr

1000-1030
Why “Sustainability” Professionals Need to Embrace Alternative Exchange
Professor Jem Bendell, Uni of Cumbria 30 mins

1030
Coffee, 15 mins

1045-1200
The Effects of Different Currencies: The Trading Game
Jem Bendell and Sybille Saint Girons, Les Valeureux, 1hr 15mins

1200-100
Experiences with TEM in Volos and Chania
Giannis Grigoriou, Volos TEM & Giannis Bouleros, Chania TEM, 1hr

100-215
Lunch, 1hr

215-300
Lessons from Argentina’s Social Money Movement 2001-2002
Sergio Lub, Favors.org and Thomas Greco, 45 mins

300-345
Design and Software Issues for Alternative Exchange
Matthew Slater, Community Forge 45 mins

345-400
Tea, 15 mins

400-515
Expert Roundtable
Thomas Greco, Matthew Slater, Giannis Grigoriou, Hamish Jenkins (United Nations) and Sybille Saint Girons. Chaired by Jem Bendell, 1hr

October 11th

900-930
Breakout meetings on key questions, 30 mins

930-1015
Research findings on alternative exchange in Greece
Irene Sotiropoulou, University of Crete, 45 mins

1015-1030
Coffee, 15 mins

1030-1130
Key success factors and limiting factors in mutual credit
Thomas Greco, 1hr

1130-1200
Software Demonstration
Matthew Slater, 30 mins

1200-100
Facilitated dialogue on key questions from breakout meetings
Facilitated by Jem Bendell, 1hr

100-130
Conclusions on next steps
Facilitated by Jem Bendell, 30 mins

130
Lunch
1hr

In the afternoon, depending on interest and attendance, experts and practitioners in community currencies may convene for a hosted dialogue on “Globalising Localisation: how can we help each other?”

Posted in Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The answer to financial chaos lies on an island in Sweden

Posted by jembendell on July 1, 2012

The financial crisis is actually a monetary crisis, and you can do something about it now.

On an island next to Stockholm, leaders in systemic solutions to financial chaos are gathering at a sustainability festival. Join them at the Future Perfect festival in Stockholm on 23-26 August, and hear a panel on monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability, and a workshop for executives who want to start, scale or participate in alternative means of exchange.

Panel: “Currencies of Transition: monetary reforms and innovations for sustainability.”

Chair: Professor Jem Bendell (Lifeworth Consulting, Community Forge and Griffith Business School)

Ben Dyson, director of Positive Money, which campaigns for a systemic solution to monetary crises, by full reserve banking.

Josh Ryan Collins, New Economics Foundation, the Brixton Pound and co-author of “Where does money come from?”

Lynnea Bylund, Board Member, Ormita, the international business barter network.

Matthew Slater, Board Member, Community Forge, a leading provider of open source software for community currencies, and editor of Community Currency magazine.

The panel will address the questions: Is a fair and sustainable economy possible with our debt-driven money system? If not, what needs to change? What is being done already? What can we do to get involved, personally and professionally? How can we make this a movement? What mistakes can we avoid?

Workshop: “How alternative exchange systems work and how to get started”

Trainers: Professor Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater

The trainers work with Community Forge, which provides free open source software for community currencies. This video explains why, what and how Community Forge operates.

You will be able to interact with these experts and others attracted to the topic, at a world class music festival! To book your tickets to the festival, visit http://www.futureperfect.se

The workshop will also be offered in Greece in the second week of October. Contact the European Sustainability Academy for more information.

Posted in Corporations, Counter-Globalization Movement, Lifeworth, Occupy, Sustainable Development, Talks | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Italian premiere Mario Monti vows to make Neutrinos run on time

Posted by jembendell on November 20, 2011

After announcing his new cabinet, which includes no elected politicians, Mario Monti got to work in reassuring the public and markets of their focus in restoring confidence in Italy. “Further evidence this week that Italian scientists have measured neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light, has damaged confidence in Italian precision and efficiency,” said banker Monti. “I vow to make the neutrinos run on time,” said the leader of Italy’s first unelected government since the War. Along with creative austerity measures, such as making politicians redundant, Italy may be able to restore confidence in its bond issues. “This will enable us to fund international banker bonuses for another two years” explained Monti, demonstrating an acumen from his vast banking experience.

Some speculated that if the physics experiments are actually correct, it could be more unsettling to the markets. “For a neutrino to arrive faster than the speed of light means we must ask whether it is the same neutrino. Instead, could it be that the neutrino is being created out of nothing in the expectation of the arrival of a future neutrino? Might that create a momentary quantum debt that could be unsustainable if replicated on a larger scale?” pondered a theoretical physists who preferred not to be named. It is rumoured that the potential for this quantum-debt-default alerted Monti to settle the markets by outlining his neutrino doctrine. “There are so many quants in banking, who design the algorythms that do the high frequency trades, these neutrino results could knock their confidence in Italy’s science, or worse, in Italy’s time-space continuuum,” said the anonymous source. He added “being a Goldman Sachs man, Monti is used to controlling the universe, so subatomic adjustments might not be beyond his imagination.”

Unfortunately Professor Finzione, from the Italian laboratory Gran Sasso, was unable to attend the press conference, after his train was delayed. He sent your correspondent the following sms: “Time is not so linear. It could be a little bit of history repeating… Me ne Frego! [I dont give a damn!]”

[For more news of this type, check out the onion, news biscuit, daily show, colbert report, or, well, the latest headlines!].

Posted in Funny | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Will Swiss Economic Ideology Harm Global Health and Humanitarian Efforts?

Posted by jembendell on August 18, 2011

The Swiss franc has increased 30% against the US dollar and 20% against the Euro since last year. The pain felt by Swiss businesses is being well documented. But less well documented is the effect of this currency imbalance on international efforts to promote health, peace, human rights, and humanitarian action. Switzerland is home to many international organisations, including United Nations agencies and international charities. Many have their assets and grants denominated in US dollars or currencies other than the Swiss franc, yet their fixed costs of buildings and staff are in the extremely overvalued Swiss francs. Consequently their budgets are being ravaged by the currency imbalance, leading to mass redundancies and the cutting of various programmes, at key organisations for world affairs, such as the World Health Organisation to the International Labour Organisation. Those with seniority in such organisation are more able to hold on to their jobs, so the harder-working and far less well-paid staff are often the first ones to be shown the door. Although there need to be efficiencies found in international organisations, a sinking-ship mentality is not the way to achieve it.

The current efforts to reduce the value of the Swiss franc, by the Swiss National Bank, are reported by the Financial Times to have completely failed. Their tactics have been to increase the volume of Swiss francs, and slash interest rates. Yet as the international financial markets are spooked and want to buy Swiss francs, banks are simply buying up the excess francs. Not only is this causing a problem for Swiss businesses, it is creating a massive future risk for the Swiss economy when one day people decide they don’t need to hold so many francs. In addition, in efforts to keep the Swiss franc down, the government’s debt is spiralling. That will be compounded by recent commitments to spend billions in bail outs to suffering businesses. Such bail outs will be open for mishandling and corruption and propping up inefficient companies – especially if they are spent quickly enough to have any effect. But worse, these bail outs are like a sticking plaster for a haemorrhaging wound, as systemic solutions are required. If we compare prices across the border, the Swiss franc might even be 100% overvalued already, and the Western monetary crisis is only beginning its latest phase. This is no momentary problem. Imagination beyond old ideologies is required for systemic solutions.

The answer is so simple. The Swiss government could impose a currency transactions tax on any purchase of Swiss francs or assets/instruments denominated in Swiss francs. This transaction tax would reduce the demand for Swiss francs, and generate revenues for the Swiss government. These new revenues could be used to pay down the wholly unnecessary new Swiss government debt, and finance a new emergency international cooperation fund. That fund could issue core-budget grants to Swiss-based non profit organisations and international agencies for them to maintain or increase their employment of non-senior staff. In terms of the UN, this would mean staff below P-3 level. Such staff spend a greater percentage of their wages on local businesses than more senior staff, who invest it abroad, or drive over the border to get cheaper goods, services and property in the Eurozone. Targetted action like this would maintain a key element of the Swiss economy and society, and its contribution to the world.

The arguments against a currency transactions tax have always been vacuous, ideologically driven and about protecting short term profits. Its not workable? Tell that to countries like Brazil who have had a transaction tax for years. It will dent confidence in the economy? Well what do we mean by economy? The current market for the franc? That needs denting! The longer term prospects for the economy require effective denting right now. Given that leading Eurozone nations want to impose a similar tax in future, this is a great opportunity for Switzerland to lead the way. There are strong business arguments for a currency transactions tax, due to the effect on cooling volatility, and strong government reasons, by making up for falling tax revenues. We documented these issues in a report for the Swiss charity Bread for All, yet we found bankers and top government officials wedded to an unthinking belief in no new policy innovations to harness financial markets for the productive economy, public finances or common good.

Why is it such a crisis when the world wants to own your national currency? It should not have to be a crisis, indeed it could be a major opportunity for the Swiss people and the wider world who benefit from its role as a home for agencies of international cooperation. The only thing stopping this being an opportunity is the ideological blinkers of top bankers and politicians who are currently exhibiting zero creativity in transforming this situation from crisis to opportunity. Impose a transaction tax, to release Swiss business from the high franc, pay down the government debt, and fund a more dynamic international cooperation community. If such effective action isn’t taken, some citizens may start asking if the private ownership of 45% of the national bank by private banks like UBS in some way compromises its ability to take action in the public interest. And if such action isnt taken, we will see once again how economic ideologies in certain circles can harm the lives of poor and vulnerable people many thousands of miles away.

Professor Jem Bendell: http://www.twitter.com/jembendell

Posted in Academia and Research, Corporations, Counter-Globalization Movement, Geneva, Reports, Sustainable Development, United Nations | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Loose Change We Can Believe In? Why Salary Caps Won’t Do

Posted by jembendell on February 5, 2009

Barack Obama has made international news announcing a salary cap for the heads of companies that are being bailed out by government. Other governments are expected to follow suit. Billions have been lost, and trillions pumped in to keep these companies afloat. Compared to that, these salary caps are loose change, not the ‘change we can believe in’ people hoped for.

That bankers are being bailed out, while home owners struggle, and people are laid off, is galling to many. Robert Borosage, president of the Institute for America’s Future, has said that “many homeowners were misled by predatory lenders to taking mortgages that they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford. It would be simply obscene to help the predators and not those that they preyed on.” Some also question the revolving door between bankers and regulators, and whether people like former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who became super-rich from working in one of the firms whose practices had helped create the crisis, should have been deciding how to hand out billions to the same sector. News that the bankruptcy courts released $2.5bn to secure Lehman Brothers bonus payments at a time when savers were losing out, is just one example of a situation that seems to many like a systemic abuse of power by a professional elite of regulators, judiciary and bankers. Then Merryll Lynch giving out more millions to its staff as the crisis really crunched is not just obsence, as time may tell, it is likely criminal.

The bail-outs are defended by the fact that a financial institution is “too big” or “too interconnected” to fail and that its failure would cause a systemic risk. If governments and regulators have let financial institutions become so big that they cannot be allowed to collapse, shouldn’t they be encouraging more competition and more diversity? This is at least the view of trade unions. UNI Finance, the global trade union for finance workers, has repeatedly called for a diverse finance market that includes not only private banks and insurance companies but also public banks, savings banks and insurances, co-operative banks, mutual insurance companies and foundations. However, this does not seem to be the view of governments and regulators who are pushing failing institutions into the arms of healthier ones (e.g. acquisition of Merrill Lynch by of Bank of America in the United States or the takeover of HBOS by Lloyd’s TBS in the United Kingdom). As Lina Saigol, a Financial Times columnist, has argued, this “new generation of gargantuan institutions [will have] the power to dictate the next financial boom and bust.” With the new injection of funds from governments, many banks have since turned their attention to attempts at buying each other out, and thus compounding the problems associated with market domination by too few players, rather than quickly getting back to the business of lending money to people in the business of making things for others.

In many cases the bailouts have became part nationalisations of the banks involved. This gives governments some additional influence over their practices, yet most politicians are currently cautious about what influence they exert, and act on issues like future executive pay, as the new announcement from the US illustrates. The irony of increasing government ownership of the banks, is that the tax payer may face a double whammy of their own. Not only have they bought up bad debts, but they have bought into potentially massive legal liabilities. In a comment in The Guardian, Nick Leeson, the trader who brought down Barings Bank in 1995, said: “For my role in the collapse of Barings I was pursued around the world, and ended up being sentenced to six and half years in a Singaporean jail. Who is going to go after the reckless individuals responsible for the financial catastrophe? Apparently no one”. However, there appears to be growing pressure to hold companies as well as individuals responsible for the global financial crisis. Regulators have announced the broadening of the investigations into the collapse of the subprime mortgage market to include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG. In addition, many observers expect a sharp rise in shareholder lawsuits against investment banks and other financial institutions following the millions of dollars of losses they made by gambling money in asset-backed securities and the like. Law suits are emerging from Hong Kong to Paris to Rekjavik.

These actions slam the legal door after the capital horse has bolted. Rather than punishing the individuals who profited from using other people’s money to buy derivatives they did not fully understand, but knew could turn a profit in time for their next bonus, this legal action will cost the companies’ new owners, including the tax payer. First the bankers, then the lawyers, will have bled the collective purse. The sick irony of this is that many ex-bankers are getting in on the game: they are helping fund the lawyers to pursue claims against financial institutions for those who have lost their money. In doing so they aim to make a nice commission. They screwed the public purse once, and now will do it again, through taking a slice of payments paid out by their old employers. As this situation becomes visible to the general public, calls for the people who made millions from speculating with their money to replenish their depleted pension funds may grow. There could be investigation into whether there was abuse of fiduciary duty by those who received large bonuses through creating, investing, rating or trading in mortgage backed securities or credit-default swaps since the deregulation of those markets in 1999. Given the mobility of capital, such processes would require international cooperation, to freeze assets of those being investigated. If this happened, it would remind us of Interface CEO Ray Anderson, who said that people like him would in future be regarded as criminals for doing things that at the time they considered normal business. Letting bankers live as millionaires, some as billionaires, from creating a crisis that has emptied the pensions funds and now the coffers of government, would sadly stand as a testament to systemic injustices of contemporary societies. However, it is unlikely that governments will want to see such a wave of litigation. As such there may be growing calls for some form of ‘financial truth and reconciliation’ commission, to explore how this crisis developed, where fault lies, and how to repatriate some savings.

Those calls will grow louder in the coming months, with major activist mobilisations planned to call for financial justice before the G20 meeting in London. Obama was expecting a hero’s welcome at his first big meet up in London. But saving a few million in salaries in return for the trillions thrown at the financial sector, while millions of people lose their jobs? Salary caps aren’t the loose Change We Can Believe in. He will have to do more. Far more. As will the rest of the G20. They can start by endorsing a more legitimate and inclusive process to develop principles and rules for a new financial order, and coordinating a process to repatriate some funds from the pockets of the irresponsible bankers, some of whom now seek to even profit from the coming litigation.

– More analysis of the future of the financial system will appear in the next Lifeworth.com Annual Review of Responsible Enterprise, released at the end of the month.

– For a discussion of the corporate responsibility movement’s contribution to the future of capitalism see my new book http://www.greenleaf-publishing.com/productdetail.kmod?productid=2767

Posted in Corporations, Counter-Globalization Movement | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »