By Liam Halligan and cross-posted from Unherd.com
“The 2008 financial crisis was the consequence of a loosely regulated banking system in which power was concentrated in the hands of too limited a cast of speculators,” Nomi Prins tell me. “And after the crisis, the way the US government and the Federal Reserve dealt with this corrupt and criminal banking system was to give them a subsidy.”
Such strong, withering analysis is, perhaps, unexpected from someone who has held senior roles at Wall Street finance houses such as Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs. But Prins is no ordinary former banker.
The US author and journalist left the financial services industry in 2001. She did so, in her own words, “partly because life was too short”, and “partly out of disgust at how citizens everywhere had become collateral damage, and later hostages, to the banking system”.
Since then, Prins has chronicled the closed and often confusing world of high finance through the 2008 crisis and beyond. Her writing combines deep insider knowledge with on-the-ground reporting with sharp, searing prose. Alongside countless articles for New York Times, Forbes and Fortune, she has produced six books – including Collusion: how central bankers rigged the world, which has just been published.
Her main target in the new work is “quantitative easing” – described by Prins as “a conjuring trick” in which “a central bank manufactures electronic money, then injects it into private banks and financial markets”. Over the last decade, she tells me when we meet in London, “under the guise of QE, central bankers have massively overstepped their traditional mandates, directing the flow of epic sums of fabricated money, without any checks or balances, towards the private banking sector”.
Since QE began, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, “the US Federal Reserve has produced a massive $4.5 trillion of conjured money, out of a worldwide QE total of around $21 trillion”, says Prins. The combination of ultra-low interest rates and vast monetary expansion, she explains, has caused “speculation to rage … much as a global casino would be abuzz if everyone gambled using everyone else’s money”.
Much of this new spending power, though, has remained “inside the system”, with banks shoring up their balance sheets. “So lending to ordinary firms and households has barely grown as a result of QE,” says Prins, “nor have wages or prosperity for most of the world’s population”. Instead, “the banks have gone on an asset-buying spree”, she explains, getting into her stride, “with the vast flow of QE cash from central banks to private banks ensuring endless opportunities for market manipulation and asset bubbles – driven by government support”.
Prins describes “the power grab we’ve seen by the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and other central banks”. Using QE, she argues, “these illusionists have altered the nature of the financial system and orchestrated a de facto heist that has enabled the most dominant banks and central bankers to run the world”…