World View: HSBC Cash Withdrawal Restrictions Raise Fears of Bank Runs

This morning's key headlines from

  • 29 die in clashes at three-way commemoration of Egypt's revolution
  • HSBC cash withdrawal restrictions raise fears of bank runs
  • Ukraine anti-government protests continue, despite offer of compromise
  • France's president Hollande announces end of relationship with Trierweiler

29 die in clashes at three-way commemoration of Egypt's revolution

 Supporters of Egypt's government cheer with national flags (Al-Ahram)
Supporters of Egypt's government cheer with national flags (Al-Ahram)

Clashes killed 29 people, as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Saturday to commemorate the third anniversary of the January 25, 2011, Egyptian Revolution, which resulted in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. However, the demonstrators today are not nearly as united as they were in 2011. On Saturday, there were three distinct groups of demonstrators:

  • Pro-government demonstrators, many waving Egyptian flags around Tahrir Square, and many calling for General Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi to run for President of Egypt.
  • Muslim Brotherhood supporters, demanding that Mohamed Morsi, ousted by an army coup on July 3, be reinstated as Egypt's president. Several MB supporters were killed or arrested on Saturday.
  • Secular and independent groups, opposed to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military government.
The only ones allowed into Tahrir Square were the pro-government demonstrators. However, all three groups were marching, and the army used teargas and birdshot to disperse the crowds. 29 people died in the resulting clashes.

Today the major debate in Egypt is whether the country if better off or worse off than under Mubarak. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and BBC

HSBC cash withdrawal restrictions raise fears of bank runs

Some customers of London-based international banking firm HSBC are being told that they can't make withdrawals above $5,000 or so without being questioned about the reason for the withdrawal. In some cases the bank has been demanding documentation before the withdrawal can be permitted, although they now say they've reversed that policy.

HSBC is saying that they're just trying to protect their customers, and they issued this statement:

"We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for.

The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimize the opportunity for financial crime. However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologize to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced."

This announcement is triggering visceral fears of bank runs among a lot of people who remember the Cyprus bank bailout last year that kept people from withdrawing more then 300 euros per day, and permanently cost large depositors 40-80% of their deposits.

It's also reminiscent of HSBC's 2007 announcement that it had $1.75 billion in bad debts, resulting from bad subprime mortgages written by subsidiary Household Finance Corp., which HSBC had acquired in 2003.

Then, last year, HSBC was found to have, for five years, been laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug mobs, organizations linked to al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, and Russian gangsters.

So is HSBC in trouble again? Or are these new policies really all about protecting their customers? I guess each depositor will have to make his own decision. BBC and ZeroHedge and Rollin Stone (Feb 2013)

Ukraine anti-government protests continue, despite offer of compromise

Anti-government protests in Ukraine are spreading from the capital city, Kiev, into cities in the western part of the nation. Western Ukraine is populated by ethnic Ukrainians, who largely oppose the current Russia-linked government, and who want Ukraine to have closer ties to Europe. Eastern Ukraine is populated by ethnic Russians, who prefer closer ties to Russia.

Protests in Kiev are large, but remain mostly peaceful. President Viktor Yanukovych offered several concessions to the opposition, including the appointment of anti-government activists to ministerial positions in the government. However, the opposition is demanding that Yanukovych step down, and that new elections be held. BBC

France's president Hollande announces end of relationship with Trierweiler

Valérie Trierweiler, 48 (left) and Julie Gayet, 41 (AFP)
Valérie Trierweiler, 48 (left) and Julie Gayet, 41 (AFP)

France's President François Hollande reportedly met for lunch on Thursday with his girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler, who has lived with him in the Élysée Palace since he took office last year. On Saturday, Hollande called an AFP reporter and gave this quote:

"I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valerie Trierweiler."

This harsh statement indicates that the luncheon meeting was not a pleasant one.

The announcement comes just as Trierweiler is just about to leave for India on a humanitarian trip, and a couple of weeks before Hollande will be making a state visit to the United States. Apparently Trierweiler will still go to India, but will not accompany Hollande on the state visit. Trierweiler is expected to resume her career as a journalist.

Trierweiler's relationship with 59 year old Hollande unraveled quickly after press reports two weeks ago indicated that Hollande was spending nights with an actress, Julie Gayet. Trierweiler and Hollande share something in common: She's France's least popular "first lady" in decades, while he's the least popular prime minister in decades. It is not expected that Gayet will move into the Élysée Palace. AFP and Telegraph (London)

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