The “War on Cash” Migrates to Switzerland
by Pater Tatenbaum, David Stockman’s Contra Corner
Banks Increasingly Refuse Cash Withdrawals – Switzerland Joins the Fun
The war on cash is proliferating globally. It appears that the private members of the world’s banking cartels are increasingly joining the fun, even if it means trampling on the rights of their customers.
Yesterday we came across an article at Zerohedge, in which Dr. Salerno of the Mises Institute notes that JP Morgan Chase has apparently joined the “war on cash”, by “restricting the use of cash in selected markets, restricting borrowers from making cash payments on credit cards, mortgages, equity lines and auto loans, as well as prohibiting storage of cash in safe deposit boxes”.
This reminded us immediately that we have just come across another small article in the local European press (courtesy of Dan Popescu), in which a Swiss pension fund manager discusses his plight with the SNB’s bizarre negative interest rate policy. In Switzerland this policy has long ago led to negative deposit rates at the commercial banks as well. The difference to other jurisdictions is however that negative interest rates have become so pronounced, that it is by now worth it to simply withdraw one’s cash and put it into an insured vault.
Having realized this, said pension fund manager, after calculating that he would save at least 25,000 CHF per year on ever CHF 10 m. deposit by putting the cash into a vault, told his bank that he was about to make a rather big withdrawal very soon. After all, as a pension fund manager he has a fiduciary duty to his clients, and if he can save money based on a technicality, he has to do it.
Swiss National Bank headquarters
Photo credit: Daniel Rohr
A Legally Murky Situation – but Collectivism Wins Out
What happened next is truly stunning. Surely everybody is aware that Switzerland regularly makes it to the top three on the list of countries with the highest degree of economic freedom. At the same time, it has a central bank whose board members are wedded to Keynesian nostrums similar to those of other central banks. This is no wonder, as nowadays, economists are trained in an academic environment that is dripping with the most vicious statism imaginable. As a result, withdrawing one’s cash is evidently regarded as “interference with the SNB’s monetary policy goals”. Thus SRF reports:
“Since the national bank has introduced negative interest rates, pension funds in the country are in trouble. Banks are passing the negative rates on to them. This results in the saved pension money shrinking, instead of producing a return. A number of pension funds are therefore thinking about keeping their money in an external vault instead of leaving it in bank accounts.
One fund manager showed that for every CHF 10 m. in pension money, his fund would save CHF 25,000 – in spite of the costs involved in vault rent, cash transportation and other expenses.
However, as our research team has found out, there is one bank that refuses to pay out money in such large amounts. The editorial team has gotten hold of a letter from a large Swiss bank in which it tells its customer, a pension fund:
“We are sorry, that within the time period specified, no solution corresponding to your expectations could be found.”
Bank expert Hans Geiger says that this “is most definitely not legal”. The pension fund has a sight account, and has the contractual right to dispose of its money on demand.
Indeed, although we all know that fractionally reserved banks literally don’t have the money their customers hold in demand deposits, the contract states clearly that customers may withdraw their funds at any time on demand. The maturity of sight deposits is precisely zero.
So how come the unnamed “large bank” (they should have named it, just to see what happens…) is so bold as to break the law by refusing to pay out funds in a demand deposit? Note here that it is indeed breaking the law, as there is nothing in Swiss legislation that states that banks are allowed to refuse or delay servicing withdrawals from demand deposits upon request.
The answer is that it has probably received a “directive” from the Swiss National Bank. Note here that these directives are not legally binding. SFR further:
“The president of the pension funds association ASIP, Hanspeter Konrad, has been irritated for weeks that pension funds are suffering from negative interest rates. He says: “We simply cannot understand that the banks are butting in here”. Konrad suspects that the National Bank is exerting its influence.
Indeed, the SNB confirms that it doesn’t like to see the hoarding of cash to circumvent its negative interest rate policy. “The National Bank has therefore recommended to the banks to approach withdrawal demands in a restrictive manner.”
Hans Giger, professor eremitus at the University of Zurich, says to this that the question how far the SNB can go is legally complicated. While the SNB is not allowed to influence the contract between a bank and a pension fund, it can however “issue directives to the banks in the collective interest of the Swiss economy”. What banks do with the SNB’s directives is however up to them.
In other words, large depositors in Swiss banks have now become victims of collectivism. Collectivism is of course precisely what informs all central planning endeavors. Obviously, property rights count for nothing if the central planners can revoke them at the drop of a hat.
It is undoubtedly a huge red flag when in one of the countries considered to be a member of the “highest economic freedom in the world” club, commercial banks are suddenly refusing their customers access to their cash. This money doesn’t belong to the banks, and it doesn’t belong to the central bank either.
If this can happen in prosperous Switzerland, based on some nebulous notion of the “collective good”, which its unelected central planners can arbitrarily determine and base decisions upon, it can probably happen anywhere. Consider yourself warned. As the modern day fiat money system inevitably cruises toward its final denouement, individual rights will come increasingly under attack as the world’s ruling elites and centrally directed banking cartels begin to batten down the hatches.
Better continue stacking, and keep a pile of this within grabbing distance – after all, it can be purchased at a generous discount these days: