Markets

By 
Emily Glazer
The whispers among employees had been around for years. They finally heard some facts during a conference call in June led by managers in Wells Fargo WFC +3.17% & Co.’s foreign-exchange operation: Some of its business customers had been cheated, according to two employees who were on the call.
An internal review showed that out of roughly 300 fee agreements based on anything from informal handshakes to emails to signed documents, only about 35 companies were charged the actual price they had been offered for currency trades handled by Wells Fargo, the employees say.
The phone call was part of a continuing cleanup that has led Wells Fargo to fire four foreign-exchange bankers and federal prosecutors to open their own investigation of the operation, people familiar with the matter have said.
“Wells Fargo remains committed to our foreign exchange business,” the bank said in a statement Monday. “If we find a problem, we fix it.” The bank said its foreign-exchange business is “under new management.”
The business is tiny compared with foreign-exchange operations at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. but could become another huge headache for the San Francisco bank, still grappling with fallout from the sales-practices scandal in its retail operations. The scandal led to last year’s abrupt retirement of Wells Fargo’s chief executive, a $185 million regulatory settlement and numerous federal and state investigations, which are continuing.
Wells Fargo retail employees had to hit lofty goals to keep their jobs or get bonuses, which led some employees to open potentially 3.5 million accounts with fictitious or unauthorized customer information from 2009 to 2015.
Foreign-exchange employees got bonuses based solely on how much revenue they brought in, say more than a dozen current or former Wells Fargo employees. No other big bank in the U.S. calculated bonuses of currency traders in such a defined and individual way. Wells Fargo said Monday that it began making changes to those compensation plans earlier this year.
The bank also charged some of the highest trading fees around, according to current and former employees. For more than a decade, customers were sometimes charged anywhere from 1% to 4% on basic transactions such as converting euros to dollars and complicated trades like hedging.
Those percentages can be at least two to eight times higher than the middle-market industry average of 0.15% to 0.5%, depending on the trade, customer and volume, according to foreign-exchange bankers throughout the industry.
Wells Fargo disputes the descriptions of its foreign-exchange fees by current and former employees. The bank said Monday its fees in 2016 had a weighted average of 0.09 percentage point across all transaction sizes. Clients served by its middle-market banking team were charged a weighted average of 0.18 percentage point, according to Wells Fargo.
Some foreign-exchange bankers at Wells Fargo relied on the fact that customers often didn’t bother to double-check how much they were charged, fee levels weren’t straightforward, and complaints could be batted away, the current and former employees say.
‘Time fluctuation’
One former Wells Fargo manager says employees would tell customers who expressed surprise at the size of a trading fee that market prices were different at the moment when the transaction was executed and blame “time fluctuation” for any difference.
The bank’s foreign-exchange customers have included telecommunications firm CenturyLinkInc., vehicle-parts supplier Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp. and nonprofit groups such as the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.
Regulators have been investigating the foreign-exchange business at Wells Fargo, including a big trade involving Restaurant Brands International Inc., the owner of Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, according to people familiar with the matter.
A Burger King in Tokyo. The fast-food chain’s owner got a refund from Wells Fargo after disputing a trade handled by the bank.
A Burger King in Tokyo. The fast-food chain’s owner got a refund from Wells Fargo after disputing a trade handled by the bank. PHOTO: KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS
The trade resulted in a loss to Restaurant Brands, people familiar with the matter have said, which led to a dispute between the Oakville, Ontario, company and the bank. The dispute centered on how bank employees handled the trade, rather than its pricing. Wells Fargo refunded about $900,000 to Restaurant Brands, people familiar with the refund say.
The foreign-exchange business’s problems run far deeper than what is known inside Wells Fargo as “the Burger King trade” or what has been previously reported. The extent of the trouble seems to have become apparent to top Wells Fargo executives earlier this year.
Small FryForeign-exchange spot contracts as apercent of a bank's total derivativesportfolioTHE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Bank ofAmericaCitigroupJ.P. MorganWells Fargo0%102030
The business was moved in early 2017 from Wells Fargo’s international division into its investment-banking and capital-markets operation. Since then, executives have changed internal systems, added more stringent rules around pricing and required more frequent compliance checks, current and former employees say.
Issues with the Burger King trade were found following those checks and customer complaints, people familiar with the matter say. The continuing internal review of Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange operation is separate from the review sparked by the sales scandal, some of the people said.
A compliance training session in early November detailed what Wells Fargo called “approved margins” for different volumes of foreign-exchange transactions, according to an internal document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Employees say fee levels remain higher than industry norms, and some compensation practices aren’t due to change until next year.

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Foreign-exchange trading has been a problem area for many banks. In 2015, several large U.S. and European banks agreed to multibillion-dollar settlements with U.S. regulators and pleaded guilty to criminal charges filed by U.S. authorities over alleged collusion among currency traders.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. agreed in 2015 to pay $714 million to resolve allegations it defrauded pension funds and other clients by overcharging them on currency transactions.State Street Corp. agreed in 2016 to pay $530 million to settle similar allegations.
Both banks admitted giving some clients far worse pricing on currency transactions than the banks implied the clients would get.
The Journal reported in October that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California is investigating the Restaurant Brands currency trade and has subpoenaed information from Wells Fargo.
Potential issues related to that trade also are being examined by the Federal Reserve, the Journal reported. Examiners from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are auditing Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange business, according to employees at the bank. A Wells Fargo executive says the audit is “normal course of business.”

Payment Plans

Some current and former Wells Fargo employees say its charges on foreign-exchange trades encouraged employees to cheat customers.

Fees for some currency trades
Industry average
Wells Fargo
Fee: 0.15 - 0.5%
Fee: 1% - 4%
For a $10 million trade
Fee:
$100,000 - $400,000
Fee:
$15,000 - $50,000
How Wells Fargo compensated bankers
If a banker had a revenue target of $5 million
and brought in $6 million ...
Revenue target: $5 million
Revenue that exceeded target: $1 million
.. the banker would earn a bonus of $100,000,
or 10% of the $1 million
Bonus
Source: People familiar with the bank
Current and former bank employees say its pricing practices were rooted in a culture and compensation system that looked to maximize revenue. Bonuses were defined as 10% of revenues exceeding revenue targets.
If a banker’s revenue target was $5 million and the person brought in $6 million, he or she would earn a $100,000 bonus, or 10% of the additional $1 million in revenue. Bankers typically received such bonuses twice a year in cash, rather than stock, as part of a signed contract, they added.
It’s rare among foreign-exchange groups in other banks to have so-called defined-bonus plans focused on individual earnings, according to people in the industry.
After Wells Fargo moved the foreign-exchange business into its investment bank earlier this year, managers began telling employees that bonuses would become “discretionary” by the end of 2017. Under this more typical arrangement, management would decide employee bonuses, and bankers wouldn’t know exactly how much they would receive. It would be based on a variety of factors, not just revenue.
Wells Fargo has 18 foreign-exchange sales and trading offices, including in New York, San Francisco, Charlotte, N.C., London and Hong Kong. A few hundred people work in the group world-wide.
Current and former employees say Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange customers are largely midsize businesses that don’t tend to trade in large volumes. As a result, those clients don’t have the same insight into the market as larger firms that are more-active traders.
Some Wells Fargo clients have complained to the bank. In November 2016, Ecolab Inc., a water, hygiene and energy company based in St. Paul, Minn., bought and sold currency in a so-called swap arranged by the bank, according to people familiar with the deal. These people say Wells Fargo collected 1% on one part of the $100 million deal.
Ecolab contested the fee charged by Wells Fargo on a transaction arranged by the bank.
Ecolab contested the fee charged by Wells Fargo on a transaction arranged by the bank. PHOTO:ARIANA LINDQUIST/BLOOMBERG NEWS
After Ecolab compared the full trade, including fees, to overall market prices, the company contested the bank’s fee. Wells Fargo refunded hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ecolab in December 2016, according to current and former employees.
A spokeswoman for Ecolab confirmed the details of the trade and said it was the only fee issue Ecolab had with Wells Fargo.
Fee issues arose for some Wells Fargo clients even when they had a pricing agreement. The bank agreed within the past 18 months to a specified rate with data-management firm Veritas Technologies LLC, according to bank employees. After making one trade on behalf of Veritas, Wells Fargo bankers told Veritas that the bank’s fee was 0.05 percentage point higher than the agreed rate, the employees say.
Unusually high fees
The result: The bank made an extra $50,000 on a $100 million trade, the employees say. Wells Fargo later made a refund to Veritas, according to people familiar with the matter. A Veritas spokeswoman declined to comment.
Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange business also charged unusually high fees for trades with different currency conversions, known as “Bswift” transactions, current and former employees say.
“And if anybody did complain, it was an easy tap dance,” one former employee says. He says employees would say the pricing had been done automatically by the bank’s computer system so “there’s no accountability for the spread.”
Wells Fargo sent an internal email Nov. 2 detailing new guidelines for Bswift transactions, according to a copy of the email reviewed by the Journal. The guidelines include specific handling and pricing procedures for those trades.
The operation also charged high fees to other parts of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo Rail, which leases locomotives and railcars, and the bank’s corporate-trust division are often charged 1% to 1.5% on currency transactions, according to current and former employees.
The bank’s foreign-exchange management often celebrated big trades and the money they made for the bank, the current and former employees say. Sara Wardell-Smith, who led the foreign-exchange group, emailed the group to hail big trades, naming clients and spelling out revenue generated. The employees say managers used to encourage employees to ring a brass bell in the San Francisco office when the bank made a lot of money on a trade.
In mid-October, the bank announced that Ms. Wardell-Smith would lead its financial institutions group in the Americas region, according to a memo reviewed by the Journal and confirmed by a bank spokeswoman.
Current employees say the move was viewed within Wells Fargo as a demotion, coming just months after Ms. Wardell-Smith had been promoted to co-lead the bank’s division focusing on trading of rates, currencies and commodities. She didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The other co-leader, Ben Bonner, now leads that group on his own and is overseeing foreign-exchange trading, a bank spokeswoman confirms.
Mr. Bonner has been working with other executives to fix the problems in the currency business, according to several current employees.
Last month, the bank sent a memo to foreign-exchange employees that instructs them not to create informal or oral pricing agreements. The memo, reviewed by the Journal, also said employees are “responsible for ensuring customers are not misled regarding” pricing.
Current and former employees say some Wells Fargo employees expressed concerns about pricing practices to top executives before the bank’s internal cleanup efforts began earlier this year. Some employees say they were reluctant to press for sweeping changes, citing what they saw happen to one manager in the foreign-exchange operation about a decade ago.
During a meeting of foreign-exchange managers in the mid-2000s, Cathy Witt said it wasn’t right to celebrate high fees by ringing a bell, people familiar with the situation say. Ms. Witt, an employee in the bank’s Chicago foreign-exchange group, warned that Wells Fargo could become known as a “bucket shop,” a derisive term for a disreputable finance firm, some of the people say.
A few weeks later, Ms. Witt was summoned to a meeting in St. Louis, told that her comments had been offensive and demoted on the spot, according to people familiar with the matter. She also was told to apologize to other managers for her unprofessional behavior, the people say. She later left the bank.
—Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.

(FXBOT.MARKET) -- 11/21/2017 -- FXBOT.MARKET is interested in cultivating high quality, consistent FX strategies based on honesty and transparency.  Every system has a bad day, a bad month - we are traders we get it.  But deleting history or ...

Elite E Services has teamed up with IC Markets to provide non-US and US-QEP Forex clients with the ability to trade BTC/USD in MT4.  For those of you who are not familiar with Bitcoin or MT4 you can read our books Splitting Pennies and the sequel ...

Joe Gelet, author of Splitting Pennies, was interviewed on Destiny Survival podcast, by John Wesley Smith.  Checkout what he had to say about the interview, at his site www.destinysurvival.com:


Joe and I had no trouble filling the time allotted to us for DestinySurvival Radio. He’s quite knowledgeable and explains things thoroughly.
When I asked him to define Forex, it might sound at first like he’s going down a rabbit trail. But he’s not. Listen carefully to what he says about the U.S. dollar and foreign exchange money markets, and it will make sense. Throughout his book he layers on finer points describing Forex.
Here’s how massive Forex is.
Forex is the driver of the global economy. It supercedes nation states, politics, even religion. It’s not governed by law, but by trading principles.
Our Federal Reserve plays a large role in Forex, as do other central banks.
In the book he asserts it’s irrelevant as to who owns the Federal Reserve.Things are what they are. We owe it to ourselves to know a little something about how the system works.
It’s startling to think our Federal Reserve can create money from nothing, and we accept it as such. Yet this plays a significant role in inflation, which affects all of us. Joe and I talked about this and explored what it means to have a fiat money system.
Even though the Fed can create money from nothing, it wouldn’t be wise to print ourselves out of debt. Nor would it be a good idea to go into default.
But about that ever present fiat money…
This may sound shocking to some, but Joe asserts in his book that the U.S. dollar isn’t backed by gold but by bombs. You won’t want to miss what he has to say about this during our conversation. If you’ve paid attention to the news for the past 10-15 years, you’ll observe he’s not saying anything we don’t already know.
To me all of this is terrifying. We’re living in a world whose system is based on feathers and fairy tales.
Does that mean the many dire predictions about a sudden economic crash are sure to come to pass?
Not as Joe sees it. Or at least not in the way most sensationalists would have us believe. That’s because there’s no good alternative to the dollar.
What does Joe mean when he says banks can’t do without the economy, but the economy can do without banks? We discussed that. And I think it bodes well for us, should we end up in the midst of the proverbial postapocalyptic scenario one day.
And what about Bitcoin and other alternate currencies? They’ve been touted as revolutionary and independent of the big banking system. But are they? Listen to Joe’s comments and draw your own conclusions.
If you make financial investments, Joe offers what seems to me to be a reasonable solution. But what if you can’t invest?
If you had $1,000 to put toward getting prepared, what should you do? I think you’ll be surprised by Joe’s advice. (Hint: It’s a practical position I have taken for quite some time.)
Joe’s goal is to help you and me be better prepared financially. Thus, his book. You may also want to see SplittingPennies.com.
You can listen to the podcast on YouTube by clicking here, or press play below:


The Euro "will collapse" as it is a"house of cards" warned Otmar Issing, the founder and creator of the euro in an extraordinary interview on Monday.
euro_drachmaPaper currency - Euro paper notes and Greek drachma note
In the explosive interview with the journal Central Banking, Professor Issing, said "one day, the house of cards will collapse”  as the European Central Bank (ECB) is becoming dangerously over-extended and the whole euro project is unworkable in its current form.
The founding architect of the monetary union has warned that Brussels' dream of a European superstate will finally be buried amongst the rubble of the crumbling single currency he designed.
“Realistically, it will be a case of muddling through, struggling from one crisis to the next. It is difficult to forecast how long this will continue for, but it cannot go on endlessly," he told the journal Central Banking in a remarkable deconstruction of the EU project.
The respected economist launched a withering attack on so called eurocrats and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, accusing them of betraying the principles of the euro and demonstrating scandalous incompetence over its management.
And he savaged the whole idea of a federal "United States of Europe", saying the attempt to push through federalisation in a stealth manner "by the back door" has turned the very foundations that the currency was built on into a complete mess of patchwork legislation, into which it is sinking fast.
As is frequently the case when there is substantive damaging criticism about the EU and ECB from respected and authoritative sources, the interview was treated in quite an Orwellian manner. It completely ignored and not reported by most state run media in Ireland, the UK and EU.  Most state run media is overwhelmingly pro-EU and continues to ignore the serious problems and growing risks posed by the single currency and the undemocratic EU to the citizens of Europe. Nor was it reported in most corporate media in the EU which also tends to ignore all reasonable criticisms of the EU, ECB and especially the euro.
The explosive interview has been covered extensively in the more "right wing" euro "skeptic" media in the UK in papers such as The Telegraph and The Mail which means that most people in the EU will not even be aware of Otmar Issing's very real and reasonable concerns and the growing risks posed to the currency they use in their lives every day and their very way of life.
gold in euros_2016Gold in Euros - 5 Years
The coming collapse of the euro is seems inevitable. The question is when rather than if. It gives us no pleasure to say so as the collapse of the euro  will be financially painful for family, friends and people and companies in all EU nations.
The euro has even greater challenges than sterling which has collapsed more than 43% against gold this year. It is only a matter of time before market participants and foreign exchange traders' focus, moves from sterling to the 'not so single' euro. Then the euro will see a similar depreciation and devaluation in the coming months.
Gold will again fulfill its primary role which is as a hedge against currency devaluation. As it has done in the UK and many other nations in recent months and indeed has done throughout history.
Gold and Silver Bullion - News and Commentary
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Gold Prices (LBMA AM)
18 Oct: USD 1,261.65, GBP 1,031.15 & EUR 1,145.33 per ounce
17 Oct: USD 1,252.70, GBP 1,029.59 & EUR 1,139.58 per ounce
14 Oct: USD 1,256.15, GBP 1,028.79 & EUR 1,140.08 per ounce
13 Oct: USD 1,258.00, GBP 1,029.93 & EUR 1,141.76 per ounce
12 Oct: USD 1,255.70, GBP 1,024.53 & EUR 1,139.05 per ounce
11 Oct: USD 1,256.40, GBP 1,021.58 & EUR 1,130.76 per ounce
10 Oct: USD 1,262.10, GBP 1,016.62 & EUR 1,129.71 per ounce
Silver Prices (LBMA)
18 Oct: USD 17.65, GBP 14.37 & EUR 16.03 per ounce
17 Oct: USD 17.40, GBP 14.30 & EUR 15.83 per ounce
14 Oct: USD 17.47, GBP 14.28 & EUR 15.86 per ounce
13 Oct: USD 17.59, GBP 14.40 & EUR 15.95 per ounce
12 Oct: USD 17.44, GBP 14.23 & EUR 15.83 per ounce
11 Oct: USD 17.48, GBP 14.26 & EUR 15.78 per ounce
10 Oct: USD 17.78, GBP 14.31 & EUR 15.92 per ounce

Recent Market Updates
- Property Bubble In Ireland Developing Again
- “Gold Is A Great Hedge Against Politicians” – Goldman
- Sell Gold Now – Time To Liquidate Gold ETF, Pooled and Digital Gold
- Gold In GBP Up 43% YTD – “Massive Twin Deficits” To Impact UK Assets
- Ron Paul Says “Gold Going Up” Whether Trump Or Clinton Elected
- Gold Trading COT Report “Means Lower – Then Much Higher – Prices Coming”
- Currency Shock Sees Sterling Gold Surges 5% In One Minute “Flash Crash”
- Top Gold Forecaster: “As Quickly As Gold Fell” May “Rally Back” on Global Risks
- Gold Buying ‘Opportunity’ After Surprise 3.4% Drop
- Deutsche Bank “Is Probably Insolvent”
- GBP Gold Rises 1.3% as Sterling Slumps On ‘Hard Brexit’ Concerns, Up 36% YTD
- Why Krugman, Roubini, Rogoff And Buffett Hate Gold
- ECB Refused “To Answer Questions” – Deutsche Bank “Systemic Threat” Is “Not ECB Fault”

I recently watched the recent Noam Chomsky documentary, Requiem for the American Dream, and it was excellent. I highly recommend everyone watch it since it provides a historical roadmap for how positive change happens. Lessons that we will all need to put into practice in the coming years if we want to take the world off its current collision course with disaster.
With Chomsky already on my mind, I was excited to see an article published yesterday at AlterNet titled, Noam Chomsky Unravels the Political Mechanics Behind His Gradual Expulsion From Mainstream Media.
Here’s what we learned:
Ralph Nader and leading linguist Noam Chomsky engaged in a much anticipated discussion in early October on Ralph Nader Radio Hour. The two raised questions about changing the media narrative in a totalitatian-like state, and how Chomsky got dismissed from the mainstream altogether.

“How often have you been on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times,” Nader asked Chomsky.

For Chomsky, the last time was over a decade ago.

“[I was asked] to write about the Israeli separation wall, actually an annexation wall that runs through the West Bank and breaking apart the Palestinian communities… condemned as illegal by the World Court,” Chomsky told Nader.

Chomsky would later pen a similar piece for CNN on the 2013 Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But Chomsky has never been interviewed on the network; Nor has he appeared on NBC, ABC or CBS.

“How about NPR and PBS, partially taxpayer-supported.. more free-thinking and more tolerant [outlets]?” Nader wanted to know.

“I’ve been on ‘Charlie Rose’ two or three times,” Chomsky told Nader, adding that he had a curious story about a particularly Boston outlet for NPR based in Boston University.

“They used to have a program in their prime time news programs all things considered some years ago at 5:25… maybe once a week or so, a five-minute discussion with someone who had written a new book and there’s a lot of pressure,” Chomsky began.

NPR was going to allow Chomsky to present his book, “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies” (1989).

“I  got a call from the publisher telling me when I should tune [in at 5pm] and I never listened [before], so I tuned in [and] there was five minutes of music… I started getting phone calls from around the country asking ‘What happened to the piece?'” Chomsky remembered.

He didn’t know.

“I then got a call from the station manager in Washington who told me that she’d been getting calls and she didn’t understand it because it was listed… she called back saying kind of embarrassed … that some bigwig in the system had heard the announcement at five o’clock and had ordered it cancelled,” Chomsky explained.
This is not what a free press looks like.
The irony of Chomsky’s media criticism being dismissed by the media is not lost on the former MIT professor, who remains constantly awed by America’s level of censorship.

“Any one of the former Bush-Cheney warmongers like Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton and others have gotten far more press after they’ve left federal positions; in the New York Times The Wall Street Journal the Washington Post,” Nader said.

And unlike Chomsky, “They’ve been on television public television, NPR and they have a record of false statements; they have record of deception, they have record of pursuing policies are illegal under our Constitution under international law and under federal statutes such as criminal invasion of Iraq and other adventures around the world,” Nader pointed out.

But the media problem permeates thouroughly throughout other industries, like education and government.

“Now a society that operates in a way where propaganda is not only emanating from the major media but it gets into our schools, the kind of courses are taught, the content of the history, is a society that’s not going to be mobilized for its own survival, much less the survival of other countries whose dictators we have for decades supported to oppress their people,” explained Nader.
Below you can find Nader’s full interview of Chomsky as well as the trailer for the documentary, Requiem for the American Dream.


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