Sigrún Davíðsdóttir's Icelog

The ‘puffin plot’ – a saga of international bankers and Icelandic greed

2017-03-29 23

In a formal signing ceremony 16 January 2003 a group of Icelandic investors and the German bank Hauck & Aufhäuser purchased shares in a publicly-owned Icelandic bank. Paul Gatti represented the German bank, proudly airing the intension of being a long-term owner together with the Icelandic businessman Ólafur Ólafsson. What neither Gatti nor Ólafsson mentioned was that earlier that same day, at a meeting abroad, their representatives had signed a secret contract guaranteeing that the Icelandic bank Kaupthing, called ‘puffin’ in their emails, would finance the H&A purchase in Búnaðarbanki. All profit would accrue to Ólafsson, in the end $100m he later split with Kaupthing’s other large shareholder, Lýður and Ágúst Guðmundsson. Thus, Ólafsson and the H&A bankers fooled Icelandic authorities with the diligent help of advisors from Société General. – This 14 year old saga has surfaced now thanks to the Panama Papers. What emerges is a story of deception similar to the famous al Thani story, which incidentally sent Ólafsson and some of the Kaupthing managers involved in the ‘puffin plot’ to prison in 2015. Ólafsson is however still a wealthy businessman in Iceland. ....

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Iceland following the Panama exposé

Posted 04/04/2016 - 09:24 by anrigaut

2016-04-02 23

Together with leaders from Russia, Ukraine and a few other countries Iceland isn’t happy to compare itself with the story of prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson played a key role in tonight’s exposure of the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Documents shown do not support his earlier version of his involvement with Wintris, the BVI linked to him and his wife.

In an interview on Rúv professor of history and a frequent commentator on the collapse and related matters Guðni Th. Johannesson said: “First and foremost I find it sad that men, who want to and claim they want to lead by good example, who say the grand plan is to believe in Iceland then decide that their money is better off elsewhere.” – His words are directed to the prime minister who repeatedly has talk of the necessity to believe in Iceland.

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During the boom years Iceland turned into possibly the most offshorised country in the world as I’ve pointed out earlier. Iceland has done remarkably well following the collapse in autumn 2008 but the economic revival will have its limits if its political class prefers to be compared to Russia and Ukraine.

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When Kaupthing tried to move its CDS (in 2008) with a little help from a friend

2015-12-08 (All day)

Yet another case from the Office of Special Prosecutor v Kaupthing’s three top managers is up in Reykjavík District Court these days. As in several other cases, the charges centre on breach of fiduciary duty, ultimately causing the bank a loss of €510m. The loans went to two companies owned by Kaupthing clients that used the funds to buy credit linked notes and enter into credit default swaps related to Kaupthing in order to lower the bank’s collateral debt swap spread. Does this sound like market manipulation? Deutsche Bank seems to think it might, strongly denying any involvement in the scheme except as the issuer of the notes though Icelandic sources tell a different story.* – But who made a killing on the other side of the CDS bet? Partly Deutsche Bank, according to the OSP but this part of the CLN saga is still not entirely clear, which is one of the reasons why the court hearings might be interesting.
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Now, the CDS saga is summed up in the OSP charges (in Icelandic) against Einarsson, Kaupthing’s CEO Hreiðar Már Sigurðsson and head of the bank’s Luxembourg operations Magnús Guðmundsson in a case of breach of fiduciary duty and causing a loss of €510m to Kaupthing, some of it paid out on Kaupthing’s last day of trading.
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Plan to lift capital controls: crunching the numbers… again

Posted 08/11/2015 - 18:22 by anrigaut

2015-11-08 (All day)

In the case of Glitnir there was a retrade – the numbers have been renegotiated since the June plan. The government has talked effusively about clarity and transparency in liberalising capital controls but the process of introducing such a plan has been characterised by obfuscation and opacity. The plan seems sensible but earlier promises by the prime minister’s party, the Progressives, of gigantic windfall seem to have pushed the government to play a game of make-believe, smoke and mirrors. Selling the banks will prepare for the coming years: drumming up the fear of foreign investors masks the fact that the greatest danger is the mind-set of the boom years.

The press conference October 28, to introduce the assessment made by the Central Bank of Iceland, CBI of the draft proposals from Glitnir, Kaupthing and LBI, was a very low-key event.............

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Three Landsbanki managers sentenced to jail

2015-10-07 23

The Icelandic Supreme Court has sentenced (in Icelandic) three ex-managers of Landsbanki to jail sentences. Two of them – the bank’s CEO Sigurjón Árnason and director of corporate lending Elín Sigfússdóttir – had earlier been acquitted by Reykjavík District Court. The Supreme Court sentenced the two to respectively 3 1/2 years prison and 18 months prison. The third manager, Steinþór Gunnarsson director of proprietary trading had been been given a nine months suspended jail sentence, which the Supreme Court turned into nine months in prison.

The case was yet another example of bankers being convicted for breach of fiduciary duty, i.e. causing losses by fraudulent lending where laws and the banks own rules were broken. In this particular case over ISK5bn were lent to Ímon, a company with no assets except the Landsbanki shares bought for the fraudulent loans from Landsbanki in the days before the bank collapsed.

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With this sentence, top managers from both Landsbanki and Glitnir have been sentenced to prison. There are still on-going cases against Glitnir managers.

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Capital controls action… without unleashing the litigation hounds

2015-05-18 23

Will they or won’t they? That is the question regarding how, if and when the Icelandic government will take the long-announced decisive action on easing the capital controls.

The news keeps seeping out in Iceland is that the Icelandic government is just about to present a plan for lifting capital controls. That would then, most likely and uncontroversially, entail the second part of the CBI action from earlier, when investment opportunities for offshore ISK were reined in. Seems, as I mentioned in a blog on earlier CBI action, that this would then be bonds, most likely in FX, with long maturity.

The main interest for foreign creditors will be what measures are chosen regarding the estates of the failed banks, most notably what form of levy or tax will be chosen. Stability tax is the latest jargon to circulate whereas minister of finance Bjarni Benediktsson mentioned an ISK haircut in his March report on capital controls progress.

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Further insight into “Kaupthinking”

2015-05-10 23

The ongoing case against nine Kaupthing managers and staff gives an intriguing insight into the bank’s extensive buying and selling of own shares, which the Office of the Special Prosecutor claims involves market manipulation and breach of fiduciary duty. Witness statements by foreign employees have been especially informative.
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Iceland pre-and post-collapse: Small or big steps?

2014-12-05 (All day)

The Winding-up boards of the banks have been waiting to be called to a meeting with the committee overseeing the lifting of the capital controls – and now an invitation has landed on their tables for a meeting next Tuesday. Remains to be seen what the message is.

In the meantime, there is the extension of the Landsbanki bond agreement and a payment of ISK400bn to priority claimants in Landsbanki, announced yesterday, all explained here. The agreement has been changed from what it was originally but at least decisions have been taken and the Brits have had some happy tidings.
The question is if something more will follow, hen’s or horse’s steps.
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The last paragraph in the MInFin’s press release is interesting.
The settlement of priority claims marks a major step forward in the winding-up proceedings of the failed banks and will assist the Government in implementing a comprehensive capital account liberalisation strategy.
So is there now a strategy. Not sure yet, more needs to be seen. ...

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Three ex-Landsbanki bankers sentenced in market manipulation case

Posted 19/11/2014 - 14:23 by anrigaut

2014-11-19 (All day)

Three ex-Landsbanki bankers have been sentenced (in Icelandic) at Reykjavík County Court in an extensive market manipulation case. ...

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Reykjavík County Court hands out severe prison sentences to four bankers

2014-06-26 23

“I’m just doing it for you guys,” Birkir Kristinsson was caught on tape saying to one of his fellow bankers at Glitnir. Kristinsson, the brother of Magnús Kristinsson – owner of fishing industries in the Vestman islands and a big borrower in the Icelandic banks – has been sentenced to five years in prison together with three Glitnir colleague two of whom also got the same prison sentence. The fourth was sentenced to four years in prison. Kristinsson has appealed and so will the three others most likely do. ...

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