Launched by some yellow vests, the call to trigger a panic bank revives the old popular vengeance against financial institutions. Investigation at the heart of a multicultural phenomenon, between real excesses and conspiracy theories.
It's almost become a habit during Yellow Vest events. The windows of banking agencies are vandalized and there are countless slogans associating bankers with the most serious ills of society. An image went around the screens during the attempted break-up of thugs on Saturday, January 5, in the ministry of Benjamin Griveaux: the machine used to force the doors finished recessed in a General Society located close. Like a symbol. Now, some members of the movement are calling for trigger a bank run by drying out the ATMs. One of the instigators justifies this initiative by the fact that "the powers of the country are not in the hands of the government but in those of the banks."
This extremely negative image did not wait for the Yellow Vests to make itself a place of choice in the collective consciousness. Dante also reserves a circle of Hell in his Divine Comedy (1303). "The detestation of the banker is not recent or reserved to the Western world, it is multicultural and crystallizes with the appearance of loan with interest that has never been accepted," says Alexandre Delaigue, professor of economics at the University of Lille I. It emphasizes that the rejection of the usurer in many religions, "like Islam or Catholicism". "Bankers represent those who have the power of money, the ultimate power that satisfies most of men's desires. It is therefore almost natural to look at them with suspicion, "he breathes.
If borrowing interests represent the roots of the evil, the various financial crises have also suggested that bankers would be above the law. In France, no bank has been sanctioned in the subprime crisis, nor in the United States where has even been theorized the concept "Too big to fail" (in French "too big to go bankrupt"). Yet, they have benefited from generous bailouts to mop their excesses … Another tenacious prejudice, the fact that the big banks would dictate to governments the way forward. In the documentary "BNP Paribas, in the troubled waters of the largest European bank" (2018) the director refers to a photo taken in September 2008 in the office of Christine Lagarde, then Minister of Finance. We see back and center Michel Pébereau, founder of BNP Paribas, opposite Christine Lagarde and several advisers drinking his words. The power of the image easily feeds the craziest theories.
Pantouflage and Goldman Sachs
"It is not wrong to say that the banks dictated to the executive how they were to be saved in 2008," says Alexandre Delaigue. "There is a great deal of proximity between bank executives and senior civil servants, symbolized by the all-powerful Finance Inspectorate, whose members usually alternate between the public and the private sector during their careers," he notes. -he. On the picture of 2008 appear for example Xavier Musca and François Pérol, both advisors at the Elysee at the time, and later appointed to Crédit Agricole and BPCE.
"In the United States, pantouflage is also a national sport between banks and the administration," says the economist. One entity sums up this behavior alone: Goldman Sachs. She once had in her ranks José Manuel Barroso (former President of the European Commission), Mario Draghi (President of the European Central Bank), Mario Monti (President of the Italian Council) and the current Treasury Secretary of Donald Trump , Steven Mnuchin. "These links accentuate theories that give the banking sector the priority to save themselves before thinking about common welfare," he said. Goldman Sachs, always she, is particularly criticized for having played an active role in the Greek crisis. The temptation to conjure up plots is never far away.
Theories of the plot
The Banque de France Act (1973), also known as the "Pompidou-Giscard-Rothschild Act", regularly comes back to right-wing and radical left-wing circles. Some believe that the explosion of the French debt would go back to its vote and that this law would have been favored by the banking sector and President Georges Pompidou … formerly of the Rothschild investment bank. What should we remember from this text? It prohibits the Bank of France to lend money to the state and entrusts this task to private banks (which impose interest, therefore). Except that it is wrong to say that this explains the explosion of the debt: conspiracy theorists forget a little too quickly that the oil shock has passed by and that it has upset the economy of the Western world. In addition, the central bank's financing of a state poses significant risks of derailing inflation. "The craziest discussions about the 1973 law were fed by Andre-Jacques Holbecq, a man also known for his passion for UFOs," says Alexandre Delaigue.
The economist points out that a video, "Money Debt", also feeds conspiracy theories. This is a documentary in the form of an animated film by the Canadian painter Paul Grignon, released in 2006 and freely available on the Internet. It tells a certain vision of the history of money creation. A very powerful global banking lobby would keep governments and people under control. Numerous inaccuracies creep into the narrative and the author later acknowledged having simplified and enlarged the feature. For Alexandre Delaigue, author in 2008 of a blog post about it, "This video has only one goal: to promote a vision of society, close to the ideas of degrowth; and that the real contents have no other aim than to be at the service of this desire to promote an ideology. "The video remains today very shared.
And if we asked the question to a banker?
Who better than a professional to describe the unpopularity of his function? "Some banker's perceptions are fantasy and do not represent the job as it is practiced," says Christopher Dembik, head of macroeconomic research at Saxo Bank. "It's often hard to tell the difference between retail and investment banking. The banker is also often likened to a trader, which has nothing to do, "he adds, before recalling the weight of the sector in the economy. "Today, the banks employ 360,000 people and we all know someone who works there from near and far," he says. "And we forget a little quickly what the sector brings to the economy, such as access to homeownership or the possibility for companies to benefit from low rates to invest".
"Even in some elitist circles, it happens that my job is perceived as a foil," concedes Christopher Dembik. "The 2008 crisis and the revelation of the excesses of a minority left an indelible mark. Even if regulatory measures were taken after that, I do not think that the reputation of the profession will improve one day, "he regrets.
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