For what seems like decades, people have been warning that the next time some over-leveraged corner of the financial system implodes, bank and brokerage accounts will be either confiscated by desperate governments or lost during the resulting chaos.
Here, from 2012, is a representative warning from gold mining eminence grise Jim Sinclair:
My Dear Extended Family,
In bankruptcy of your bank, broker or fund, you can find your assets in the majority of cases are backing the liabilities of the entity in front of yourselves. This is why you must act to protect yourself.
No one in this financial world is going to do it for you, and few will have the courage to recommend you escape Street Name. You can wake up one day and find out that your investments are gone.
The insurance programs will function as long as the incidents of bankruptcy are isolated events.
In a systemic collapse the insurance funds are not capitalized to meet the potential obligations. The guarantor you are relying on will have to be bailed out.
For securities there are only three ways to hold them:
1. Street name.
2. Direct registration.
3. Certificate form.
Anyone advising you to stay with the Street Name option is a babbling idiot not interested at all in your welfare.
In street name the inferred ownership is the broker or bank, not you. In Direct Registrationand Certificate form, the distinct ownership is you.
In 99.9% of the cases of retirement accounts the answer is you are in Street Name.
How are your securities held? Do you even know? I dare you to ask!
Do you know what your broker's capital ratio is? Find out as that number is the order of magnitude at which your broker is gambling on with primarily your money. I dare you to ask.
This time around those investors that are too lazy to consider protecting themselves will be demolished.
How would you like your gold shares at $3500 gold, outperforming gold, and one morning you wake up to having nothing anymore? You now are behind the back burner in a bankruptcy situation with any fiduciary.
The system and their minions will do everything to keep you trapped in Street Name. Articles will be published trying to put you back to sleep on this issue.
Wake up, please.
The fact that this mass confiscation hasn't yet happened doesn't mean it won't, says Jim Rickards, whose previous bestsellers Currency Wars and The Death of Money were already pretty apocalyptic. He believes that a coordinated closure/restructuring/confiscation of the banking/brokerage industry is imminent. Here's an excerpt from a recent column:
In that interim period between the crisis and the time the IMF can react, central banks will be paralyzed. They're likely going to lock down the system.
When I say lock down, they'll start with money market funds. I can't think of a greater misnomer than the money market funds. People think that money market funds are money. They're not money; they're mutual funds regulated by the SEC. People think they can just call up their broker, sell to the money market fund and the money's in my bank the next day.
That will not be true in this crisis because everyone will be doing the same thing. That is what happened in 2008 when Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson went to the White House and said to the President that the system's melting down and he must act.
That was such a shock then, that when it happens again they're not going to give you your money. They're going to lock it down. The problem is that when it is spreading you can't just lock down part of the system.
If you lock down money market funds, people are just going to take their money out of the banks. Then you're going to have to close the banks. Then people are going to sell their stocks, then you're going to have to close the stock market. Every time you shut one path to liquidity, people are going to turn to another path.
It happened in part in 1914, 1931, 1933 and to gold in 1971. There's no precedent for a total freeze but we're getting closer to that point.
The question is, how do you protect yourself against that? There's only so much you can do.
I don't recommend running down and pulling all your money out of the bank. I would not have more than the insured amount, which in the U.S. is $250,000. You can spread it between your selected banks so that each is backed and insured up to the limit.
Rickard's solution is right out of the stacker playbook:
In the world described, the dollar price of gold will approach the $10,000-level if not much higher. But when all of this begins to play out, you're not going to be able to get gold.
Because of this, gold and silver need to be in physical form, in safe storage, and a non-bank. Putting it in a safety deposit box in a bank is troublesome because by the time you want it the most, that will be when the banks are going to be closed.
Charles Hugh Smith offers some other possible responses:
So what's difficult to expropriate? It's impossible to expropriate one's skills, experience and social capital. These are intangible forms of capital and so they cannot be confiscated like gold, currency, land, etc.
Land and homes are difficult to expropriate for two reasons: private property is the backbone of capitalism and democracy, and the state confiscating private property would very likely spark a political insurrection that would diminish or threaten the power and wealth of the privileged Elites.
Secondly, it's very costly for the state to maintain the productive output of real property it has confiscated. Guards must be posted, sabotage repaired, and the immense difficulties of coercing a rebellious populace to continue working what they once owned for the benefit of the state and its privileged Elites must be solved and paid for.
The state can expropriate farms, orchards and workshops for back taxes (or some similar extra-legal methodology), but how do you force people to work these properties productively?
As a general rule, whatever the super-wealthy own will be protected from expropriation. Private real property is the foundation of the Elites' wealth, and while the land of debt-serfs may well be confiscated for back taxes (the wealthy will buy exemptions from rising taxes), those who own land and buildings free and clear constitute a political force to be reckoned with.
The state will also have difficulty confiscating assets that are outside its reach.This explains the popularity of owning assets in other nations, and the debate over cryptocurrencies: will states be able to confiscate all cryptocurrencies at will, or is that technically unfeasible?
The main takeaway is this: your skills, knowledge and social capital will emerge unscathed on the other side of the re-set wormhole. Land and real property you own free and clear (no debt) is likely to remain in your possession, as long as you can pay soaring taxes/junk fees during the crisis phase. Your financial assets held in centrally controlled institutions will not make it through unscathed; they are simply too easy for central authorities to expropriate.
It's easy, as the world's zombie economies just keep shuffling along, to start assuming that the current system will endure forever. That would be wrong, and almost certainly the above warnings will someday seem prescient. All the more reason to forget about timing, and keep buying real assets.