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Rabobank Admits Subprime Exposure & Purchase of Failed Banks, Desjardins on Citi Deal

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- When the UN scheduled a press conference Monday entitled "Financial Crisis and Cooperative Banks," it was expected that the two cooperative banks invited to speak would be akin to the credit unions being praised in the Occupy Wall Street movement, in opposition to big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of  America.

  But on the UN podium was the chairman of Dutch multinational Rabobank, Mr. Piet Moerland. Inner City Press asked him about protests to Rabobank in the United States, complete with mariachi bands and complaints of discriminating against small borrowers, and also about Rabobank's statements that it was "exposed" to subprime lending in the US. Video here, from Minute 26:05.

  Moerland replied that Rabobank had to expand outside of The Netherlands because of its small population, and that the US is its most important non-Dutch market. He acknowledged the exposure to subprime lending, calling it "indirect," but bragged that Rabobank grew from 30 billion Euros in 2006 up to 40 billion Euros.

  He said in the US it's made purchases "at the request of the FDIC" - that is, of failed banks. Apparently, Rabobank has profited from the global financial crisis. Moerland said that in California, Rabobank is "about half way there." We'll see.

Why such a multinational bank would be presented at the UN as the poster child of the cooperative movement, a topic on which former UK prime minister Gordon Brown speechified to the General Assembly later on Monday, is not clear.

Piet Moerland of Rabobank - no more questions!

  Smaller but similarly mystifying was the presence of Canada's Desjardins Group. Its CEO Monique Leroux said that before growing outside of Canada -- it already has a presence in Florida in the US -- or making other expansions, it would speak with its people.

  Inner City Press asked about a recent Desjardins deal with Citigroup and Staples, to buy a credit card portfolio. Did Desjardins check with its depositors before that business transaction? Ms. Leroux referred back to a 2009 meeting at which business lines were agreed to. After that, it seems, it's just business.

Footnote: a reporter from Agence France Presse, which is 41% funded by the French government, asked if either bank would lend to Greece. During the Brussels meetings, French president Sarkozy said Greece shouldn't have been allowed to join the Eurozone, and was angry to play second fiddle to Germany's Angela Merkel. Neither banker answered the Greece question, and the AFP reporter didn't push. And so it goes at the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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