An interesting episode from the ongoing financial crisis in Spain is the move by Spanish activists to file suit against financial mogul and conservative political bigwig Rodrigo Rato, former head of the International Monetary Fund and, more recently, president of "Bankia,"one of Spain's largest banks. The trial is now taking place in Madrid. Some details and commentary are offered below.
(I worked with Florencio Cabello to do a quick English translation of the story written by F. Fafatale. The term "15M" refers to the continuing mass movement that began in Spain on May 15, 2011.)
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To a considerable extent the current financial crisis in Spain was
triggered by the collapse of a particular bank, "Bankia," a relatively
new financial institution composed of several smaller banks in 2011.
Responding to the panic of "bailout," "austerity," and cuts in social
services, a group of Spanish citizens related to the M15 movement has
launched a campaing called 15MpaRato*
has been to file a lawsuit demanding that Bankia's former director,
Rodrigo Rato, as well as the rest of the board, be held accountable
for the mismanagement and possible criminal behavior involved in the
notorious bank's demise. The story below provides details of the
citizens' case against Rato.
[*The term "15MpaRato" is an untranslatable pun meaning in Spanish both
"M15 is out to get Rodrigo Rato" and "M15 is here to stay".]
TRANSLATION OF THE ARTICLE:
15m Pa Rato: Citizens' networks find their own voice in the "Bankia case"
The signature of the memorandum [bank bailout plan] with the EU hasn't
caught 15MpaRato flat-footed. Here we review the course of the
citizens' initiative that has been successful in including its lawsuit
in the case against Bankia brought before the Audiencia Nacional [the
Spanish court that deals with serious crimes].
F. Fafatale (Madrid)
July 20, 2012. Issue 179
"In the war between the elites and the common people, fear has changed
sides. Now we are the ones who define the targets", proclaims the
15MpaRato campaign website. On the web site we can find the lawsuit
against Bankia recently admitted by Fernando Andreu, judge of the 4th
Central Court of the Audiencia Nacional. This means that the M15
movement is already fully entitled to appear in court in this case.
Some weeks ago, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office backed the
lawsuit filed by the UPyD (Unión Progreso y Democracia) party. This
meant that Rodrigo Rato and 32 former members of Bankia's board are to
be investigated on charges of falsifying accounts, dishonest
administration, price manipulation and improper appropriation of the
Why is the 15MpaRato complaint different from UPyD's and others? In
their own words: "Our complaint includes almost every charge that
judge Andreu levels against members of the board, but also expands the
first lawsuit to include offenses contained in Article 282bis of the
Spanish Criminal Code". This article imposes jail sentences ranging
from one to six years and fines ranging from six to twelve months if
the administrators of a public company falsify economic and financial
information in ways that cause serious damage. The 15MpaRato demand
adds: "The charges of falsifying accounts, dishonest administration,
price manipulation and improper appropriation are intended to protect
Bankia's legal goods, which formerly were public".
However, this complaint (launched by the Platform for a Citizen Debt
Audit, Xnet, Citizens' Bailout Plan, Iaioflautas (aging M15
activists), Platform of People Affected by Mortgages, Euribor
Operation, #CierraBankia, Real Democracy Now network and Madrilonia)
goes a step further: "We intend to protect the people, the affected;
we represent no other interest than the common interest of the people.
We are the people! The admission of our complaint allows us to appear
in court and watch over those interests at every moment in the process".
After the admission of its lawsuit, the 15MpaRato campaign has
required the judge Andreu the intervention of Bankia before Spain
signs the memorandum of agreement with the EU. This memorandum implies
modifying Spanish laws to turn the banks' private debt into public
debt. "The issuance of bonds is the trick to pay the big creditors,
but in ways that will later increase the national debt", explains
15MpaRato. On the contrary, If the judicial administrators intervene,
as will be discussed this week at the Audiencia Nacional, the
Government-backed issuance of new bonds could be abruptly stopped.
The next steps of 15MpaRato will be to expand attention to the
criminal aspects of the dispute and to gather information from Bankia
workers. Besides, this campaign collaborates with the platform of
#OpEuríbor, which focuses on the possible manipulation of Euribor, the
reference rate upon which most Spanish mortgages are indexed. to.
Together they reclaim "the nullity of all contracts signed by Bankia,
on the grounds that the calculation of Euribor in Spain has been
revealed as a fraud of historic dimensions, in much the same way that
we are seeing the Líbor scandal unfold in the UK".
The 15MpaRato lawsuit is also distinctive in its mode of operation,
showing the power of network collaboration achieved through the
Internet. The citizen response to the online campaign exceeded its own
promoters' expectations: the crowdfunding campaign launched to obtain
the ? 15 000 needed to file the lawsuit pulverized all records,
raising the money in less than 24 hours; all the information required
to initiate the case was gathered in 23 days, something that would
have been impossible for any single citizen to accomplish acting on
her own; in just 12 hours 50 small shareholders offered themselves as
plaintiffs and dozens of inside witnesses were located.
- From a communicative perspective, the campaign bears the imprint of
M15 movement, making the most of social networks. The press conference
organized in June to announce the filing of this lawsuit was both
twitted and streamed. The message was clear: "Impunity is over. For
each bank intervention, we will save schools, hospitals and jobs for
the benefit of all. We don't owe, we won't pay. They owe, they shall pay".