Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dave Kranzler Gets It All Wrong On Germany's Gold

Long term readers of this blog or those who follow my comments on other sites are probably aware that I'm skeptical of the conspiracies surrounding Germany's Gold repatriation. I wrote the following post mid last year:

Since then it's been revealed that only 5 tonnes of Germany's Gold has been delivered and the conspiracies have exploded in number again. When I see misinformation on the Gold blogosphere I will sometimes take time to correct the writer or provide an alternative perspective to their view. A recent occasion was on Koos Jansen's blog where I refuted (in the comments section) some of the conclusions he'd drawn (although on the whole I think his site is well worth reading). This led to an interesting discussion, which may not have changed the mind of any involved in the discussion, but it did provide a range of views for those reading the site.

Another site I've commented on a couple of times is that belonging to Dave Kranzler otherwise known as 'Dave in Denver' who writes at Investment Research Dynamics (previously his blog was 'The Golden Truth'). He's written about German Gold repatriation on previous occasions and clearly has a different view to mine. A post of his a couple of days ago suggested that the German Gold repatriation request from the US Fed had initially been for a higher amount (than 300 tonnes). I questioned this in the comment section, following which he silently edited the post (which you can read here) and proceeded to reply to my comment with profanity and personal insults:

I won't stoop to the use of profanity or insults to get my view across, but will point out that my comment was factual, while Dave's post and follow up comment were riddled with inaccuracies.

The only real claim that I made was that Germany's Gold repatriation request was initially for 150 tonnes and later increased to 300. This FACT was confirmed in an interview with Carl-Ludwig Thiele (Member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank):
"We specified our initial target in October 2012. In January 2013, we then presented a new gold storage plan and specified a new target that is considerably higher than the first. Instead of only 150 tonnes, we are now transferring 300 tonnes of gold from New York to Germany."
Meanwhile Dave claimed that:

1. "They [Germany] initially wanted more than 300 tonnes [from the United States]". As per above this was silently edited from his post, so we shall assume that he changed his mind on this statement? Dave, please do provide the evidence for this claim or otherwise could you explain why you didn't address it's removal in your response to me?

2. Dave claims further that "it should have been nearly effortless to ship 300 tonnes back to Germany via two cargo flights". Now from a logistics perspective that may be so, but you need to take into consideration insurance (for which a Forbes contributor said a maximum 3-5 tonnes per flight would be possible), not to mention that 2013 was a particularly busy year for Gold refiners ("the capacity of smelters are just limited" wrote one German newspaper). So while it may have been technically feasible for Germany to ship the Gold in two cargo flights, it would have incurred unnecessary risk (in that the Gold would not have been insurable), not to mention making it particularly difficult to have the bars recast without a refinery able to safely store and process the Gold in a timely fashion.

3. In the follow up comment to me he suggests that the German Gold stored in the US originated from Germany: "let alone the original bars Germany shipped over here to keep away from the Russians right after WW2". The reality is that Germany's Gold holdings stored in the US have never been in Germany. From Carl-Ludwig Thiele in the interview previously linked:
"It is not a question of “returning”. The gold is being transferred to Germany for the first time. Until 1998, only 2% of our gold, or thereabouts, was stored in Germany. In the first year, we transported five tonnes from New York. This year, we will transfer 30 to 50 tonnes, or perhaps even more, from New York to Frankfurt. And there is still next year to come."
It's no secret that Germany's Gold in the US wasn't all in 'Good Delivery' form, this is the reason the bars are being refined in Europe during their transit to Germany. The United States built up an impressive Gold hoard, more than tripling their reserves between 1930 and 1940, as they hoovered it up from citizens following the 1933 Gold confiscation. It wouldn't be surprising if some of the Gold bars that Germany acquired in the United States over the 1950's and 1960's consisted of some 90% pure bars which were melted from the coin confiscation.

Anyway, the point here was to highlight that you shouldn't believe everything you read about Gold on the internet (I would even encourage you to double check my claims), especially in relation to German Gold repatriation (is this even the right word given the Gold didn't originate physically in Germany?). There is a lot of misinformation, factually inaccurate claims and emotive wording used by commentators in the precious metals space to try and draw readers to their point of view.

Every post delivered to your inbox (free), enter your email address:

I'm sharing links and opinions daily on Twitter (@BullionBaron).


 Buy bullion online - quickly, safely and at low prices

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BoE Tells RBA: Don't Release Gold Bar Details (FOI)

Two months ago I wrote a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Here is the crux of my email:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
I request that a copy of the following documents [or documents containing the following information] be provided to me: An inventory (bar) list forming the 80 tonnes official Gold reserves (stored with the Bank of England), including details which identify the individual bars by refiner, weight, finesse, serial number and any other identification recorded for audit purposes.

In order to help determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am a representative of online media and this request is made as part of news gathering and not for a commercial use.

While Gold holdings do fall under the operations of the bank, the position held has remained unchanged and published for well over a decade and I see no risk in providing details of the bars which underpin this position.
The Reserve Bank is exempt from the FOI Act in relation to documents in respect of its banking operations (including individual open market operations and foreign exchange dealings) and in respect of exchange control matters.
I assumed that Gold reserves sit within this exempt area given that it is detailed in the 'Operations in Financial Markets (Reserves Management)' section of the annual reports. However, given that their Gold holdings are public knowledge, as is the RBA's activity in the Gold leasing market, I could think of no logical reason that providing the information would be damaging to the institution or their operations.

The two (primary) responses I received are below.

February 28th (in aid of extending their deadline):
This email is intended to provide you with an update in relation to the processing of your request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act).  It is also a formal notice as required under s27 (see below).

In terms of s27, (consultation – business documents) of the Act, the Reserve Bank of Australia is required to consult with a ‘person, organisation or undertaking’ in the event that (they) might reasonably wish to make an exemption contention that the document is exempt from release in terms of s47 (business).  Consistent with the terms of the consultation process provided for in s27, we have determined in writing that consultation is required, and therefore an extension of processing time (by a further 30 days) to enable consultation to take place (s15(6)) is provided for by the Act.
April 1st (today, April Fools?!):
Further to earlier correspondence regarding your FOI request, I wish to advise you that we have received a response from the Bank of England regarding information about the Reserve Bank of Australia’s gold inventory (as held by the Bank of England).

The Bank of England has advised us that it regards the information about the gold holdings that has been exchanged with the RBA to have been exchanged in confidence.  This is consistent with the Reserve Bank of Australia’s own view about our interactions with the Bank of England in relation to the gold holdings (i.e. we also regard our exchanges with the Bank of England to have been made in confidence).

Accordingly, I have decided to deny access to the information sought in terms of section 33(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act) ‘as information or matter communicated in confidence by or on behalf of a foreign government [or] an authority of a foreign government … to an authority of the Commonwealth’ (being the Reserve Bank of Australia). Further, I have decided to deny access to the information sought also in terms of section 33(a)(iii) of the Act, which pertains to documents affecting international relations of the Commonwealth. I have decided that disclosure of the information sought by you would, or could reasonably be expected to, cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth.
So basically the situation is as follows:

99.9% of Australia's Gold reserves, 80 tonnes, are stored with the Bank of England (BoE), news of which first came to light on this site in December 2012.

Petitions to repatriate Australian Gold have garnered public support, but not to a critical level needed for it to become a political issue (you can still sign it here).

Supposedly this Gold belongs to Australia (managed by the RBA), yet when a member of the public requests a list of the Gold bar details (of which revealing would pose no risk that I can think of), the RBA says that they are unable to. Why? Because the BoE (who are merely a custodian of the Gold) said that it needs to be kept a secret.

In the final email, along with the advice that they would withhold the information, I was provided a document which detailed some options should I choose to challenge the decision. Included (amongst various options) are requesting an internal review, review by Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Review by Federal Courts or complaining to the Ombudsman. If anyone has any experience with challenging an FOI decision or ideas on what grounds I could do so then I would welcome your thoughts in the comments below (in a timely fashion as I only have around a month for any challenge). Alternatively you are welcome to email me (address at top right of blog under social media buttons).

Any other opinions or comments on the outcome so far are welcome, as are any thoughts on risks or reasoning the Bank of England may have for keeping the Gold bar details a secret.

Every post delivered to your inbox (free), enter your email address:

Follow me on Twitter. I'm sharing links and opinions daily (@BullionBaron).


 Buy bullion online - quickly, safely and at low prices