A few days ago my lawyer advised me “Don’t go to France” (not that I had any plans to of course). The advise, coupled with the message “First amendment rights stop at the US border“, was in reference to my November 20 article Mish Fined 8,000 Euros for Quoting French Blog.
All I did was quote a French blogger on bank leverage, and the numbers I quoted were matched by the Wall Street Journal.
Wolf Richter at the Testosterone Pit commented on Gagging Doubt: French Crackdown On French And American Bloggers Who Question Megabank Balance Sheets
The France’s Financial Markets Authority (AMF) announced on Nov. 14 that its Sanctions Commission had decided to slap fines on two bloggers, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Chevallier and American Mike “Mish” Shedlock, “for having spread inexact information about the level of indebtedness” of megabank Société Générale.
The same bank, incidentally, that entered the annals of the silly when it blamed and successfully hounded a low-level trader, the hapless Jérôme Kerviel, for its €5 billion zinger of a loss during the financial crisis, while other banks blamed their toxic assets.
Digging through financial statements and coming up with conclusions that differ from those that the almighty bank serves up is just a sign of not having yet imbibed too much of its Kool-Aid.
Freedom of speech, bien sûr, somewhat, kinda. But not when it comes to French megabanks. Nope. No one is allowed to doubt anything. Are they in that bad of a shape that they cannot withstand the doubt of a blogger?
In its decision, the Sanctions Committee stated that it had jurisdiction to rule on the dissemination of inaccurate information about a financial instrument that can be traded in a regulated French market, whether or not it was disseminated in France, and regardless of whether it was disseminated by a Frenchman or a foreigner. And for the first time, the commission applied Article 632-1 of the AMF’s General Regulations to information posted on the Internet by financial bloggers; it reads: “Everyone must refrain from disclosing or knowingly disseminating information, regardless of the medium used, that gives or may give inexact, inaccurate, or misleading indications about financial instruments, including spreading rumors or broadcasting false or misleading news, when that person knew, or should have known, that the information was false or misleading.”
A blatant attempt to gag doubting bloggers.
Shooting Yourself in the Foot
Automatic Earth had some interesting comments in How To Fine A Fine Blogger And Shoot Yourself In The Foot in reference to the quote from Testosterone Pit.
Everyone of course should include SocGen itself, because they too “may give” inexact, inaccurate, or misleading indications. And the AFM is the only institution with the legal powers to check if SocGen’s financial statements are correct. Have they? How are we to even know? By accepting SocGen’s statement, the AFM makes itself a potential accomplice if any irregularities appear in that statement, either today or in the future. But they don’t seem to care.
Instead, they turn around and fine two bloggers who write they think those numbers are not correct, and who might otherwise, had they not been “investigated”, have been more than happy to retract their words if either SocGen or the AFM had published numbers that were both correct and transparent. Where is the AFM report on its investigation into SocGen’s numbers?
SocGen will never be attacked on its statements no matter how wrong they are, simply because it is among the richest hence most powerful hence must lawyered up entities on the planet.
If the bank and/or the regulator don’t like that criticism, all they need to do is to issue a press release that explains where the numbers go wrong. They don’t do that. The regulator doesn’t respond by investigating the numbers the banks publish, but by going after the people who question them.
French Pub Fined €9,000 for Using “Undeclared Labor”
Clearly I had enough reasons already to not go to France. Looking for more?
Please check out the latest French idiocy: French Pub Fined €9,000 for Using “Undeclared Labor” after Customers Returned Empties to Bar.
French officials have fined a pub in Brittany €9,000 for “undeclared labour” after a customer returned some empty glasses to the bar.
Owner Markya Le Floch told Le Télégramme: “Around half-past midnight, a customer returned a drinks tray. She passed by the bar to go to the toilets. That was when it all kicked off. My husband was pinned against the glass by a man. A woman lept on me, showing her ID card and that’s when I realised it was a URSSAF check. They told me I had been caught using undeclared labour.”
The authorities initially fined the pub owners €7,900 and briefly placed them in police custody. Customers vouched for the owners and they escaped charges, but URSSAF are still pursuing a social case and are now seeking €9,000 due to non-payment of the original fine.
France is acting like some third-world basket case, and the stories get more ridiculous over time.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock