2. juli 2006

Collapse of the Agriculture Bank

Enron, Worldcom a.o.
deja vu a lifetime earlier in Denmark

(short version) Danish version

We are not dealing with Denmark, but with an imported theme of international relations. They say history do not repeat. What about the human abilities that had not changed much for the last 2500 years. History has to repeat then, when we do not listen to the ground and learn from history.

The scandalous Collapse of the Agriculture Bank1923 throw an expected shadow on today

 Do you really think that selling of deficits, surplus capitalization of disappearing profits and speculation earnings have changed since 1923. They never change, just like the people that never change to the better.

The Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten February 22th 2002 report in an article “Enron tempted top-politicians” shortly what happened through the years with Enron. “Influence on politicians, Democrats as well as Republicans, so they did not control financial operations by the rules. Coded smart letters in a friendly tune and good fees. No government interference in the market of derivatives: To hide debt and created surplus in the accounts were their objectives.

The collapse of Enron December 2nd 2001 was caused by the trade with empty derivatives. The financial world especially re-presented by Citibank with Robert Rubin, the material energy manufacturing-firm Enron, and the politicians, especially the Secretaries of Finances had to play dominant roles all of them to succeed the adventure for a few. About a dozen of investigations in the Congress.” Has it happened before. Of couse it has. Nothing has changes in the brains of people since Plato’s Carve Parable 2350 years ago, I told you.

The dirty tricks might alter slightly like the language, and some of them may just develop to something more so-called advanced/sofisticated, but generally nothing has changed.  

A lifetime has gone, and everything has been forgotten, if nobody writes about things, and (notice) they get it published. 

Denmark 1923: 

The Extraordinary Commission  (Did anybody say Enron, USA?): 

The Danish Agriculture Bank was established by Gottlieb Abraham Gedalia 1873. Gottlieb Abraham Gedalia[1] went bankrupt in 1875. After the collapse of the Agriculture Bank in 1923 and Emil Glückstadt’s end, the character of the bank changed once and hopefully for ever. A. P. Moeller (later Maersk Moeller) became the deciding shareholder directly, and through the years also more and more the dominating via companies own by A. P. Moeller.  

On the other hand when we look at the period 1900-1923, the official Danish history writing is certainly not fully correct. It is very piece by piece and rather diffuse, and also directly misleading and defective. The objective of the Extraordinary Commission was to make good the lacks and irregularity of WWI, and of the after war period until 1921. Here you have to remember that unrestrickted u-bout-war, and the extented blocade from February 1st 1917 created a not durable situation for both Danish businesses and consumers.   

During the next (or the same) war WWII “the Counsel of Price Control and Goods Supplying“ which name must be more denoted, was established. The economic secretary-cases of the commission were done by the later economic-director Holger Roed (from which these lines originate), and later chief of office in the Great Nordic Company B. Gloer-felt Tarp. With a wider working area the secretary had to be extented with later Judge of Country T. Spang Hansen and later chief of office in the Ministery of Foreign Affaires Hans Jacob Hansen. When you take into consideration what manning according institutions were established with, it seems rather admirable. The Commission was then placed in the Zahl-Chamber Gateway that is the connection between Christiansborg and the red building.

The head of the Triumvirate which was the members the business committee, and which managed the work of the commission was Consul Lauritsen, of other members in the Commission can mentioned Professor L. V. Birck, Chief-editor (later minister) Hauge, Niels Frederiksen, Jens Klejs and the leader of the industrial sector Alex Foss, who also was a member until 1918. Already in 1916 Birck had strongly criticized the surplus capitalization  and the manuovres of the exchange that the union of Ballin and Hertz made of 10 shoemanufactories to A/S (limited) the United Shoe factories. Not just the stock capital was valued unrealististic high to an amount of dkr. 8 mill. (1916), but the owners of the businesses up to then were held out of a prospect of the new shares in the union which they were about to take over instead of the old ones that would be sold at a price 200. The price was driven up to 300 in the union, before the emission a new emission of the stock capital appeared. About the emission is written later (1923) in the account of the Commission of Agriculture Bank: 

“The atmosphere was prepared, and when just dkr. 2 mill. was supplied (at 110%), there was a run on the Agriculture Bank to buy stock/shares. In Emil Glückstadt’s correspondance are several letters from known supplicants trying to get the possibility to join. Before the emission the shares were sold at a price 300, so people lined up to get hold of the dkr. 2 mill.

The amount was overscribed 100 times, 2,700 individuals put down their names for larger or smaller amounts. 400 individuals got the dkr. 2mill. shares, and just the most favoured got more than d.kr. 10,000. Of the dkr. 2mill. Max Ballin himself took over dkr. 750,000 plus 20,000 that he possible gave away among his friends. On the other hand amounts of more than dkr. 20,000 were just given in so-called grace of humility to people, who was closely connected to Glückstadt, Ballin or stockholder I. M. Levin, or those according to their posts were friendly turned. By checking the list of beautiful names that were interested in the maintenance of the price, you will understand what a capital offence it must have been to criticize this emission.” 

Now you do not have to especially notice the amount in millions very much. These can certainly not be compared with some amounts of millions of today. To illlustrate which amount were presented in the units of connecting then, I can inform you that in the year 1900 there was totally dkr. 100 mill. in notes circulating in Denmark. In 1914 the circulation of notes was dkr. 140 mill. 

The prices of the supplied shares fell however, and a few years later they reached 160. Something had to be done to keep the price up, and the expedient was the great union of 1918 that lacked however technical and economical idea, but introduced rumours of exchange and price rising for the shares of the three single companies, and a few millions of earning to a consortium. L. V. Birck proposed a powerful critic of this union. At the negotiations of the relations of the line that then began in 1918, there was fertile soil of a powerful contrast and intrigue between Birck and Ballin. Birck was denounced by the connections of Ballin in the whole Copenhagen press. 

The waves went high and at an occasion it almost came to a directly physical confrontation between the two gentlemen. Max Ballin belonged to the circle of speculators that were collected round the Agriculture Bank and the stockholder I. M. Levin & Co, and his dead by his own hand in April 1921 after an enormous unsuccesful speculation in chevreauskin turned the price on the Agriculture Bank shares/stock to stagger. In the period of swindle after the first world war the light and dexterous councillor of state Emil Glückstadt was the leading figure.

Through order of succession he was as 35 years administrative director in 1910 in the biggest bank of the country, the Agriculture Bank. In the worldwar and in the after war period he collected a closed circle of speculators of the exchange and case-makers around himself and the bank. They were people who unworried calculated with the boom of the war period to be eternal, and who in their valuations capitalized incomes of years that just were based on this boom. The hausse-speculation flourished. The Agriculture Bank (AB) and its circle surely was the biggest capitalistic concentration of power that our country had experienced until then. If there ever has been a third-parliament, it has been while this court was dominating our economic life.      

Not just within its own circle, but also in the press and with that in the public consciousness Glückstadt was looked upon to be a man of finances in the format of the world, whom everything succeeded: The government used him in an important mission: The order of the financial relation in connection with the Re-union[2], the Conference of Finances in Brussels. For the League of Nations he investigated the finances and Austria in 1921.[3] The Danish Central Bank looked upon his greatness, with humility, the press prostrated itself under his power. Partly some big industry and some business enterprises among AB and Ballin’s leather and shoe trust and partly a line of stockbrokers and syndicates of speculation that were run by Harald Plum, and of which Glückstadt became a President, were closely related to the Agriculture Bank. (Harald Plum’s) Transatlantic Company that had a net of branches all over the world was a typically expression for the reckless dreams of greatness that then had the objective to make Copenhagen the emporium of the Baltic Sea, to a justification for world trade after the destructions of the war (WWI). While Glückstadt still remained on the top of the power and of the ho-nour, Birck made his attack.  

At the general meeting of the Transatlantic Company June 10th 1922, where the account for 1921 was presented with a proposal of liquidation or a transfer to a new company against a payment of 15% to the share-holders, Birck leveled at a strong and detailed critic against its organization that was a system of boxes, its bad and expensive administration, and its trade that was characterized by a chain store, and that did not give any profit. On the reason to the crash the president of the general board said: ”The states of the market”. In the good years: “the ability of management, in the bad years: God is to blame.” At the end of his speech Birck turned directly against the chairman, titular counsellor of state Glückstadt, when he said: 

“It is not against titular counsellor of state personally that I appear, but against his fateful system of finances that yield interest to the big capitalization, forces the one industry after the other out in businesses that have to destroy them. This financing is a parasitic plant in the Danish life of businesses, and when you include lack of will to pull in, the result has to be, as we have seen it where titular counsellor of state Glückstadt walk on with his art of finances, there will never grow grass again. You, counsellor of state Glückstadt, is a great man of dimensions according to the voluminous reports for 5 years of the Copenhagen Press, dimensions that almost burst the economy of our poor little country. You have power and connections, and there, the Danish business life and there, the Danish industry lie weakened and destroyed caused by your finance policy, and your unwillingness against making the final account. That sound and new business cannot get the needed capital, because it shall be used to hold up values that already have disappeared; this is your honor and responsibility. Yes, assuredly you are a great man! Now it ends with this firework: for dkr. ½ mill. buy of a deficit that has been stated to dkr. 3½ mill., but after my judgement is dkr. 8½ mill. It is a pretty nice ending for the stockholders, but to the Transatlantic adven-ture itself, for the concern and perhaps to yourself it is not the end, but just a postponement, a respite.”    

The commission of the Agriculture Bank of September 21th 1921    

One month later the first reconstruction of the Agriculture Bank, the first crash came, where the state had to take charge to save the bank. Hardly urged by the public opinion, the government had to induce a commission by a new law to investigate the matters of the bank, especially about the cause of the economic difficulties of the bank by the law of September 21th about the state’s interacting. 

The Commission was also arranged as an extraordinary court. It got to consist of Country Judge Rump (as Chairman) the Bank Inspector Green and Professor L. V. birck. To the public that claimed a profound investigation and explanation Birck had to be the one, who’s name secu-red that this claim would be fulfilled. 

Shortly after the establishment of the Commission later Economy-Director Holger Roed was appointed to assist Professor Birck in the Commission. Of the other members of the Commission E. Kaufman, T. B. Riber, W. Juul and also Laywer of Impeachment Topsoe Jensen assisted by Accounter N. F. Torner, and Public Prosecutor Viggo Thomsen assisted by Accounter Axel Andersen and later director in the Agriculture Bank Poul Ingholt who as Managing Clerk in the bank had been appointed to secure procuration of materials from it. 

The Commission got its rooms in the Agriculture Bank, in the last floor of the so-called Groenske estate, a narrow house that is placed beside of the real building of the bank. Here Glückstadt had got a little flate-a-terre of just a few rooms, and in these rooms the Commission and the clerical staff arranged them selves. In very busy periods the bath-room was also confiscated as a room of the office.  Hardly any other task has suited Birck more than the one that had to be solved, and he felt it like a personal responsibility that it was solved pro-found. His earlier critics obliged, he had yet another article between the phases of the reconstruction, titled “Former Director Emil Glückstadt as a Bank Manager” (before Glückstadt became “former”), publicly given an estimate of the lacks in the bank direction that lead to the misery that then had not become a catastrophe yet. Here Birck just had a big and wide hunting ground for his own flair toward swindle of any kind, but also a large material for economic studies of the development in a hectic boom. Here was a foundation of the interaction that was characterizing Birck as a macro-economist.  

Birck threw himself into the work with a violent energy. Characterizing for him was that he succeeded just with a single deputy to help, the first week on that basic of the existing official accounts and re-port to clear up threads and the losses in swarms of reciprocal infiltrated companies of the Harald Plum concern. The result was elaborated, but not substantial corrected, at the later detail investigation. In those later investigations the parodic system of trade between sister and daughter companies was made clear, a system, which business madness was culminating in “the right of” every involved company to send unordered goods in consignment to every one of the other companies and to draw the bill of the amount.

The goods were made more expensive by this, with more freights and calculated profits, and they was send from destination to destination at still higher prices, which made the losses camouflaged – when sold to an outsider at a spot price -, when the prices increased at the world market. When a lot e.g. was chartered three times over the Atlantic Ocean befo-re it was sold, the loss had grown according to this. The total loss for the concern as well as the there off floating loss for the bank had to be written down with a nine figured number in the end.  

[Today you have to write it down with 12 figured numbers] 

With the same lust of action Birck began the treatement of the relations in a line of steam ships, in the shares of which substantial and strange speculations had been running in the bank; of the relations of the bank to state-loans, and of the clearing up of the interior development in a line of industry- and trade companies that figured as deficit debitors in the bank. A profound investigation was made of the relations in the Ballin concern. It was among other things documented that Max Ballin and his co-director Hugo Rothenberg permanently had had a large amount of speculating in their own stock, besides they had participated in a lot of other speculations, resulting in losses of dkr. 6 mill. in the firm of stockholders I. M. Levin & Co from which the loss ended in the Agriculture Bank. Point by point it was proven how the consideration of the stock-prices had been the leading fact in their transactions with the customers of the firm.  

Birck supplemented to an extensive degree the information of the reports of books, of the ledger of correspondance with conversations with leaders and the clerks of concerned firms, and came in this way much closer to the motives that had been deciding for the transactions, and the individual relations of which the books told nothing. From the members of clique we experienced via Birck’s words: “If I mention the gentlemen, who are placed in more than 10 boards of directors of companies: C. C. Clausen, Max Ballin, Alfred Benzon, Benny Dessau, Hey, Johan Levin, Lester Levig, Ringberg, Schack Eiber, High Court Laywer Olesen a.s.o. or to mention those who made the record, Bank Director Emil Glückstadt, who took seat in about 40 companies, you will understand that it is the same men we meet all the way through, wearing different hats but with the same temper. 

Financial News (Finanstidende) wrote 1922: 

“This clique that has ruled the country and the people for these years, was like a club of the intimated. Its participants shared the posts of the board of directors, the commissions of profits, speculation earnings, power, and influence between itself with much mutual envy but with a tacitly understanding of, in this way they all profit most of the office.” 

Concerning the bank correspondence and the telegram correspondence of the direction of the bank were of importance to the understanding of a lot of things. It was pretty difficult to get into, because the firms and the individuals often were named with clever rewritings or fantastical nicknames. The titular counsellor of state on the other side of “Niels Juel”[4] was named the elephant that gradually was shortened to “the trunk” that one single time changed to “the Snoebel” [5]. The chairman of another of our big national businesses was named “the Fool”, and so on. It was a great pleasure for Birck to guess these riddles. Some two feet long exchanges of telegrams seemed for a time incomprehensible.

They were about the weather and the wind, heath and seasickness and various kinds of accidental talk, held in a incomprehensible jargon to very well understanding ones. It lasted some time, before it was clear that they included no valuable information or another language of code that had to be decoded, but just were, what they seemed to be. Birck could not image that anybody should use that expensive foreign telegraph connection to such an idle objective. In the bank as well as to its circle of debitors it made such a great damage that the share/stock prices on the favorite papers of the circle were manipulated via syndicates spreading rumours that the papers were going to increase.

Glückstadt and his co-director Ringberg were the leading figures in these syndicates of speculation, who’s participants often were known just to them personally, by not to the bank as such. After the result of the speculation, it could be decided, if it was the directors personally or the bank or the company in question that had been participant in the syndicate. 

With this it became easy for individuals to get rid of the losses, when the prices went down, while the profit to all of them was sure. Glückstadt had a good allround bank education, here and abroad. Ringsberg’s conditions to fill his post did not go further than what he had experienced in a stockholder’s office (I. M. Levin & Co). Both of them were without profound economic knowledge and understanding. In these years the companies had to stop their activity one by one and claim liquidation. But the personal solidarity between the managers were strong, and often they succeeded as friends to get the directors in destroyed companies placed on yet other leading posts, regardless how unskilful they have shown themselves to be.

This flight from responsibility among the managers while the shareholders, clerks and the workers had to bear the burdens by losses and unemployment outraged Birck, who draw up the text to a standard telegram (to a shipowner), who he with respect quoted everytime a new case of this kind appeared. It went like this: “The ship went down with man and mice, but thank God, the captain was saved.” Exactly in this period of Danish policy the Radical Party enjoyed (an economic contribution) via director Heilbuth that among other things made the foundation of the rise of the Danish newspaper Politiken. Heilbuth gave the Radical Party dkr.1 mill. that had been earned by speculation, and of which he, when the crash the Agriculture Bank came, owed very large amounts, properly much more than 1 mill. Politiken was financed in this way by the swindle of the Agriculture Bank. 

On different occasions powerful effort were shown to stop or limit the investigation. Not just the influential were interested in this, but also at other deciding factors hesitations rose about the amount of the possible effects of the unveiling that were foreseen. Contributory to this surely was that the transactions concerning a syndicate of the cable-shares that later on implied a sentence of fraud against the industry man H. P. Prior, was meant to be played into the hands of the Commission from the side of the bank rather early in the investigation. You could not refuse against the view that this manoeuvre that was meant to frighten: Would the whole top be cut off from the business life by continuing investigations? Could “the distinguished men’s union” take the slaughter that eventually would come? Birck succeeded to prevent the attacks against the continuation of the work. 

The essential to Birck was to seek correction of the economic mistakes that lead to catastrophe, while Rump laid the main emphasis on the explanation of the criminal law. After Rump’s opinion the investigation was concentrated on relations in the bank itself, against which Birck would have investigation carried on to the debitor of the bank to find out why the bank had losses on its outstanding debt. This difference of opinions concerning the size of the work of the com-mission lead to powerful exchanges of view at times, and the form of these investigations were surely effected by the two fighting parts being as unequal as possible in the their lives of spirit as well as in their ways of life. By these exchanges of views about the size of the investigation Birck did not mince his words. In this way he once chocked the respectable Country Judge by naming him “as a jurist, who is advanced caused by the law of gravity.”    

Birck showed a tireless work in the whole working-time of the commission. Had he started a case, he rather continued without any break as long as possible. A substantial part of my work with him became working at night, often until the first streetcar reminded us that it was time to get rest. The report above was told by one of the central figures of the commission (Holger Roed) 30 years after the Commission of the Agriculture Bank ended its work. He was himself a primarily source, therefore this is a secondary source. Birck resigned from the Commission of the Agriculture Bank as a tired and disappointed man. The cleansing he worked for did just partly become reality. For example could Harald Plum, who got a sentence that of the public opinion was perceived as poor acquittal, continue his business with Crown Butter, and not until the shot on Thoroe October 24th 1929 the period was made for his business, whereafter his fraudulent transactions did not let themselves hide. But in many felts the cleansing was not lead long enough, and profound enough, and years had to go, and further blunders had to be made, until the matters were becoming better. The time showed Birck was right in his views. 

1933 Lauritz V. Birck meet death 62 years old, the quick dead he always had wanted to have. A central point that inspired me to tell the story was that Birck was promised to publish his results, but the state still was dependent of the swindles apparently. So no publication was possible. Even to day you cannot get the full report of his investigation. The libraries still refer the descendants who might suffer from a publication.  

79 years later I still meet ordinary people who’s parents were swindled by the complot without knowing, what was really going on then, and when you look to USA, you will find the Enron scandal and soon a lot more with a story much like the one I just referred to in extracts. And they say history do not repeat, what about the human abilities that had not changed much for the last 2500 years. History has to repeat then, when we are not allowed even to learn from it. 

Does a metallic standard prevent these events:


More paper, more gold and the private limited company:


A new international monetary system (extended version):


Footnotes: [1] Saddler and speculator of the exchange ”Baron”, and of the most unhealthy statures of the exchanging. 

[2] The President of the Danish Central Bank (Danmarks Nationalbank) a radical historian Marcus Rubin wrote in 1891 :”…fools in Denmark and people without any influence hope for a Re-union (mine: of North Schleswig with Denmark)…In Denmark you have registred 1864 as a historical reality (mine: Germany took North Slesvig in the war 1860-64). I can’t tell you if this Rubin is family to well-known one in one of US-scandals of today. 

[3] When he should have stayed in Denmark …if he worked in the interests of the Danes, as you shall see and judge for yourself. 

[4] A statue of the Danish Sea hero Niels Juul that indicated the geographic position of the firm he ruled. [5] Rewriting of “Snabel”, the Danish word for “Trunk”, and at the same time “the Snoebel” is a lighter degrading designation in Danish slang of a word close to swindler.


3 kommentarer »

  1. […] Appendix 3 […]

    Pingback af Danmark » The Food Chain Of Internationalism — 6. juli 2006 @ 09:02

  2. […] The Collapse Of Agriculture Bank (Denmark, 1923) […]


  3. […] The Collapse Of Agriculture Bank (Denmark, 1923) […]

    Pingback af TO GO AGAINST THE RULING OPINION CERTAINLY HAS ITS COSTS - ESPECIALLY THE LOST FACE « Dissidentpress — 10. januar 2009 @ 16:32

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