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Frances Coppola

Frances Coppola

I’m Frances Coppola, writer, singer and twitterer extraordinaire. I am politically non-aligned and economically neutral (I do not regard myself as “belonging” to any particular school of economics). I do not give investment advice and I have no investments.Coppola Comment is my main blog. I am also the author of the Singing is Easy blog, where I write about singing, teaching and muscial expression, and Still Life With Paradox, which contains personal reflections on life, faith and morality.

Articles by Frances Coppola

Where has all the money gone?

11 days ago

The collapse of Terra in May sent shock waves round the crypto world, triggering domino-like collapses of crypto companies. One of those companies was the investment fund Three Arrows Capital. At the time, everyone thought 3AC was a conservatively-managed investment company that was simply the unfortunate victim of an unforeseen event. If anyone was to blame for 3AC’s collapse, it was Do Kwon.  How wrong they were. Since 3AC was ordered into liquidation by a British Virgin Islands court, more  and more creditors have emerged from the woodwork claiming they are owed money. The liquidators have filed emergency motions to freeze 3AC’s assets because there is evidence that funds are being moved out of reach. And 3AC’s co-founders, Su Zhu and Kyle Davies, have done a runner, though Bloomberg

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Why Celsius Network’s depositors won’t get their money back

25 days ago

The crypto lender Celsius has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This should come as a surprise to absolutely no-one, though the grief and pain on Twitter and Reddit suggests that quite a few "Celsians" didn’t want to believe what was staring them in the face. Celsius suspended withdrawals nearly a month ago. So far, every crypto lender that has suspended withdrawals has turned out to be insolvent. There was no reason to suppose that Celsius would be different.  Celsius’s bankruptcy filing says the company has assets of $1 – 10 bn and a similar quantity of liabilities: This doesn’t tell us much about the extent of the company’s insolvency. But rumours have been circulating of a $2bn hole in its balance sheet. In May, according to Coindesk, the company said it had $12bn of what Celsius calls

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Shipwrecked

26 days ago

Two days after I published my last post, the ship went down. Voyager Digital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The bankruptcy filing revealed the extent of its indebtedness. Tragically, most of its creditors are customers, some of whom hold claims worth millions of dollars. But its largest creditor is Alameda Research, to whom it owes $75m. This is the maximum that Voyager could draw down from Alameda’s credit line in a 30-day period. So it appears that Alameda did not pull its credit line as I thought. Rather, Voyager maxed it out – but still ran out of money. Voyager’s desperate shortage of cash is the proximate reason for its bankruptcy. But for its customers, the hole in its balance sheet is the bigger problem. Voyager admits that it cannot repay all, or even most, deposits

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The sinking of Voyager

July 3, 2022

Friday was quite a day. The crypto lender BlockFi provisionally agreed a bailout deal with FTX. The hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC), already in compulsory liquidation in its home territory the British Virgin Islands, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the United States. And the crypto broker Voyager suspended trading and withdrawals. Voyager’s press release revealed a massive hole in its balance sheet. Some 58% of its loan book consists of loans to 3AC:And its loan book is nearly 50% of total assets:So approximately 28% of Voyager’s assets are in default. And since 3AC now has creditor protection, Voyager must wait for bankruptcy courts to decide how much, if anything, can be recovered. That will take months. But the balance sheet hole doesn’t explain why Voyager has

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There’s no such thing as a safe stablecoin

May 31, 2022

Stablecoins aren’t stable. So-called algorithmic stablecoins crash and burn when people behave in ways the algorithm didn’t expect. And reserved stablecoins fall off their pegs – in either direction. A stablecoin that does not stay on its peg is unstable. Not one of the stablecoins currently in circulation lives up to its name. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the evidence. Exhibit 1, USDT since the end of April:Exhibit 2, USDC over the same time period:(charts from Coinmarketcap)Both coins de-pegged on 12th May. Neither has returned to par. Stable, they are not. And no, USDC is not "more stable" than USDT. A stablecoin that can’t hold its peg when everyone is piling into it is no more stable than one that can’t hold its peg when everyone is selling it. Indeed, since stablecoins can be

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The Great Unemployment Fudge

May 13, 2022

In the U.S., we are told, the post-World War II period was a golden age of full employment. High wartime government spending had brought to an end the double-digit unemployment and misery of the Depression, and as war gave way to peace, unemployment settled at a non-inflationary level of 3-5%. It’s known as the post-war "economic miracle".But it’s a myth. There was never full employment. The low unemployment of the post-war years is a massive statistical fudge. In fact, over five million people lost their jobs immediately after the end of the war, most of whom never worked again. But they were never listed as unemployed – because they were women. The Great Unemployment Fudge started in the "Depression of 1946", described by the Cato Institute as "one of the most widely predicted events

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Sleepwalking into war

March 8, 2022

In a broad-ranging discussion the other day about the path of political and economic policy over the last decade, I found myself returning again and again to events in 2014. Events that were apparently unrelated: Bulgaria’s banking crisis, Moldova’s banking fraud, the collapse of Banco Espirito Santo, the election of Syriza in Greece, the first Scottish independence referendum, UKIP’s success in two Westminster by-elections as well as local and European elections. And in Ukraine, the Euromaidan revolt followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbas. "Why do all roads lead back to 2014?" I found myself asking. The financial and political eruptions of 2014 marked the start of a major shift in the global geopolitical landscape. But it was not clear where the faultline lay.

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The SEC’s Bitcoin ETF Standoff

January 28, 2022

Another day, another application for a spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) rejected. Yesterday, the SEC rejected an application from Fidelity’s Wise Origin Bitcoin Trust, the fifth such rejection in three months. Back in November, the SEC rejected an  application from Van Eck Bitcoin Trust, and in December it rejected applications from Kryptoin Bitcoin ETF Trust and Valkyrie Bitcoin Fund.And on 20th January, it rejected First Trust Skybridge Bitcoin ETF Trust’s application.  Valkyrie had already had an application for a Bitcoin futures ETF approved by default. So the rejection of its spot ETF came as something of a surprise. Indeed, some analysts seem to have expected the SEC’s default approval of Bitcoin futures ETFs for Valkyrie and ProShares in October to open the floodgates for

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The tangled web of sex and gender

December 21, 2021

As many of you probably know, I have had to take a break from writing recently because of a broken wrist. But I did manage to write responses to this Twitter thread from Shaun Lawson. I was uncomfortable about responding on Twitter to Shaun’s questions, so decided to write them in a Word document and send them to him privately. But on reflection, I believe my views are every bit as worthy of a hearing as those of the trans activists and gender critical people who express themselves loudly all over social media. Twitter is a bear pit, so I’m publishing them here. As the trans rights debate is extremely toxic, comments are moderated. I will delete comments that are personal attacks on me or anyone else or that are grandstanding a personal agenda.   

I dislike the widespread, and often

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How to use People’s QE to fight climate change

November 1, 2021

This is the uncut version of the final chapter of my book, "The Case for People’s Quantitative Easing". It was written May/June 2018, so is slightly out of date (though I have updated it in places). But I believe its conclusions are right. So I am publishing it now to coincide with COP 26. I’ve also included an updated version of the original postcript of the book, which seems to me to be very relevant now – not least because the first part of the Dune epic has just been released!
There is scientific consensus that
climate change is radically changing the nature of the planet, with profound
implications for the future of humanity and indeed for life on earth as we know
it. Already, the effects are becoming apparent: ice caps are melting, sea
levels are rising, global temperatures are the

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Maya Forstater’s human rights problem

October 3, 2021

Maya Forstater’s Employment Tribunal hearing comes up soon. This is her second hearing: the judge in the first hearing dismissed her case with a controversial judgment that described her "gender critical" beliefs as "not worthy of respect in a democratic society". She appealed this judgment, and in June this year the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) found that the judge had erred in law and her beliefs were protected under section 10 of the Equality Act. The EAT instructed that a second Employment Tribunal should consider whether the discrimination she complained about in the original hearing was "because of or related to" her beliefs. Forstater may or may not succeed in her discrimination case against her employer. She is far from the only person to hold "gender critical" beliefs: if

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JP Morgan’s Coffee Machine

September 3, 2021

It’s now widely accepted, though still not universally, that banks create money when they lend. But it seems to be much less widely known that they also create money when they spend. I don’t just mean when they buy securities, which is rightly regarded as simply another form of lending. I mean when they buy what is now colloquially known as "stuff". Computers, for example. Or coffee machines. Imagine that a major bank – JP Morgan, for example – wants to buy a new coffee machine for one of its New York offices (yes, it has more than one). It orders a top-of-the-range espresso machine worth $10,000 from the Goodlife Coffee Company, and pays for it by electronic funds transfer to the company’s account. At the end of the transaction JP Morgan has a new coffee machine and Goodlife has $10,000

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Crypto’s Weimar

June 18, 2021

A cryptocurrency has just re-enacted the Weimar hyperinflation.Yesterday, the price of the cryptocurrency TITAN crashed to zero, and its related stablecoin IRON fell off its USD peg, trading as low as 69 cents to the dollar. It was a sudden and dramatic collapse that left investors shocked and bewildered. Equally shocked and confused, the coins’ issuer launched an immediate investigation: Iron Finance issued its post mortem a few hours later. This is the key paragraph:Later, at around 3pm UTC, a few big holders started selling again. This time, after they started, a lot of users panicked and started to redeem IRON and sell their TITAN. Because of how the 10mins TWAP oracle works, TITAN spot price drops even further in comparison to the TWAP redemption price. This caused a negative

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Bank capital and cryptocurrencies

June 15, 2021

The BIS’s draft proposals for capital regulation of stablecoins and cryptocurrencies have just been released. The headline proposal was a risk weighting of 1250% for what the BIS called "Group 2 cryptoassets", which includes all cryptocurrencies, all algorithmic stablecoins, and reserved stablecoins  that don’t meet the capital, liquidity and disclosure requirements for "Group 1 cryptoassets" specified in the same document. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two major cryptocurrencies, would fall into Group 2, along with most existing stablecoins. The proposals were widely misunderstood in the crypto community. As ever, much of the misunderstanding was about the nature of bank capital. Many people confuse bank capital with reserves. Reserves are cash deposits at the central bank and vaulted

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Tether’s smoke and mirrors

May 17, 2021

Tether has issued what it calls a “breakdown of its reserves”. It actually consists of two pie charts. Here they are:Seriously, this is all Tether has seen fit to reveal.  Furthermore, the pie charts only purport to show the breakdown of Tether’s reserves on the 31st March 2021. We do not know whether Tether’s reserves still have the same composition now. Nonetheless, the crypto world took these charts as an indication that Tether was, if not fully cash-backed, at least mostly. “76% of its reserves are in cash or cash equivalents, whereas banks only have 10%!”, crowed several people.In both the reserve report and the monthly attestation, Tether takes “reserves” to mean total consolidated assets. The monthly attestations from Moore Cayman essentially say: 1. Tether’s total consolidated

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Calculus for Economists

May 11, 2021

Gabriel Sterne complains about economists’ loose use of mathematical terminology: Of course, it’s not just economists who use "increase" and "accelerate" interchangeably. But economics is a mathematical discipline, and in mathematics, "increase" and "accelerate" mean different things. So is Gabriel’s observation true, and if it is, is it a problem?To test Gabriel’s hypothesis, I ran a little Twitter test. I asked this question: This was of course far from rigorous: the sample was self-selecting, there was no way of restricting it to economists (though I did ban finance tweeps from answering), and it all depended who was on Twitter this morning. And the terminology I used was itself confusing – deliberately so, since this is how economists often write. But the results were nevertheless

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David and Goliath

May 7, 2021

Yesterday, someone who had been watching one of my (all too frequent) Twitter arguments about money made this comment: The "unknown person with few followers" was my protagonist. And the blue tick "classical expert" was me. I am Goliath. But ten years ago, I was David. Armed only with Blogger and Twitter, and my knowledge of banking and finance, I set out to slay the financial Philistines that rampaged across the internet in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. I published my first Coppola Comment post on 20th February, 2011. It throws slingshots at a media pundit who had written an article about short selling, on which he was far from expert. You can still read it, if you like. My early posts were rough and ready, and my terminology is at times excruciatingly loose, but I was sure

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From Carbon To Metals: the Renewable Energy Transition

March 16, 2021

The world is transitioning from a carbon-intensive to a metals-intensive economy. Low-carbon technologies use much larger amounts of metal than traditional fossil fuel-based systems. Demand for metals is thus rising exponentially, fuelling a boom in mining and production.But this creates an environmental challenge. Metals extraction and processing is a significant contributor to global warming and a major pollutant. Unless more environmentally-friendly ways of generating energy from renewable sources can be found, saving the planet from carbon emissions may prove extremely costly for our fellow creatures and even for ourselves.  
Climate change is driving a metals and mining boom The Paris Climate Agreement, which was ratified by 174 countries and the European Union in 2016, aims to keep

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The dismal decade

March 8, 2021

Earlier today, the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, gave a speech at the Resolution Foundation outlining the nature of the Covid-19 crisis and the challenge that it poses for monetary policy. But as his speech progressed, it became clear that the Bank faces a much larger challenge. Covid-19 hit the UK economy at the end of a dismal decade. Returning to "where we were" before the pandemic won’t be good enough. Just how dismal the 2010s were is evident in this chart from Andrew Sentance: Even before Covid-19 struck, average GDP growth was well below its historical average and heading downwards. The 2010s were, to put it bluntly, a decade of stagnation.  The 2000s were slightly worse, but that was because they included the deep recession after the financial crisis, during

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Democracy won’t save you

February 2, 2021

The fashionable concentration on democracy as the main value threatened is not without danger. It is largely responsible for the misleading and unfounded belief that so long as the ultimate source of power is the will of the majority, the power cannot be arbitrary. The false assurance which many people derive from this belief is an important cuase of the general unawareness of the dangers which we face. There is no justification for the belief that so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; the contrast suggested by this statement is altogether false: it is not the source but the limitation of power which prevents it from becoming arbitrary. Democratic control may prevent power from becoming arbitrary, but it does not do so by its mere existence. If

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Bitcoin fixes Microstrategy (or does it?)

January 10, 2021

Do you have a poorly-performing company that you don’t know what to do with? Bitcoin fixes this! At least, that’s what Michael Saylor seems to think. Since August 2020, Microstrategy, the company of which he is simultaneously CEO, chairman and principal investor, has invested heavily in Bitcoin. And Saylor has joined the select group of billionaires fronting the campaign to promote Bitcoin’s widespread adoption (and talk up its price). Microstrategy has been bumping along the bottom for quite some time. MarketWatch helpfully reports the income statements for the last five years. They make grim reading. Here are the bottom-line net income and key financial metrics from 2015 to 2019 inclusive:Yes, there’s been some improvement in net income, but just look at that EBITDA….The financials

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Reconciling IS-LM and endogenous money

January 5, 2021

This post was sparked by conversations with people who have opposing views of how money creation works. Some people think that classical models such as IS-LM don’t work with endogenous money theory, therefore the models need to be discarded: others think that there’s nothing wrong with the model and the problem is endogenous money theory. Personally I think that simple models like IS-LM can be powerful tools to explain aspects of the working of a market economy, and it behooves us therefore to find ways of adapting them to work with an endogenous fiat money system. So this is my attempt to reconcile IS-LM with endogenous money. I don’t claim that it is anything like the final word on the subject, so comments are welcome. The IS-LM model looks like this::where M is the quantity of money in

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The asymmetric mechanics of Tether

November 30, 2020

Tether is the issuer of the cryptocurrrency world’s premier stablecoin, USDT. Stablecoins aim to guarantee the value of cryptocurrencies in dollar terms, hedging volatility risk and making it easier to realise notional gains from cryptocurrency’s wild price rises. But Tether’s relationship with the main cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, is controversial. There is a raging battle between those who think that USDT issuance pumps up the price of Bitcoin, and those who argue that USDT issuance has nothing to do with Bitcoin’s price. But in my view, the truth is more complex. Tether’s asymmetric mechanics both support and disprove the arguments of both sides. USDT, Tether’s "token", is a representation of the US dollar that can be readily traded on cryptocurrency markets. People exchange

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The asymmetric mechanics of Tether

November 30, 2020

Tether is the issuer of the cryptocurrrency world’s premier stablecoin, USDT. Stablecoins aim to guarantee the value of cryptocurrencies in dollar terms, hedging volatility risk and making it easier to realise notional gains from cryptocurrency’s wild price rises. But Tether’s relationship with the main cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, is controversial. There is a raging battle between those who think that USDT issuance pumps up the price of Bitcoin, and those who argue that USDT issuance has nothing to do with Bitcoin’s price. But in my view, the truth is more complex. Tether’s asymmetric mechanics both support and disprove the arguments of both sides. USDT, Tether’s "token", is a representation of the US dollar that can be readily traded on cryptocurrency markets. People exchange

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Trade, saving and an economic disaster

October 12, 2020

The UK is running a trade surplus. No, really, I am not joking. This is from the ONS’s latest trade statistics release:The UK total trade surplus, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, increased £3.8 billion to £7.7 billion in the three months to August 2020, as exports grew by £21.4 billion and imports grew by a lesser £17.5 billionIt’s the first time the UK has run a trade surplus since the late 1990s: And if you were thinking this was because of the lockdown, you would be wrong. The UK has been running a trade surplus since the beginning of 2020:Admittedly, the trade surplus widened under lockdown. But the UK economy reopened to some degree from June to August – and yet the trade surplus continues to widen. This is no doubt music to the ears of balance of payments

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Trade, saving and an economic disaster

October 12, 2020

The UK is running a trade surplus. No, really, I am not joking. This is from the ONS’s latest trade statistics release:The UK total trade surplus, excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals, increased £3.8 billion to £7.7 billion in the three months to August 2020, as exports grew by £21.4 billion and imports grew by a lesser £17.5 billionIt’s the first time the UK has run a trade surplus since the late 1990s: And if you were thinking this was because of the lockdown, you would be wrong. The UK has been running a trade surplus since the beginning of 2020:Admittedly, the trade surplus widened under lockdown. But the UK economy reopened to some degree from June to August – and yet the trade surplus continues to widen. This is no doubt music to the ears of balance of payments

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A Financial View of Labour Markets

October 2, 2020

We are used to thinking of workers as free agents who sell their labour in a market place. They bid a price, companies offer a lower price and the market clearing rate is somewhere between the two. Free market economics, pure and simple. But actually that’s not quite right. The financial motivations of workers and companies are entirely different. To a worker, the financial benefit from getting a job is an income stream, which can be ended by either side at any time. But to a company, a worker is a capital asset. This is not entirely obvious in a free labour market. But in another sort of labour market it is much more obvious. I’m talking about slavery. Yes, I know slavery raises all sorts of emotional and political hackles. But bear with me. I am only going to look at this financially.

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A Financial View of Labour Markets

October 2, 2020

We are used to thinking of workers as free agents who sell their labour in a market place. They bid a price, companies offer a lower price and the market clearing rate is somewhere between the two. Free market economics, pure and simple. But actually that’s not quite right. The financial motivations of workers and companies are entirely different. To a worker, the financial benefit from getting a job is an income stream, which can be ended by either side at any time. But to a company, a worker is a capital asset. This is not entirely obvious in a free labour market. But in another sort of labour market it is much more obvious. I’m talking about slavery. Yes, I know slavery raises all sorts of emotional and political hackles. But bear with me. I am only going to look at this financially.

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Statistics for state pension age campaigners

September 22, 2020

Another day, another takedown of claims made by women’s state pension age campaigners. This time, it’s figures for benefit claims by women in their early 60s. David Hencke claims that sharp rises in the number of women in this age group claiming unfit-for-work benefits (ESA and legacy incapacity benefits) proves that losing their state pension entitlement is wrecking the health of women in this age group. And he argues that this calls into question the DWP’s recent victory in the Court of Appeal:The disclosure of these figures -obviously not available at the time of the hearing – does undermine the forceful case made by Sir James Eadie, QC, who represented the Department of Work and Pensions, that any poverty or ill health suffered by these women could not be linked to the rise in the

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Statistics for state pension age campaigners

September 22, 2020

Another day, another takedown of claims made by women’s state pension age campaigners. This time, it’s figures for benefit claims by women in their early 60s. David Hencke claims that sharp rises in the number of women in this age group claiming unfit-for-work benefits (ESA and legacy incapacity benefits) proves that losing their state pension entitlement is wrecking the health of women in this age group. And he argues that this calls into question the DWP’s recent victory in the Court of Appeal:The disclosure of these figures -obviously not available at the time of the hearing – does undermine the forceful case made by Sir James Eadie, QC, who represented the Department of Work and Pensions, that any poverty or ill health suffered by these women could not be linked to the rise in the

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