We’ve all followed the mural story of course. Its creator – the “street artist” Mear One – wrote a defence of his work on the website of – please, bear with me – David Icke. It would be difficult to think of anywhere more appropriate for a conspiracist loon with a penchant for antisemitism to state his case, wouldn’t it? And given that the best place to present Mr One’s work would be on the wall of a public lavatory that really is saying something.
Mr One put up a spirited defence of his artistic vision, touching on all the sweet spots favoured by the unhinged. I won’t link to the article directly and I wouldn’t recommend reading it, but you might not be surprised to hear that it mentions “Robber Barons” in thrall to the teachings of an occultist, “chemtrails”, Freemasons, the New World Order, hidden symbols printed on US currency and “banksters” growing rich by oppressing the working class, enslaving us all through debt and generally running the world.
In support of this world view, Mr One uses the following quote often attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild: “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” Naturally, there’s no evidence that he ever said this. Indeed, if you look it up it seems that these words were quoted by financial writer T. Cushing Daniel – but not attributed to anyone in particular – in a letter to President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Mayer Amschel Rothschild died in 1812.
The use of the Rothschild name has been intertwined with antisemitism for centuries and they remain a constant presence in conspiracist thought. Some of the accusations levelled against them include:
- Profiteering from advance knowledge of the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo
- Engineering wars between nations to finance and profit from both sides
- Taking control of the Bank of England during a sterling liquidity crisis in 1825
- Running the Federal Reserve/nearly every central bank in the world
- Owning half/80% (it varies) of the world’s entire wealth
- Hoarding a fortune worth $500 trillion (quite an achievement given the entire wealth of the planet was valued at $250 trillion in 2015)
- Causing The Holocaust to generate sympathy for the Zionist cause
- Owning Israel/US congress/all media
- Manipulating the weather
And so forth. Quite a charge sheet isn’t it? Any frequent user of social media will have seen this sort of garbage shared widely. Just put the word into a search in Twitter or Facebook and you will instantly be rewarded with a cavalcade of lies, distortions and paranoid, antisemitic drivel.
The truth, however, is rather more mundane. While still a presence in banking, Rothschild is a faded power, long ago eclipsed by bigger banks and hardly a player at all on the international stage.
There are several different ways of measuring the size and financial clout of a bank and, as we shall see, Rothschild doesn’t score particularly high in any of them.
After the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) started to produce a list of G-SIBs (“Global Systemically Important Banks). This is probably better known colloquially as the banks that are “too big to fail”. US and European banks on this list are required to submit a Resolution Plan to their regulator every year: this is a type of “living will” to ensure an orderly unwind in the event of insolvency and to ensure that taxpayers are not required to ever bail out failed banks again. The G-SIBs list has been published every November since 2011. Neither Rothschild & Co nor any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or parent company, have ever appeared on the list.
An independent financial advisory group, Rothschild is a boutique institution that specialises in M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) and advisory work. It also has a private wealth management group and a merchant banking arm. The Rothschild group has 63 offices in 44 countries and employees around 3,500 people globally. It is listed on the Euronext exchange in Paris and has a current market capitalisation of about €2.3 billion ($2.8 billion). In 2017 it posted net income of €247 million ($305 million).
That might sound like a lot of money. It IS a lot of money. But compared to the true giants of international banking this is chicken feed.
Let’s compare those results to the highest placed bank on the most recent G-SIBs list: JP Morgan Chase. At the time of writing, JP Morgan has a market capitalisation of $375 billion. In other words, in terms of value of shares outstanding, it is approximately 134 times bigger than Rothschild. In 2017, JP Morgan posted group profits of $24.4 billion, 80 times more than Rothschild in the same period.
Another way to a compare bank size is to measure its total assets. S&P Global Market Intelligence published a list of the 100 largest banks by total assets using data as at 31st Dec 2016. Once again, you won’t see Rothschild in there. Even the 100th largest bank has assets of $218 billion, Rothschild Group’s total assets are approximately €12 billion ($15 billion). The four biggest banks by this measurement, incidentally, are all Chinese. Only two European banks feature in the top 10 at all.
For the purposes of visualising this disparity, here’s a graph of the ten biggest banks by total assets, with Rothschild added at the end for comparison.
I&BC = Industrial & Commercial Bank of China / CCBC = China Construction Banking Corp / ABC = Agricultural Bank of China / M UFJ = Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group / JPMC = JP Morgan Chase / BNPP = BNP Paribas / BofA = Bank of America
Of course it’s not all about capital, there are other ways for a bank to be a major player. Let’s look at M&A (Mergers & Acquisition) league tables. After all, this is their real strength. They must be at the top of the rankings here, surely? Well, not really. In 2017 completed deals, they ranked 15th in the US, 8th in EMEA and 12th globally.
These are just a few ways of determining what makes a bank “big”. There are other methods, but there is no metric in which any of the Rothschild companies will rank high other than in the imagination of people who want to believe that it is true. People who propagate this myth are drawing from a narrative drenched in antisemitism, whether they know it or not. All claims regarding the supposed power of this financial institution are dangerous nonsense that should be disregarded.
Yes, they were once a major financial force (just like any large bank), but any power and influence that they once wielded has receded in a world that has changed beyond recognition since their heyday. To claim that Rothschild is a mighty financial behemoth pulling the strings is like arguing that the Royal Navy still controls the seas or that Atari is the dominant force in games consoles. Times change, things move on. Unfortunately, antisemitism is surprisingly resilient to logic or facts, so these absurd claims about shadowy Jewish financiers controlling the money supply persist and, on present evidence, are gathering pace.