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Why doesn't the World Gold Council care about Switzerland anymore?

By: Ronan Manly

 -- Published: Monday, 10 November 2014 | Print  | Disqus 

GATA's dispatch of a Bloomberg News story November 5, "World Gold Council Has Nothing to Say about Swiss Gold Referendum" --

-- reminded me that there was a time when the council would publish detailed analysis on topics relevant to Switzerland's gold reserves. This time covered at least from May 1997 to May 2000, prior to Switzerland's infamous gold sales.

These World Gold Council publications were frequent and often questioned the motives and purposes of the Swiss National Bank and Switzerland's federal government, while taking an independent stance representing the global gold industry. Here are five examples:

1. In-depth analysis on potential Swiss gold sales, published by the World Gold Council in May 1997 as part of its quarterly Gold Demand Trends letter. Two pages of analysis titled "What Swiss Gold Rush?" can be found on Pages 16 and 17.

2. Analysis titled "Swiss Gold Policy" issued by the World Gold Council's "Centre for Public Policy Studies" on May 28, 1998, in reaction to statements made the previous day by the Swiss Finance Ministry about plans for constitutional changes involving the Swiss National Bank and their impact on Switzerland's gold reserves, including sections on the independence of the bank, the bank's mandate, and analysis of gold reserves.

3. "The Swiss National Bank and Proposed Gold Sales," Research Study No. 21, published by the World Gold Council in October 1998. This provided detailed analysis of everything concerning the Swiss National Bank's and the Swiss federal government's proposed gold sales.

The report was written by an academic, Mark Duckenfield, on behalf of the World Gold Council's Centre for Public Policy Studies and was introduced by Robert Pringle, who was head of the Centre for Public Policy Studies. Pringle is the founder and chairman of Central Banking Publications and is well known in the world of central bank gold.

4. A review by the World Gold Council titled "The Washington Central Banks Agreement on Gold," published September 26, 1999, immediately after announcement of the Washington agreement. This review includes analysis of the agreement's impact on Switzerland's gold reserves.

5. An extensive question-and-answer brochure titled "20 Questions About Switzerland's Gold (with Answers by the World Gold Council)" written by the council in June 2000 pursuant to the October 1998 report "The Swiss National Bank and Proposed Gold Sales" and released soon after the Swiss National Bank had started its gold sales in May 2000. Access requires free registration.

The World Gold Council was born in Switzerland and has its roots there. Its headquarters was in Geneva until it moved to London in 1999. The council was established as a verein in Switzerland and is still registered with the Swiss Registre Du Commerce. Notably, the council is registered in England and Wales as an "overseas company."

So not so long ago the World Gold Council did care about Switzerland and the Swiss people's gold reserves.

But with the council's continued silence on the Swiss Gold Initiative, unfortunately that caring seems to have passed. Whether this change results from the council's move to London and its alignment with the London gold market or from the council's opening offices worldwide, only the council itself can answer.

The late Swiss gold advocate and banker Ferdinand Lips seems to have been prophetic about what was to become of the World Gold Council when in an interview in 2004 he rebuked it while incidentally complimenting GATA. Lips said:

"GATA is accomplishing outstanding work by daily informing the investment public about the manipulation of all markets, especially the gold and silver markets. More, they are bringing out many interesting articles and information. To inform about the gold market actually would be the job of the World Gold Council . But this organization fails completely. ... GATA should be institutionalized and take over the work of the World Gold Council. My opinion is that the World Gold Council is worthless and even works against the interests of the gold-mining industry."

In 2005, shortly before Lips died, his business partner J.P. Schumacher delivered a speech for him, saying:

"It can only be in the interest of mining people to support GATA. Actually the defense of the mining industry was the job of the World Gold Council. But they failed. That is one of the strangest organizations I ever met. In any case the World Gold Council is not the friend of the gold-mining industry."

With just three weeks until the potentially historic Swiss Gold Initiative referendum on November 30, it remains to be seen whether the World Gold Council in London or the gold-mining companies that it claims to represent will stir from their stupor and even comment in any way on an issue that a mere 15 years ago would have had the council devoting significant resources for analysis, comment, and shaping the debate.

Without such commentary from the World Gold Council, it is becoming increasingly difficult to accept its claims that it provides "research and thought leadership" and "communication" on the gold market and that it would "inform and shape future gold markets."


Ronan Manly is a market analyst for GoldCore and a consultant to GATA.

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