Beppe Grillo (LaPresse)
Rome. “Five Star Movement comes of age”, the Financial Times wrote less than a year ago, in an article that gave its blessing to the transformation of the ‘Grillini’ into a valid alternative for government. Today, with the Cabinet led by Virginia Raggi, the Five Star Movement shows to be so mature to be able to bring back the “Dolce Vita” to Rome. The only difference being that instead of the sensual Anita Ekberg, it will be Angelo Raffaele De Dominicis, new Finance chief for the Municipality of Rome, standing in the Trevi fountain whispering “Marcello come here!”. De Dominicis is the former Attorney General for the Corte dei Conti of the Lazio Region. He started the investigation into rating agencies, which the Financial Times wrote about under the derisory heading: “Italy accuses S&P of not getting ‘la dolce vita’”.
The Audit Court magistrate is convinced that the Italian rating cut by Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s, at the height of the sovereign debt crisis, was in fact a conspiracy, “a concerted action aimed at seriously damaging Italy’s public finances”. According to the magistrate, the downgrades were “beyond any economic logic”, because the three agencies never “pointed out Italy’s history, art or landscape which, as universally recognized, are the basis of its economic strength”. Basically, the Big Three credit rating agencies have knowingly ignored the priceless value of Michelangelo, the Divina Commedia, pizza, mandolin and the very same Trevi Fountain – which, for example, could be sold to creditors as the comedian Totò did with Decio Cavallo – aiming to “oppose the authority and solvency of Italian BTPs on free markets worldwide”. For this pincer move by international finance, De Dominicis thought to ask the agencies for 351 billion euros in damages: 117 for the cost of the measures approved by the government to tackle the crisis, plus another 234 for moral damages. The Corte dei Conti’ lawsuit, a spin-off of the famous inquiry by the Trani prosecutor’s office, was later dismissed by De Dominicis himself, as “the prosecution’s claim cannot be substantiated at trial”.
However, contrary to what the Financial Times may think, the dismissal was a success for the prosecution. As De Dominicis stated at the inauguration of the 2015 judicial year, “thanks to the investigation supported by this office, the diabolical relationship between sovereign BTP ratings and the yield spread increase was seriously damaged, if not definitively broken. It was thus possible to substantially reduce public debt expenditure in favor of a healthy economic and financial performance of the national budget”. Of course it had nothing to do with Mario Draghi and the ECB’s quantitative easing – the yield spread lowered thanks solely to Rome’s new Finance chief, who saved the country with a lost lawsuit (imagine if he had won it). If, according to the FT, just a few months ago the Five Star Movement had come of age, we are now witnessing the next phase.