It’s been two years since the Texas state legislature passed and Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that would “repatriate” some 5,600 gold bars currently being stored in New York City to a bullion depository that would be built in the state. The gold, valued at around $660 million in 2015, is currently worth about $861 million, and the state has recently taken steps to bring the gold back to Texas.
The gold is owned by the University of Texas Investment Management Company, which imposed two conditions on repatriating the gold at the time the legislation was passed in 2015. First, it must be cheaper to store the gold in Texas than in New York’s HSBC bank, and second, the depository would be required to become a full member of Comex, where gold futures are traded.
The legislation did not include funds to build a depository, instead mandating that the Texas Bullion Depository would be run as a state agency under a contract with a private operator. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced earlier this month that Lone Star Tangible Assets, a private firm that stores and trades precious metals, has been selected to build and operate a bullion depository in Austin. Construction is scheduled to begin in September and the depository will open its doors in December of next year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Lone Star Tangible Assets will receive 90% of the fees generated by the depository and the state will receive the other 10% to offset administrative costs. Currently, the University of Texas pays $606,000 annually to store the gold in New York.
Meeting the University’s second condition — the depository must become a full member of Comex — presents different challenges. Comex requires that members be located within a 150-mile radius of New York City. The state is currently seeking a third-party partner within the geographic region willing to provide liquidity for the gold that would be stored in Texas. If someone signs up, the new depository would be exempt from Comex’s geographic rule.
The 2015 legislation also forbids the depository from trading gold futures. Those gold bars will just sit there and be subject to the ups and downs of the gold futures market.
The bullion also will be there if the U.S. dollar ever returns to a gold standard and the Federal Reserve system is abolished, as the Texas Republican Party called for in its 2016 party platform.