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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Tax havens are entrenching poverty in developing countries | Richard Miller

Category : Business

Poorer nations lose three times more money to havens a year than they get in aid. The G8 has the chance to change this

The Guardian has brought yet more news about the widespread use of tax havens by some of the world’s largest multinationals operating in developing countries. From ActionAid’s own investigations we know that these tax havens can all too often provide vehicles for tax avoidance that hits the world’s poorest hardest.

In the case of just one FTSE100 multinational we recently investigated – Associated British Foods, maker of Ryvita and Silver Spoon sugar – we found the company had used tax haven conduit companies to legally avoid enough Zambian tax to put 48,000 children in school. Zambia is a nation where almost half of children fail to complete their education.

Tax haven secrecy can also be used to deflect scrutiny from a range of unaccountable transactions in developing nations. Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel last week highlighted mining deals involving two FTSE100 multinationals, carried out through companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and Gibraltar, which the panel claims have deprived the Democratic Republic of Congo of an estimated $1.36bn – almost twice the country’s education and health budgets combined.

From near-deserted Caribbean islands to major financial centres, tax havens offer a harbour for wealth and profits siphoned from around the world. Tax havens provide the legal machinery for tax avoiders, and protection for illegal tax evaders, denying developing economies the public revenues needed for hospitals, schools, clean water and functioning roads. The figures are staggering. According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, developing countries lose three times more money to tax havens each year than they receive in aid.

The statistics cannot, of course, show the tax impact of each tax haven company. Some may indeed have real business, and not simply be avoiding taxes in places where real business is done. But this is precisely the point: corporate reporting fails to show the transactions and tax bills of multinationals’ operations in many of these jurisdictions. And these same jurisdictions often deny this information to under-resourced tax authorities in the world’s poorest countries too.

Tax haven structures may be nearly universal, but they are not a fact of nature in modern business. Financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown and mining company Fresnillo, for instance, have no tax haven subsidiaries at all, despite operating in sectors that are no strangers to “offshore”. Others are making efforts at least to disclose their tax structures around the world: when ActionAid put questions about their tax haven companies to all FTSE100 companies, 15 responded with significant extra details.

Yet overall there is little incentive not to place profits and assets in tax haven companies, or to disclose these profits and assets, unless governments themselves end the secrecy and abusive tax regimes that tax havens offer. The countries represented at June’s G8 have a unique combination of economic and political weight, responsibility and jurisdiction over the problem. The UK alone is responsible for one in five of the world’s tax havens, more than any other single country in the world. Yet while the UK and other wealthy countries have recently begun to push their tax havens to disclose the financial assets that their taxpayers hold offshore, these deals as yet leave developing countries out in the cold.

The G8 can and must commit to ending the anonymous ownership of tax haven companies and trusts, and making tax havens disclose the information that tax authorities around the world desperately need. To fix the biggest part of this problem the information it generates must be available for all countries – including the poorest – from day one.

When the UK government convenes the leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries at the G8 summit this June, it has an opportunity, an interest and a duty to do something extraordinary: to tackle one of the biggest hidden obstacles in the fight against poverty by putting an end to tax havens. With David Cameron, George Osborne, François Hollande, Angela Merkel, other world leaders and ordinary taxpayers calling for change, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. None of us – from the richest to the poorest countries – can afford for the G8 to miss it.

Are stock market rises justified?

Category : Business

World equity markets post record highs

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UK fraud probe for Kazakh miner ENRC

Category : World News

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office starts an investigation into Kazakh mining company and FTSE 100 member Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation.

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Drive to get more women on the board seems to be Petering out

Category : Business

The Peter principle has it that men are promoted beyond their competence. Now the Paula principle says the opposite happens for women. So who is to blame for slow progress towards more women directorships?

Back in 1969, a book called The Peter Principle was published, and became something of a classic in management texts. It may have influenced the odd change in the way businesses operated but, more memorably, it made readers laugh: its central premise being that employees are eventually promoted to jobs at which they prove incompetent.

So the excellent salesman, whose naturally charming patter compensated for his administrative weaknesses and won over thousands of customers, proves a disastrous sales manager who can’t understand why his team of less enchanting but harder-working colleagues don’t pull off his trick. Worse, he remains in that job, blocking anyone better qualified from doing it properly.

Now a chap called Tom Schuller is writing a book with a modern twist. It is called the Paula Principle and it argues that most women get promoted to a level below their competence. Far from rising to a position their talents don’t deserve, they languish below what they could easily manage.

The Paula Principle is a clever joke – only with a rather serious point. It is 45

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Every woman in the boardroom must pull others up behind her | Karren Brady

Category : Business

A report shows that female appointments to FTSE boards have slowed. It is up to those at the top to bridge the gender gap

Margaret Thatcher used to say, “If you want anything done, ask a woman“, but when it comes to applying this at the most senior level of UK business, momentum is lagging. Cranfield School of Management revealed yesterday that in the first half of the 2012 financial year, 44% of board-level appointments at FTSE 100 firms went to women. This slowed to 26% in the second half, and there remains a 33% gap between the current rate of recruitment of women to the boardroom and the recommended level needed to achieve equality. British business continues to fail to tackle the barriers that deter women from fulfilling their potential, with a knock-on impact on our economy and society.

However, the Cranfield research does show that the picture isn’t uniformly bad. Women are dominating in the middle levels of certain careers, such as law and marketing, yet this does not translate into boardroom representation. Now is the time for more women in business to recognise their own potential and have the confidence to aim high. We cannot wait for our male colleagues to champion our cause. Nor should we be held back by any guilt that being ambitious and successful at work is somehow not acceptable for women. Too many women don’t see themselves in senior leadership and so don’t push themselves to advance their careers as their male peer group do.

It’s depressing that ambition and feminism have become almost dirty words for working women. But, there is no reason that they should be and, increasingly, I am struck by how the next generation is challenging conceptions of what it means to be successful at work. I regularly meet young women who, just as I did when I was 23 and took on Birmingham Football Club, are starting their careers with a determination to achieve all they can.

My view is that the key to their success is confidence, and possessing the self-belief to challenge stereotypes. In 20 or 30 years’ time, it is these women who will be fundamentally transforming British boards. But this also begs the question of what happens in the meantime. The Cranfield research shows that, while there are too few women in senior business roles, those who are successful could do more to help other women up after them. When I attend events for Women in Business, I often see the same faces. If every woman who got to the top brought just two up behind her, the number of women in the boardroom would triple. When I joined West Ham FC, there were no women in the boardroom and now 50% of the board are female. Rather than pulling up the ladder behind me, I created an environment where women could balance both work and family while aiming for the top.

Any board executive can forget just how many people helped them get where they are. Those women who have got to the top need actively to ensure there is a pipeline of younger women, whether by networking or mentoring, who in turn are encouraging those below them. Women in the boardroom must not forget how many challenges and difficulties we have overcome, and we should share our coping strategies.

It is critical to create opportunities to identify talented women in business, then support them to develop their confidence to aim for the boardroom. We need to look outside the corporate mainstream, at female entrepreneurs and self-employed businesswomen, who can inject different insights and diversity to any board.

We also need to look further down the pipeline at the young women who haven’t yet started their careers. When it comes to the route to the boardroom, the barriers start early. Those of us who have achieved success must reach out and inspire young people to aim high, through programmes such as LifeSkills, for which I am an ambassador.

While the peak of female boardroom recruitment has been encouraging, more is needed to bridge the gender gap successfully and sustainably. We need to address the whole journey to the boardroom. Business leaders can and should do more to help instil women in business with the confidence and aspiration to aim for the boardroom and inspire the next generation before they leave school.

New union body will challenge executive pay and all-male boardrooms

Category : Business

Trade Union Share Owners group aims to use its share ownership to ‘inject a dose of reality’ into British boardrooms

Overpaid chief executives and all-male boardrooms will be challenged by a new grouping of influential shareholders controlled by the TUC, Unison and Unite unions.

The Trade Union Share Owners group, which controls £1bn worth of staff pension funds, will join forces to take action at the annual meetings of FTSE-listed companies, a year after the so-called shareholder spring saw a wave of meetings where investors voiced their anger at excessive pay.

The group will take common voting positions on directors’ pay and bonuses, the membership of boards and the advertising of new director posts.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK’s families might be struggling to cope with the biggest squeeze on their incomes in living memory, but that hasn’t discouraged top directors from awarding themselves austerity-busting pay and bonus packages worth millions.

“It’s time to inject a long-overdue dose of reality into British boardrooms and we are going to use the power of our pension funds to make a difference and to encourage a new and more responsible corporate Britain.”

A report last year by corporate governance expert Manifest and pay consultants MM&K revealed that FTSE 100 chief executives saw their take-home pay increase by 12%, while employees’ pay rose by just 1%.

Angry shareholders voted down various pay packets for some of the most highly paid executives in the country and triggered the resignation of Andrew Moss, chief executive of Aviva, Sly Bailey at Trinity Mirror and Astrazeneca boss David Brennan.

However, yesterday, the pharmaceutical giant revealed that it paid Brennan £120,000 in relocation costs after he stepped down and moved back to the US. Aviva said it will pay new chief executive Mark Wilson up to £200,000 in relocation costs to move from his previous base in Hong Kong to the UK.

All-male boardrooms have also caused politicians and campaigners to call for all FTSE companies to have at least 30% women on their boards.

The business secretary, Vince Cable, recently wrote to the seven FTSE 100 companies that still have all-male boards and the business select committee has been hearing evidence on how more women can enter the boardroom.

The general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, said: “Trade union values of decency and fairness ought to be present in the boardroom, but if we cannot trust that they will be, then we need to use our share ownership to influence corporations.”

Easyjet and LSE promoted to FTSE 100

Category : World News

No-frills airline Easyjet and the London Stock Exchange are promoted to the FTSE 100 index as part of the latest quarterly review.

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Stock markets surge as Dow closes at all-time high

Category : Business

Traders jubilant on both sides of Atlantic as service sector growth pushes London market above level last reached in 2008

Stock markets in New York and London climbed to new highs on Tuesday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to its highest closing level and the London market surpassed a level last reached five years ago.

Better-than-expected news from the service sector on both sides of the Atlantic and a resurgence in retail sales in the eurozone bolstered a rise in share values that dates back to last summer when central banks rallied in the aftermath of the eurozone’s near break-up.

The Dow closed at 14,254, passing its previous high of 14,164 in October 2007 erasing the index’s losses during the financial crisis even as Washington’s fights over its debts and Main Street seem far from mended.

Cheered by a strengthening of housing market values hit by the sub-prime property crisis and higher consumer confidence, the US remains hugely indebted and blighted by political stalemate in the capital.

The FTSE closed at 6,432, its highest level since January 2008, with analysts according much of the rise to the hopes of an upswing in global growth and higher commodity prices. The FTSE 100 index is skewed to companies that benefit from the sale of oil, copper and chemicals.

The Dow has not touched such high levels since before Barack Obama’s first election victory. Global stock markets went into freefall shortly after, as the implosion of housing market and Europe’s woes dragged the world into the worst financial crisis in living memory.

Massive issues remain, however. Unemployment, especially among the young, remains high, and in Washington politicians are still at loggerhead over America’s $16tn debt. Last Friday, the government started making $85bn of cuts – known as the sequester – in a move Obama and others predicted would cause widespread chaos and financial hardship. In Europe, US firms including GM and Ford are being hit by the region’s continuing economic crisis.

But these are old debates now – and Wall Street doesn’t seem to be worried.

The latest figures from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), released on Tuesday morning, showed positive growth in the service sector. The ISM index stood at 56 in February. Anything above 50 indicates growth, and the number was ahead of analysts’ forecasts. US markets were also buoyed by rallies in Europe and Asia. In London the FTSE closed up 86.32 points.

The Dow Jones index has now more than doubled since a low point in March 2009, stunning many market watchers and coming against a still lacklustre economic recovery. Corporate profits hit record highs last year, fuelled largely by cost cuts. Economists and market watchers said the Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying programme has fuelled the market but that beneath that there were concrete signs of improvement.

Signs in the eurozone that its slump has halted and 17 member club could start to claw its way back to growth also buoyed investors. Higher retail sales, while mostly in the northern half of the continent, gave some analysts confidence the situation is beginning to improve, notwithstanding uncertainty following the Italian elections and the worsening situation in Greece and Cyprus.

A mixed bag of recent surveys in the UK showing the manufacturing and construction sectors contracting while the services sector continues a five month growth spurt gave little clue as to the voting intentions of interest rate setters at the Bank of England, who meet on Thursday. They are expected to inject a further £25bn in to the economy, taking a signal from a slump in bank lending, that the financial system needs a further boost in funds.

Analysts Capital Economics said the UK economy is still flirting with a triple dip recession despite the positive news from the service sector.

“Granted, unusually bad weather reportedly knocked the manufacturing and construction sectors, so the economy may end the quarter on a stronger note,” it said.

“But a material improvement soon remains unlikely, given that the inflation squeeze on consumers is intensifying, overseas demand for exports is fading and another round of austerity begins in April.”

Gus Faucher, a senior economist for PNC Financial Services Group, said the political situation in Washington still mattered and warned that if the sequester drags on, the Dow’s gains could be at risk. “That said, the fundamentals are better. Profits are at an all-time high, business balance sheets have improved, interest rates are low. The markets are expecting more growth through 2013.”

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Bank, said investors fed up with low yields from the bond markets were looking for better returns in equities.

He warned that the Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying policy could drive more people into equities. “If you want to see a swift end to monetary easing, another 10-20% hike in the Dow will probably do that,” he said.

Minutes of the Fed’s last meeting revealed a split in the central bank’s rate setting committee. While the Federal Open Markets Committee’s members were still worried about unemployment, “many participants also expressed some concerns about potential costs and risks arising from further asset purchases”, according to the minutes.

Friday may prove the next test for the markets, and the Fed, when the latest nonfarm payroll figures are released. The US added 157,000 new jobs in January. Average job creation for 2012 was around 181,000, a number just above the benchmark economists calculate is enough for the unemployment rate to stabilise, but not fall.

America’s watchdogs scare Britain’s bad companies. The Financial Services Authority must learn to bite like them

Category : Business

While the British regulator’s warnings over ringfenced assets and money laundering go unheeded, US agencies have hit FTSE 100 companies with more than £6bn in fines

The FTSE 100 index looks to be ending the year with gains of about 7%, but it has been an annus horribilis for Britain’s top companies in America. And the catalogue of misdeeds for which the UK’s top firms have been brought to book makes for shocking reading.

Four FTSE 100 companies alone agreed to record fines and settlements with US civil and criminal authorities totalling $10.4bn, or £6.4bn, in 2012. That is the equivalent of 40% of the construction cost of Crossrail, and more than two-thirds of the £9bn ministers say was the taxpayer’s bill for the London Olympics.

The picture started to sour in June, when Barclays was forced to pay $360m to settle probes in the US into the manipulation of Libor. A month later, GlaxoSmithKline announced it had been fined $3bn by the Food and Drug Administration for a string of abuses, including selling antidepressants for unapproved uses on children and offering inappropriately lavish hospitality to doctors willing to promote the company’s medicines.

Then last month BP received a $4.5bn penalty for criminal damage and regulatory failings for its part in the fatal explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Finally, last week, it was the turn of HSBC, fined $1.9bn for a “blatant failure” to implement money-laundering controls and for flouting sanctions. These penalties echoed two settlements, also during 2012, totalling $667m agreed by Standard Chartered over breaches in sanction laws and other failings.

So can we now draw a line under all this and move on in 2013? Not likely. The market is already braced for Royal Bank of Scotland to be hit with a telephone-number-sized fine from the US regulator if, as expected, it too is found to have played a role in the alleged Libor-fixing scandal.

Meanwhile, we learned this month that the US authorities may even have Rolls-Royce – until now a paragon of good corporate citizenship – in its sights. American investigators are tracking early-stage inquiries by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged bribes paid by intermediaries for the aircraft engine manufacturer in Indonesia, China and elsewhere.

In many cases US investigators can, and do, co-operate with parallel agencies in Britain. But the contrast in outcomes is stark. When, for example, Barclays agreed a $200m civil penalty as well as a $160m US justice department settlement over Libor, the bank at the same time announced that a lesser deal in the UK would see it pay just £59.5m ($96m) to the Financial Services Authority.

For the FSA, this counted as a triumph – the largest fine it had ever imposed. But to many outside Canary Wharf, it still looked feeble by comparison with penalties elsewhere.

To be fair, the regulator has gone some way to toughening up its approach to financial sanctions, announcing guidelines two years ago which it promised “could see enforcement fines treble in size”. The first of these tougher tariffs was imposed last month on UBS, obliging it to pay £29.7m for a failure to limit or detect the activities of rogue trader Kweku Adoboli.

However, many signs still suggest that penalties at this level do not truly worry directors or shareholders at Britain’s largest businesses, and cannot be said to act as a deterrent. This year, the overall value of fines imposed by the FSA on companies found to have fallen short of required standards more than doubled – but have still only reached £140m.

The biggest repeat offender, with four fines totalling £70m in less than three years, was Barclays. And one can only hope the surprise recruitment of former FSA chief executive Hector Sants as its head of compliance can improve the bank’s track record here.

A hint at the alarming nonchalance shown by many firms in the face of FSA scrutiny came as the regulator – soon to evolve into part of the Financial Conduct Authority – sought to address several investment banks’ failure to properly ringfence billions of pounds of assets held for hedge fund clients.

This issue has become a top priority in recent years: the failures of Lehman Brothers and MF Global led to pandemonium as creditors and clients fought over assets. But even in the wake of such chaos, the response from several banks to entreaties from the FSA to get their houses in order was worryingly sluggish.

The same insouciance was on display when it came to the FSA’s anti-money-laundering initiatives last year. The regulator warned that many banks, large and small, were repeatedly ignoring the rulebook – though it refused to name and shame them.

“It is not a pretty picture,” said Tracey McDermott, then acting head of financial crime. “The banks are just not taking the rules seriously enough.” If only they had been listening. Or if only the FSA had shouted louder, and got tougher.

The music – and the profit – fades for HMV

When Band Aid released Do They Know it’s Christmas? in 1984, music fans dashed to Woolies, Our Price or HMV to get their hands on a copy. The song has been covered twice since, but it’s fair to say that, should there be a third act, purchasers are more likely to buy the song with one click on iTunes than trek to their local music store – if it still exists.

Indeed, the cause for which we need to rattle the tin is HMV itself, which is again in a precarious position after sales of CDs, DVDs and games slumped over the summer. On Thursday, new chief executive Trevor Moore, on his maiden outing for the retailer’s half-year results, dropped the bombshell that there were “material uncertainties facing the business” and that it was on course to breach banking covenants early in the new year.

Moore says he has ideas, but his options are limited: his predecessor, Simon Fox, sold almost everything HMV had, including bookseller Waterstones and the live music venues that were supposed to be the group’s saviour. The sell-off did not even put a dent in HMV’s debt pile which stands at £176m, compared with its lowly stock market value of around £10m.

A supplier-backed bailout brokered in January, which saw Universal Music, EMI, Warner Brothers and Disney accept a small equity stake in return for better commercial terms, was supposed to have put the retailer on a solid footing. The music moguls and film studios, whose profit margins are under siege from Amazon, need HMV to survive more than its battle-weary investors. But retailers are supposed to serve customers, and the latest data from HMV’s core markets suggests shoppers are buying its wares with less frequency. In the six months to the end of October, music and games sales by value were down by nearly a quarter; DVD sales slid 16%.

The people who hold the power at HMV – its banks and suppliers – have shown restraint in recent years, but with the coffers full after the Christmas trading peak they might decide it’s time to stop the music.

Davies inquiry may set FTSE 250 firms targets for level of women directors

Category : Business

Peer’s inquiry prepares to advise on female hiring rates as it notes 94 listed companies with all-male boardrooms

Lord Davies’s inquiry into male dominance in boardrooms is preparing to extend its remit by setting female hiring targets for companies outside the FTSE 100.

The former trade minister has asked his advisers to prepare research in preparation for recommending that FTSE 250 businesses should work towards a minimum level of female representation on their boards. The peer’s 2011 report only backed targets for the UK’s 100 largest public companies.

Prof Susan Vinnicombe, a member of the inquiry’s steering committee, said: “[Davies] has asked us what we do next. I have been tasked with looking at the figures. We are debating whether to set targets for FTSE 250 companies. It is quite possible [we will set a FTSE 250 target].”

The Davies report into women on boards recommended that FTSE 100 companies fill 25% of board roles with women by 2015. At the time of its publication female directors held 12.5% of board positions, but according to research by the Public Boards Forum the current figure is 17.3%.

However, the position for FTSE 250 companies is much worse, with women now filling 11.3% of board roles, compared with 7.8% when Davies reported. There are 94 FTSE 250 companies that have all-male boards, including Mitchells & Butlers, which runs restaurants and pubs such as Harvester and Toby Carvery, Mecca bingo owner Rank Group and comparison website

The news that Davies is planning to extend the scope of his campaign comes at a time of renewed focus on sexual discrimination within British business.

Vinnicombe appeared at a Women in Leadership debate in London on Wednesday hosted by the Chartered Management Institute, an event designed to tie in with the trade body’s annual pay survey, released that day. The CMI study revealed that female executives earn £400,000 less over their working lives than male colleagues with identical careers. It also showed how much more likely women are to lose their jobs, with twice as many female directors as male directors being made redundant (7.4% compared with 3.1%).

Meanwhile, there are various initiatives around the topic being made by politicians. Last month the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, Jo Swinson, proposed a shakeup of company annual reports to push firms into tackling gender imbalances by compelling them to report how many women they employ, from boardrooms down. In Europe, the European commissioner for justice and rights, Viviane Reding, has also renewed her push for mandatory quotas of female directors at listed companies, although her efforts have been resisted by many member states, including the UK, which prefer a voluntary code.

While UK campaigners can point to an improvement in the number of female directors since the publication of the Davies report, critics argue that the increase has mainly been attributable to the hiring of female non-executive directors. Furthermore, three out of the five female FTSE 100 chief executives – Dame Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, WH Smith’s Kate Swann and Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll – have recently said they intend to step down.