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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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How BP’s historic Deepwater Horizon fine will be paid by the US military | Richard Schiffman

Category : Business

The US justice department says its fine on BP is exemplary, but the oil giant makes more in profits from military contracts alone

An explosion Friday on a rig in the Gulf owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy has reportedly injured several workers, with four missing, two possibly killed. This latest incident – just a day after the US department of justice’s historic settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon disaster – highlights the risks of offshore oil-drilling, and the need for tougher regulations on one of America’s most hazardous industries.

British Petroleum has agreed to pay $4.5bn in damages to the US government, the largest criminal fine in US history. BP agreed that its corporate negligence had been a factor in causing the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a settlement negotiated with the US justice department, the company pled guilty on 14 counts, including manslaughter charges against two of its supervisors who had failed to act on problems revealed during earlier safety tests. In a separate indictment, BP’s former vice-president and incident commander for the disaster, David Rainey, pleaded guilty for lying to Congress and concealing documents about the rate and seriousness of the spill.

The explosion on the BP rig on 20 April 2010 killed 11 crewmen and created a fireball that was visible 35 miles from the scene. The explosion was sparked by a blowout on the floor of the ocean, which poured crude oil into the Gulf for the rest of that spring, and continued to leak more slowly during the summer until it was declared “effectively dead” five months later.

This was a disaster for the record books: the offshore exploratory well was the deepest drilling ever, plunging over 30,000 feet through ocean and seabed strata, and the spill was the largest in US history, spewing 206m gallons of oil – nearly 20 times what the Exxon Valdez had dumped into Prince William Sound in Alaska a decade earlier.

Speaking of the historic financial settlement with BP, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr told a news conference in New Orleans, Thursday:

“I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid.”

But Tyson Slocum, the director of the activist group Public Citizen’s “Energy Program”, characterized the settlement – which requires the payment over five years of just a fifth of the company’s 2011 profits – as “a pathetic slap on the wrist” for what he called “the largest corporate crime in US history”. Slocum told me that the company had already been placed on criminal probation by federal courts for two earlier incidents, including an oil refinery fire in Texas City, Texas that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others in 2005.

BP is the largest fuel supplier for the US department of defense, with contracts worth $2.2bn a year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Slocum points out that a convicted felon in the US is disqualified from receiving government contracts, yet BP, which he calls a convicted corporate felon, continues to receive more from the US military in yearly profits than it will be required to pay out in fine instalments over the next five years.

In a statement issued yesterday by Public Citizen, Slocum said:

“Any settlement must allow for full recovery of the Gulf Coast region and its communities; deter other companies from putting profits before safety; and involve the disclosure of all information gathered by the government, so the public has a complete understanding of the wrongdoing that killed workers and continues to wreak havoc on the environment.”

Other environmentalists reacted more positively to the BP settlement. Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that the record criminal penalties were “a good down-payment”. But he added that the company needs to pay billions more in civil damages under the Clean Water Act to help those whose health or livelihoods have been damaged by the spill and to continue restoration in effected habitats.

Under the Clean Water Act, fines could be as high as $4,300 for every barrel of oil spilled if the company is deemed to have been “grossly negligent” in the disaster. This could amount to $21bn in additional fines, according to the New York Times.

The true cost of the spill to the Gulf ecosystem and surrounding communities remains difficult to assess. Environmental scientists say that it will be a generation before we know the full impact of the disaster. But for those who have lost their lives or their livelihoods – and for the ecosystems like coastal marshes and fish spawning grounds that may never come back – the cost is already beyond recovery.

HSBC needs to tell all on money laundering | Nils Pratley

Category : Business

Some individuals have left – but HSBC won’t say how many; bonuses have been clawed back – but it won’t provide details

There goes another $800m (£500m). HSBC’s latest provision to settle money-laundering allegations takes the total to $1.5bn but there is still no end in sight. Chief executive Stuart Gulliver has warned that the eventual fines could be “higher, perhaps significantly higher.” A serious hit is coming.

There are good reasons for Gulliver to be fearful. First, he can’t be confident that HSBC’s pleas of contrition will yield any benefit. As he says, the various US authorities have “substantial discretion in deciding exactly how to resolve this matter”. What’s more, the bank could face corporate criminal charges.

Second, Standard Chartered forked out $340m for offences, relating to the reporting of Iran-related transactions, that look puny compared to what went on at HSBC. The Standard settlement was widely regarded as a shake-down led by a new-ish New York regulator trying to make a name for itself. But if $340m is the going rate for minor infringements in the US, what’s the score for an HSBC-style real deal? Five times as much, which is roughly where the provisions stand now? Ten times? More?

When a final tally is established we may reflect on what a soft ride the officer class at HSBC has received for this disgraceful chapter in the bank’s history. Remember the seriousness of the allegation: a Senate committee said HSBC “exposed the US financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering controls”. And remember that the period in question is more than half a decade – from 2004 to 2010.

Some individuals have left the bank as a result, says Gulliver, but he won’t say how many. Some bonuses have been clawed back but, again, he won’t provide details. Such shyness hardly meets the test of accountability that shareholders, who ultimately pay these fines, would expect.

For example, has Lord Green – chief executive from 2003 to 2006, then executive chairman to 2010 and now a government trade minister – been caught by the claw-back principle? Or is this a case of a bank admitting that mistakes were made but simultaneously maintaining that nobody in the boardroom could have been expected to do anything differently?

Gulliver’s efforts to improve HSBC’s culture appear sincere and forceful. But they would be improved by a fuller account of how the Mexican operation, in particular, fell so short of acceptable standards. Negotiations with US authorities currently make that demand difficult to meet. But when a settlement is finally reached, the bank should tell all. Sparing the blushes of former bosses shouldn’t enter the equation. A £1bn bill for bad behaviour deserves a fuller explanation than anything HSBC has offered to date.

Mitt Romney’s testimony in business partner’s divorce case released

Category : Business

Testimony in Staples co-founder Tom Stemberg’s acrimonious divorce case released by court after Boston Globe request

Appearing on behalf of a business partner in an acrimonious divorce case, Governor Mitt Romney testified that a key asset in the case was overpriced at the time, despite a huge spike in the stock less than two years later.

Romney testified that the valuation of Staples stock at $2.90 a share in September 1987 seemed “higher than what we thought was appropriate”. In April 1989 the stock sold for $19 a share in an initial public offering.

“We were obviously proved wrong ultimately, but the price we thought was high at that stage given the company’s performance,” Romney testified.

Romney’s testimony came during an appeal by Maureen Sullivan Stemberg of her divorce settlement with ex-husband Tom Stemberg, co-founder of Staples, the office supplies company. Sullivan Stemberg was granted 500,000 shares of stock in the settlement, which she then sold in parts.

Romney’s testimony came to light as a result of a request by the Boston Globe. The women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred assented to the request on behalf of Sullivan Stemberg. A lawyer for Tom Stemberg agreed to release the testimony if the Globe would give up its parallel request to lift a gag order on Sullivan Stemberg. The Globe agreed, prompting Allred to accuse the newspaper of a “double-cross”.

Sullivan Stemberg has been trying to air her side of the divorce for years, and is the subject of a film documentary produced by a Los Angeles-based company, David Corn reported yesterday in Mother Jones. The divorce has been described as extremely contentious.

Sullivan Stemberg is a commenter on the Huffington Post, where she has attacked Romney and praised President Obama.

It is unclear how much Sullivan Stemberg sold her Staples shares for. That number of shares would have been worth nearly $10m in the 27 April 1989 IPO. Today Staples has a $7.76bn market capitalization.

In her appeal, Sullivan Stemberg argued that her ex-husband’s fortune had actually been much larger than it appeared to be during the divorce case, and that she had been short-changed in the settlement. Romney, who testified in 1991, said in effect that the settlement squared with his best judgment of Staples’ value at the time.

Sullivan Stemberg fought the settlement for a decade before ultimately losing in 1994, when a judge ruled it “fair and reasonable”.

Bain Capital invested in Staples in multiple rounds, designated by letters. In round A Bain bought shares for $.80, and in round B for $2.10, Romney testified. In round C, with shares at $2.90, Bain left some Staples stock on the table, he said. “My personal assessment and that of my partners was that the risk that we would not achieve the plan was high enough that we should not subscribe to our full amount,” Romney testified.

Bain did buy some round C shares, Romney said. “Although we did not invest as much as we could have invested, we invested to show the other investors we were inviting in at that time that we backed the company and continued to,” he testified.

Staples was already one of the largest investments of the nascent Bain Capital at the time of the stock offer.

A lawyer for Romney, Robert Jones, attended the hearings this week in Norfolk Probate and Family Court in Canton, Massachusetts. He did not seek to block the release of Romney’s testimony.

“These tabloid charges being shopped by Gloria Allred, one of President Obama’s most prominent supporters, are absolutely false,” Jones told Time in a statement. “Every time a court has reviewed the allegations of her client over the last 24 years, they have been rejected. There is no new information here.”

Bain Capital, which Romney co-founded in 1984, put $850,000 in Staples in 1986, and eventually grew that stake to $2.5m. It was one of Bain’s first and best investments, reportedly netting $13m. Stemberg was a year ahead of Romney in Harvard University’s MBA program. In August, Stemberg spoke at the Republican National Convention about how Romney “helped make [Staples] come alive”.

“The truth is, Mitt was not a typical investor,” Stemberg said. “He was a true partner.”

Complete Financial Solutions, Inc. (CFSU: OTC Link) | Complete Financial Solutions Inc./Acceptance Capital Mortgage Announces new Partnership

Category : Stocks

Acceptance Capital Mortgage Corporation, a subsidiary of Complete Financial Solutions Inc. (trading symbol CFSU) announces a new partnership with Advocates for American Homeowners (AAH).

Advocates for American Homeowners (AAH) has developed a best practices contingency based Principal Reduction Settlement Non-HAMP process to help Underwater Homeowners keep their homes.

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Now that Verizon has joined AT&T and Dish Network in giving TiVo (TIVO) a hefty patent payoff, the odds of the company’s remaining legal adversaries – set-top box giants Motorola Mobility and Cisco, along with Time Warner Cable – winning favorable…

Category : World News

Now that Verizon has joined AT&T and Dish Network in giving TiVo (TIVO) a hefty patent payoff, the odds of the company’s remaining legal adversaries – set-top box giants Motorola Mobility and Cisco, along with Time Warner Cable – winning favorable rulings are pretty slim, argues Janney’s Tony Wible. Wible considers the settlement odds for these cases to be lower due to their higher stakes (a combined 2B), but thinks TiVo’s IP could make it an M&A target. Post your comment!

Originally posted here: Now that Verizon has joined AT&T and Dish Network in giving TiVo (TIVO) a hefty patent payoff, the odds of the company’s remaining legal adversaries – set-top box giants Motorola Mobility and Cisco, along with Time Warner Cable – winning favorable…

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SEC slaps NYSE for ‘improper’ exchange of market info

Category : Business

Securities and Exchange Commission reaches $5 million settlement agreement with New York Stock Exchange and Euronext.

Read more here: SEC slaps NYSE for ‘improper’ exchange of market info

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Deutsche Bank among those investigated for Iran-linked business

Category : Business

Several global banks are facing scrutiny from New York and federal regulators for alleged business with sanctioned Iran

US prosecutors are investigating Deutsche Bank and several other global banks over business linked to Iran, Sudan and other nations currently under international sanctions, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The US justice department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office are investigating the banks for allegedly using US branches to move billions of dollars in Iran-linked transactions, according to the report, citing unnamed law enforcement officials.

The investigation into Deutsche Bank is at an early stage and so far there is no suspicion the Germany-based institution moved money on behalf of Iranian clients through American operations after 2008, when a policy loophole allowing such maneuvering closed, the Times reported.

Deutsche Bank decided in 2007 it would “not engage in new business with counterparties in countries such as Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea and to exit existing business to the extent legally possible,” a spokesman told Reuters on Saturday. He declined to comment further.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office and US justice department declined to comment. The US Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report of the Deutsche Bank probe came days after a settlement for $340m with New York’s banking regulator and Britain’s Standard Chartered Plc. The Manhattan district attorney and federal authorities have not yet settled their probes of the bank.

That deal with New York Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky was done without agreement with the Manhattan district attorney’s office and federal authorities.

Reuters has learned that Lawsky ignored the entreaties of federal regulators to drop his own action in favor of a single, global settlement. Although winning a larger settlement than many thought possible, others say Lawsky’s tactics have alienated federal officials and could make it tougher for him to partner with them on future cases.

Since 2009 the Manhattan district attorney, treasury department, justice department and other agencies have entered into settlements with a handful of foreign banks including Credit Suisse, Lloyds and most recently ING, totaling roughly $1.8 billion.

Authorities have said in the past that other foreign banks are under investigation.

The Marikana action is a strike by the poor against the state and the haves | Justice Malala

Category : Business

The shooting at Lonmin’s Marikana mine exposes weaknesses at the heart of South African society

The story of the London-listed Lonmin’s

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Letters: The EU, Israel and occupied territories

Category : Business

It is wholly inappropriate that the EU should be announcing a strengthening of economic ties with Israel at a time when that country is expanding its illegal settlements in the West Bank and carrying out evictions and demolitions of Palestinian property (EU move to upgrade relations with Israel, 23 July).

The announcement of 60 new areas of co-operation is in stark contrast with EU rhetoric against Israeli settlement policy. It also clashes with the EU’s stated policy of linking enhancement of relations with neighbouring countries to respect for democratic principles and human rights. The quote from an Israeli official at the end of your piece perfectly sums up what the Europeans try to deny: “Both parties are finding ways to increase co-operation when it suits them.”

Christian Aid believes that illegal settlements will continue to expand unless action, such as excluding settlement trade from EU markets, is taken that backs statements of condemnation from the EU. Any consolidation or strengthening of ties should be conditional upon an end to settlement expansion.
William Bell
Policy and advocacy officer, Christian Aid

• I was outraged to read your article. The commission-proposed protocol to the Euro-Med Agreement with Israel would give Israel easier access to the EU market for exporting pharmaceutical products. Before the vote in the international trade committee, of which I am a member, the parliament asked the commission for guarantees that products from the occupied territories would not benefit from this scheme, and Labour MEPs warned the commission that any upgrade to trade relations with Israel is unacceptable while Israel continues to flout international law.

While many parliamentary groupings considered this a “technical upgrade”, it is not; it is a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel and incompatible with international law and recent European parliament declarations denouncing the

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Across Europe, nations are turning in on themselves | Karel Williams

Category : Business

Within countries, local nationalisms are taking hold, with richer regions demanding to pay less to their poorer neighbours

On the surface, the eurozone crisis appears to be all about the fallout between national governments. It is creditor v debtor, north v south. At the last EU summit, the standoff between Germany and Spain seemed to epitomise that divide.

But there is another, under-reported story here. It’s less about nation states than about regions within European countries being pulled apart through internal north-south conflicts. In Italy, prime minister Mario Monti has talked up his “grave concerns” about the default of Sicily, which the Fitch ratings agency believes is not “imminent”. Monti’s statement is part of an internal political attack on regional spending and the size of the government payroll in the mezzogiorno, the Italian south.

There are already growing regional wealth disparities within all the high-income countries of Europe. Now they are being driven apart further by the new problem of declining ex-industrial regions, such as the West Midlands in the UK or Walloon Belgium. Some countries are still struggling with the old problem of their laggard agricultural regions, such as Puglia or indeed Sicily in Italy.

Research shows that, on some measures, the internal inequalities are greater in northern countries such as the UK than in southern countries such as Italy. If one looks at GDP per head for the most affluent region with more than 10% of the population (London, including outer London, in the UK, and Lombardia, including Milan, in Italy), the top to bottom inequality is worse in the UK. In Italy the poorest regions, such as Calabria and Campania, have half the income of top regions, while UK regions such as Merseyside or south Yorkshire, do relatively worse. And 63% of the Italian population attain the mean national GDP or better, compared with 32% in the UK. These inequalities are growing, despite substantial internal transfers, and are driving the rise of a new regional nationalism all over Europe.

Countries in Europe have always been unhappy in their own way. What’s new is that it is no longer the poorer regions who ask for more, but the richer regions who demand to pay less. This “can pay, but won’t pay” politics was invented in two wealthy regions, Padania in northern Italy, and Flanders in Belgium. Insurgent populist parties Lega Nord in Italy and Vlaams Belang in Belgium mix regional identity politics with electoral opportunism. But their economic agenda is consistently against metropolitan political elites, and against redistributive tax policies.

As austerity bites, internal distributive conflicts are now spilling over into mainstream politics, especially in federal countries such as Spain, where 17 regional governments manage schools and hospitals and account for more than half of public expenditure. In January this year the centre-right Spanish government made an €8bn advance so that the regional governments could carry on paying their bills; by April, prime minister Mariano Rajoy was threatening to seize budgetary control of recalcitrant regions that were now being told to halve their deficits.

There are echoes of this tension even in Germany, where the regionally based centre-right Christian Social Union party (CSU) in affluent Bavaria is learning the new rhetoric. German politics is about coalitions and consensus, which has encouraged external scapegoating of the Greeks. That same tendency has, in the past, discouraged any questioning of internal distribution to the formerly communist east: an issue that is now being raised noisily by the leader of the CSU, who challenges the legality of internal “solidarity transfers” that supposedly cost Bavaria €7bn a year.

Britain looks out of step with the trend towards regional nationalism. But that may only be because our own populist right (UKIP and the Tory back benches) is fixated on repatriating powers from Brussels, while coalition expenditure cuts are already stripping out public employment and welfare benefits and thereby undermining New Labour’s de facto regional policy. But if the Treasury presses for another £10bn in welfare cuts, how long will it be before an ambitious Tory populist, maybe someone like Boris Johnson, starts to make speeches about feckless Geordies?

The emerging pattern of the new regional nationalism is profoundly depressing if we set it in a broad historical perspective. Right across western Europe, one postwar legacy of the economically catastrophic 1930s was a reinvention of the nation through social settlements, underpinned by new policies of economic management, regional aid and social welfare (which in the UK meant Keynes plus Barlow plus Beveridge).

Now what remains of those settlements is being attacked by a new regional nationalism of the privileged, often in alliance with the central state. We must begin to understand that governments are not just sites where regional problems are solved, but also where they can be created or aggravated from the centre.

This then sets the nationalism of peripheral regions in a new context where again the UK has been slow to catch up with emerging realities. The old framing of the issue is about whether any peripheral region has the cultural identity and economic strength to benefit by cutting loose; and in the UK that makes regional government and devolution mainly a Scottish issue, divisively tied to the electoral fortunes of a nationalist party.

But the aggressive final dismantling of the postwar settlement in the UK (and elsewhere) reframes the issue. It should put regional nationalism on to a new agenda about defensive options for all centre-left parties in the economically weaker regions. The Scots will rehearse old arguments in their upcoming referendum, but it is time for a new argument from Wales, Northern Ireland and English regions such as the north-east and the West Midlands.