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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to http://pennystockpaycheck.com 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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DDD Group Plc. (DDDGY: OTCQX International) | Total Voting Rights & Officer Shareholding

Category : Stocks, World News

For the purposes of Disclosure and Transparency Rules, following the Option Exercises throughout April, the Company’s total issued and admitted share capital is 136,443,812 Ordinary Shares. There are no Ordinary Shares held in treasury. The total number of voting rights in the Company will therefore be 136,443,812.

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Luxembourg ‘considers’ open banking

Category : Business

Luxembourg would consider greater transparency of its banking sector to help curb tax evasion, the finance minister tells a German newspaper.

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It’s time civil servants were open about energy lobbying | Leo Hickman

Category : Business

The public deserves to know about the meetings between lobbyists and senior civil servants

Last November I wrote a news story about how a register of meetings released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) under freedom of information legislation had exposed the extent to which senior civil servants had been wined and dined by nuclear industry lobbyists.

The register was revealing on two levels: first, it showed how there had been dozens of meetings since Decc’s Office for Nuclear Development (OND) had been formed in 2009; second, it showed just how lavish the hospitality offered by the lobbyists had been with meetings regularly taking place at some of London’s most luxurious restaurants and hotels.

Craig Bennett, the director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth, remarked at the time: “What the taxpayer should be asking is whether this succession of lavish hospitality has resulted in lavish subsidies for nuclear.”

There was, unsurprisingly, a strong reaction from readers to the story. But some, rightly, asked me via the comments or Twitter if comparable registers of meetings were available for the senior civil servants working with other sectors such as oil and gas (known as the “Energy Development Unit“), and renewables (“Office for Renewable Energy Deployment“).

It has taken more than two months to get hold of them, via a freedom of information request, but they are now in my possession.

What they reveal is that lobbyists from the renewables sector and oil and gas sector do indeed have meetings with senior civil servants at Decc – as you might expect – but that the nuclear lobbyists are in a different league when it comes to the lavishness and frequency of meetings.

Here is Decc’s note of explanation I received alongside the registers:

Decc have defined hospitality as including the acceptance of meals and drinks, provided by external organisations at events. The definition does not include, however, minor refreshments or sandwich lunches at such events.
Tables of relevant entries from the hospitality registers are attached at Annex 1 and Annex 2. The latter schedule relates to a retiree from the Energy Development Unit. Job titles for the individuals and additional notes under the column titled ‘purpose’ have been added as necessary to help put the information into context.
Please note that the expenses of and hospitality received by Senior Civil Servants at Director General level and above
are published at https://update.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/business-expenses-senior-officials in accordance with Cabinet Office guidance.

And here are the registers so you can peruse them yourselves…

Annex 1
Annex 2
OND Register (released last November)

My own view of lobbyists is that they are not a “bad” influence, per se, as some view them. Governments need to hear a wide range of views when formulating, then implementing, new policies, including the views of vested interests. But I do think full transparency is required if we are ever to trust this process. There have been too many scandals involving lobbyists working in the shadows to allow the status quo to continue. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this is never truer than with the influence of lobbyists.

Why aren’t these hospitality registers published on ministry websites as a matter of routine, as is now the case with ministerial “meetings with external organisations“? (For example, such lists allowed me to ascertain last July that ministers at the Treasury have held meetings with representatives from energy-intensive sectors seven times more often than with green sector representatives.)

As a general rule, lobbyists want to meet with ministers when policies are being formulated. But when it moves on to policy implementation, lobbyists would rather get the ear of the senior civil servants charged with this particular task. The public deserves full transparency across both these policy stages. In fact, we deserve to know about every point of contact between ministers and civil servants and “external organisations”, as was illustrated by the revelation last August – again, extracted via freedom of information legislation – that Shell was laying on “training courses” for senior civil servants.

Furthermore, these lists need to be maintained across departments using a standardised format. For example, with the OND list released last November we got to know the precise venue of each meeting. That a meeting took place over a one-to-one dinner at the five-star Berkeley hotel in London possibly holds a different significance to one that took place at a chance meeting at an annual awards event.

But such detail is missing from the lists I have just obtained related to the renewables and oil/gas sectors. (I have asked for it to be supplied and will update this article later if I secure it.) And why has hospitality that entailed “minor refreshments or sandwich lunches” at events provided by outside groups been omitted from the register? To achieve full transparency and accountability, we need to know about all meetings with lobbyists and outside groups, regardless of whether the civil servant was served a Chateaubriand steak and a bottle of the finest Pomerol, or just a limp cucumber sandwich and a glass of tap water.

The need-to-know information is that a meeting and a conversation took place. We also need to know the Who, When, Where and Why. Even greater transparency would be achieved if the register actually included meaningful detail about what precisely was discussed. At the moment, the best we seem to get are bland declarations that the purpose of the meeting was “to discuss energy related matters”. You don’t say…

Finally, here are just a couple of my own observations from the newly released registers. First, it seems that the interaction between senior civil servants and the renewables industry – and to a lesser extent, the oil/gas industries – largely took place at awards events. This contrasts with the nuclear lobbyists who prefer, it seems, to meet with senior civil servants in the more intimate, luxurious surroundings of a fancy restaurant. I know not why.

Second, the hospitality enjoyed by Ian McKenzie, head of coal liabilities at the Energy Development Unit, particularly caught my eye. He had five meetings with the law firm Nabarro. The two meetings last year were to, firstly, “mark the conclusion of the COPD Compensation Scheme”, and then, four months later, to “discuss forward programme of work”.

COPD stands for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” and the compensation scheme referred to was set up to deal with the claims of 760,000 miners who have suffered from the condition. But the scheme has been been dogged by reports of law firms “exploiting” the scheme. As one legal journalist put it last year, “the exploitation [of the scheme] by a few solicitors…has been arguably the profession’s darkest hour”.

“Exploitation” is a particular allegation and a separate debate, but it is certainly true that some law firms have earned millions from the scheme. As my colleague Damian Carrington wrote in 2010:

The legacy of ill health suffered by British Coal miners is also costing taxpayers millions. Since May, DECC has paid £7.3m to legal firms fighting compensation claims from miners. Nabarro alone received £3m.

Readers can judge how appropriate it was for McKenzie to be enjoying “drinks and canapés” with Nabarro to mark the end of the scheme and then a few month later to be meeting with them again – this time for “lunch” – to “discuss a forward programme of work”.

But the wider and more important point is at least we now know those meetings took place. Now we need government departments to publish this information as a matter of routine, rather than force people to use freedom of information legislation to extract it from them.

DDD Group Plc. (DDDGY: OTC Link) | Director’s Dealing

Category : World News

DDD Group plc (AIM: DDD; OTCQX: DDDGY), the 3D solutions company, confirms that the previously announced exercise request of Dr. Sanji Arisawa was completed effective 27 December 2012. Dr. Arisawa exercised options over 200,000 ordinary shares of 1p each in the Company (the “Ordinary Shares”) at an exercise price of 10p per share (together the “Option Exercise”). Following the Option Exercise, Dr. Arisawa’s interest in the Company stands at 1,889,200 Ordinary Shares or approximately 1.4% of the issued ordinary share capital and total voting rights in the Company. Dr. Arisawa is the Chairman of Arisawa Manufacturing Corporation Ltd. which currently owns 29,856,123 Ordinary Shares or 22.1% of the issued ordinary share capital and total voting rights.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

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Merged BAE-EADS could be too big to prosecute, anti-corruption group warns

Category : Business

Company should set up independent board if £30bn deal goes ahead, says Transparency International director

A merger of BAE Systems and EADS could produce an arms company so big it would operate beyond the reach of the law, the author of a report on corruption in the defence industry has warned.

“This will be a huge defence company in Europe and there will be a concern that it will be above prosecution, almost like the banks,” said Mark Pyman, director of the defence and security programme at Transparency International UK.

He said that if the planned £30bn merger went ahead, the company should set up an independent board to ensure it did not indulge in bribery and corruption.

The warning adds another potential obstacle to the deal, which has already run into political headwinds as governments from Berlin to Washington argue about how and where the new company would be run.

The British, German and French governments all have stakes in the companies’ merger and the US administration is the biggest customer of BAE.

Pyman was speaking prior to the launch of an unprecedented study looking at defence companies around the world and their attitudes towards corruption.

Transparency International’s first anti-corruption index shows that British and US firms have responded to past scandals by adopting a much more rigorous approach towards corruption than continental European firms, including EADS. There were significant differences between BAE and EADS in their approaches to transparency and disclosure, Pyman said.

BAE came up at the top of band B in the index, while EADS only made band C. Neither EADS nor any French defence company agreed to supply internal company information to the compilers of the study, even on a confidential basis.

“If the merger goes ahead it is really important that the combined companies have anti-corruption systems at least equal to BAE’s, and which really should be in band A,” Pyman said.

He spoke of BAE’s slush fund for secret payments to Saudi dignitaries in a contract initiated in the 1980s (which was exposed by the Guardian), the payments to foreign governments by the US company Lockheed Martin in the 1970s, and the 2003 bribery scandal involving Boeing employees over a contract for a new US air force tanker aircraft. “It is clear that scandals have had an immense effect on changing a company’s behaviour.”

The TI study concludes that two-thirds of the world’s biggest defence firms do not provide enough public evidence on how they fight corruption. It states: “Defence corruption threatens everyone – taxpayers, soldiers, governments, companies. With huge contracts and high secrecy in the defence sector there are numerous opportunities to hide corruption away from public scrutiny.

“A company website is the best place for a company to tell the world exactly how it fights corruption.”

Pyman said: “Corruption in defence is dangerous, divisive, wasteful. The cost is paid by everyone. Governments and taxpayers do not get value for their money and clean companies lose business to corrupt [ones]. Money wasted on defence corruption could be better spent.”

Lord Robertson, a former Nato secretary general, said: “Companies must have a reputation for zero tolerance to corruption

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Arms firms ‘poor on corruption’

Category : Business

Defence firms are not providing enough public evidence about how they fight corruption, pressure group Transparency International says.

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New index ranks defence firms by their anti-corruption measures

Category : Business

Transparency International UK has assessed anti-corruption measures at defence companies. US firm Fluor Corporation ranked as the best performer, while 29 corporations scored zero
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Transparency International UK’s global corruption index 2011
More data journalism and data visualisations from the Guardian

29 defence firms scored zero for anti-corruption measures in the 2012 edition of Transparency International UK‘s Defence Companies Anti-Corruption Index.

Half of the 129 companies assessed scored zero for measures relating to risk management, with almost as many showing a severe vulnerability to corruption in their training practices.

Firms were rated in 34 categories, with two scores awarded for each – one based on publicly available information and another on self-reported details.

Fluor Corporation scored highest overall, placing first based on public information and third for self-reported responses to a questionnaire.

The Texas-based firm scored 85% and 93% respectively in the two fields, making it the only company to twice fall in ‘band A’, which denotes ‘extensive’ anti-corruption measures.

British defence giants BAE Systems, whose planned £30bn merger with Dutch firm EADS remains under discussion, were fourth out of 129 for public information and 17th of the 34 providing responses to the Transparency International UK questionnaire.

In addition to the 29 firms scoring zero based on public information, 55 received less than half marks, meaning two thirds of those assessed were judged to have either limited or zero anti-corruption measures in place.

Six of the zero-rated firms are Russian, with three each based in Pakistan and China. Of the ten highest-scoring firms for public information, four are based in the US and three in the UK.

German company ThyssenKrupp AG scored highest based on responses to the questionnaire, while seven of the top ten have headquarters in the US.

No company scored lower than 50% for self-reported information, but German firm Diehl Stiftung & Co. KG fared worst, with its score of 53% placing it in ‘band C’, indicating ‘moderate’ anti-corruption measures.

Scores were awarded across five sections in each of the two broader areas, with marks awarded for evidence of anti-corruption in leadership, personnel, policies, training and risk management.

Each of the two overall scores was calculated as an aggregate of marks across the five sub-categories.

The full lists of companies ranked according to public information and to self-reported details are shown in the interactive graphic below. Switch between tabs to view the different rankings, and click a company to to view a breakdown of its sub-scores.

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Omega Becomes a Member of OTC Markets

Category : World News

“That Promotes Transparency for the Capital Markets”

View original post here: Omega Becomes a Member of OTC Markets

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Biofuel fails EU sustainability test, German researchers claim

Category : Business

Study says EU-grown rapeseed biodiesel falls under 35% marker, adding weight to calls to end food biofuels

The growing row over biofuels is ready to flare up again with German researchers claiming to have found evidence that European-produced biodiesel does not meet the sustainability targets claimed by Brussels.

Two experts at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena say eight out of their 10 tests on locally produced rapeseed biodiesel failed to show the 35% greenhouse gas savings promised. In most cases it was under 30%. The use of biofuels would be further undermined when the EU emissions target increases, as planned, to 50% in five years’ time.

Gernot Pehnelt and Christoph Vietze also claim their work has been undermined by a lack of co-operation from the European Union which they believe is on the defensive over championing local energy crops.

“Our results indicate that the ‘sustainability’ of rapeseed biodiesel in the interpretation of the [EU's] renewable energy directive is at best questionable and in most scenarios simply unjustifiable,” said Pehnelt. “What we need is transparency. The European commission hesitates to publish all the background data and promises to come up with new calculations for individual biofuels but they have not come up with any values yet.”

Biofuels are accused by the UN and others of pushing up world food prices, and exacerbating the effect of the most severe drought in the US in half a century. US legislators called on the environmental protection agency this month to waive its ethanol mandate that stipulates 40% of the American corn crop is turned into biodiesel. The US department of agriculture said the corn yield would be the lowest for 17 years, raising grain prices as it means there will be more demand for wheat to be used as animal feed.

José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at the United Nations, said he wanted to see a halt in US government-backed production of corn-based ethanol, which is mixed with petrol to make “greener” fuel, amid fears the world is heading for another food crisis like the one in 2008 that triggered riots.

The EU’s lack of transparency on biofuels has already been challenged by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Client Earth, and the German academics say their problems play into the hands of those who believe that Brussels is deliberately overstating the benefits of local rapeseed for political reasons.

Germany, France and Italy are the EU’s biggest producers of rapeseed oil, and are also home to a car manufacturing industry that actively supports the use of biodiesel for reducing carbon emissions.

Europe’s renewable energy directive, introduced three years ago, demands that greenhouse gas emissions from production and use of biofuels for transport must be at least 35% lower than those from fossil fuels. In 2017 that marker is meant to rise to 50%.

Plans drawn up by EU member states predict that bio-energy, including biomass for power generation and biofuel for transport, will provide more than 50% of the EU share of renewable energy as part of 2020 climate goals.

Use of biodiesel is expected to double by 2020 to 19.95m tonnes of oil equivalent from around 10m tonnes in 2010.

Brussels faces a big challenge coming up with the investment and technology needed to move to a new feedstock for biodiesel, such as weeds and waste stems that would take the pressure off grain supplies for food.

The EU also needs to find inputs that would no longer result in the clearing of environmentally sensitive forests and wetlands to plant fuel crops, an issue known as indirect land use change.

The finds of the two German academics have received the support of Fausto Freire, who conducts research on biofuels at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. He told Nature magazine that there are “huge uncertainties” associated with the greenhouse-gas emissions of biodiesel but another academic, Gerhard Brankatschk at Technische Universität Berlin, believed the east German study had “severe shortcomings”.

Nestlé: End biofuels now”

The chairman of the world’s biggest food group Nestlé, Peter Brabeck, has called on politicians to lobby to end the use of food in the production of biofuels.

“This does not mean that biofuel should be scrapped entirely but that producers should use other organic materials,” Brabeck told the Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

He joins a growing chorus of politicians and scientists calling for a rethink in biofuel production.

“Our problem is that almost half of US corn production and 60% of European rape is being used for fuel production,” he said.

Biofuel production is adding pressure on food prices which are already being boosted by climate change.

“[Food] prices are increasingly prone to swings and correlate more and more with oil prices,” he said.

He also called for more transparency in international commodities markets.

BG Group Plc (BRGYY: OTC Link) | Voting Rights and Share Capital

Category : Stocks, World News

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