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Can you Trust big business? March review 2013


Despite all the Irregularities listed below nobody has yet been sent to prison.

To put this in perspective almost 200 people were jailed in Ireland for not paying court fines relating to TV licences last year.

One rule for the rich and another for the poor

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‘Bankers should be technicians and functionaries who serve the public and provide guaranteed stability. They should not be entrepreneurs, gamblers, who can count on public bailouts if their speculations turn to dust.’ 

The Guardian, Friday 1 March 2013

One of London’s most successful hedge fund managers, Patrick Degorce, has been forced to part with millions of pounds in tax after Revenue and Customs persuaded the courts to throw out a complex film

RTE – 1st  March

Seán FitzPatrick facing 12 charges over financial irregularities. Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman and chief executive Seán FitzPatrick has been sent forward for trial on 12 charges in connection with alleged financial irregularities at the bank. He is accused of making false, misleading or deceptive statements in relation to millions of euro to the company’s auditors, Ernst and Young, over a six-year period. The amounts on the charges are €5.1m in 2002; €14m in 2003; €23m in 2004; €42.1m in 2005; €60.9m in 2006 and €139.8m in 2007.

Telegraph Saturday 02 March 2013

 

Ernst & Young to pay $123m to settle US tax shelter probe Ernst & Young has agreed to pay $123m to resolve a US federal investigation into its role developing and marketing tax shelters that helped its clients avoid more than $2bn in tax liabilities. As part of the settlement, announced by the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office, the accounting firm also entered into a non-prosecution agreement and admitted to the wrongful conduct of certain partners and employees. The settlement amount reflects the gross fees Ernst & Young earned developing and marketing four tax shelter products from 1999 to 2004, according to the nonprosecution agreement.

Telegraph Saturday 02 March 2013

Commodity giant Glencore under spotlight over Iran Glencore, the FTSE 100 commodity giant, supplied tonnes of raw material to an Iranian firm that supplied the country’s nuclear programme, it emerged. A Western intelligence report seen by Reuters described Glencore’s barter deal as a good way for Tehran to get around global financial restrictions imposed over its nuclear activities, although it did not say that Glencore violated sanctions.

March 2, 2013  Reuters

Las Vegas Sands says “likely” violated U.S. corruption act March 2, 2013 4:39 PM ET Reuters) – Las Vegas Sands Corp said it “likely” violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which outlaws the bribery of foreign officials, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday. The filing marks the first disclosure by the casino operator, controlled by founder and billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, that is was under investigation.

Independant Thursday 5th March 2013

IBRC suing two Dubai firms in Quinn case TWO related companies based in Dubai are being sued by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) over their alleged involvement in an asset-stripping scheme by family members of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn. In the commercial court yesterday Judge Peter Kelly granted an application by IBRC to join Senat Legal and Senat FZC, both of Gold and Diamond Park, Dubai, and Michael Waechter, principal of Senat FZC, as co-defendants to the bank’s action against various members of the Quinn family. The judge noted IBRC special liquidator Kieran Wallace claimed the Senat parties played “a pivotal role” in the scheme to strip assets worth up to $500m from the Quinn family’s International Property Group (IPG). It is alleged the scheme was “masterminded by one or all” of the three, the judge said.

 

Irish Times Thursday, March 7, 2013

Microsoft fined €561m for limiting browser choice Shares in Microsoft dropped yesterday after the European Commission imposed a €561 million fine on the company for failing to implement a previous ruling obliging it to offer users a choice of internet browsers. It is the first time the commission has been forced to fine a company for non-compliance with agreed commitments. In 2009 a European antitrust investigation found that Microsoft was unfairly tying its internet Explorer browser to its Windows operating system, and ruled that the company must give users a choice of which internet browsers to use.

 

The Telegraph 8th Mar 2013

Pensioners being ‘ripped off’ by profit margins on annuities Retiring workers are being “ripped off” by financial companies making huge profit margins on annuities, campaigners have warned. A Telegraph investigation has raised concerns about the profits that insurance companies and other firms are making on annuities. Only one annuities provider, Standard Life, has disclosed its margins on annuities, revealing that it pockets almost 20p of every pound a customer pays for an annuity. Other firms refuse to reveal their margins, and experts warn that the industry is concealing large profits. Ros Altmann, a pensions campaigner, said: “These huge margins are outrageous.”

The Guardian, Monday 11 March 2013

All bets are off as online gambling group Intrade launches investigation

Irish company announces it is looking into possible ‘financial irregularities’ and has ‘immediately ceased’ its trading activity Online gambling group Intrade has ceased taking bets after launching an investigation into potential “financial irregularities”.

 

 

Irish TIMES 14 MARCH 2013

THE son of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn has provided statements of Russian bank accounts held by himself and other family members to Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) and is anxious to finally purge his contempt of court orders, the High Court heard today.

The Guardian, Friday 15 March 2013

US hedge fund SAC pays record fine to settle insider trading allegations SAC Capital, a hedge fund run by billionaire Steve Cohen, is to pay $600m (£397m), the biggest insider dealing fine in history

The Guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 March 2013

JP Morgan faced a barrage of criticism on Friday for it disastrous “London whale” trading loss as senators and the bank’s regulator accused its executives of believing they were too big to fail, ignoring warnings about the escalating losses and deliberately withholding information. At a hearing a day after it published a damning 300-page report on JP Morgan’s $6.2bn debacle, the Senate subcommittee on investigations hammered bank executives over the affair, while regulators flatly denied JP Morgan’s claims that it had kept them informed about the mounting losses.

The TELEGRAPH  19 Mar 2013

French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac resigns after tax fraud probe 

Cahuzac, a cabinet heavyweight, had been tasked with fighting tax evasion. He is now under investigation for holding a secret Swiss bank account. The resignation is an embarrassment and a blow to President François Hollande as his government seeks to redraft deficit reduction plans to maintain fiscal credibility with France’s euro zone partners. Mr Cahuzac was responsible for making drastic government spending cuts. He had repeatedly dismissed as “crazy” a report in December by French investigative news website Mediapart that he held an undisclosed account at the Swiss bank UBS until the start of 2010. “I have never had an account in Switzerland or any other place abroad,” he said at the time.

 RTE  Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Representatives of the special liquidator of IBRC served papers on three former directors of Irish Nationwide last night. It is understood the legal action relates to their stewardship of the building society. Papers were served on former directors Terence Cooney and Stan Purcell, and former chairman Michael Walsh. It is understood that it is intended that papers will be served on former managing director Michael Fingleton and another former director David Brophy.

RTE 27TH March

Britain’s financial services regulator has fined insurer Prudential £30m and censured its chief executive over its handling of a failed bid to acquire rival AIA in 2010. The UK’s Financial Services Authority fine concerned Prudential’s plans to acquire AIA, the Asian subsidiary of AIG. The bid eventually collapsed after both parties failed to agree on a price. The FSA said Prudential did not inform it of the deal – even though they held a detailed meeting only weeks before news of the deal emerged. The FSA also censured CEO Tidjane Thiam, for playing a significant part in the decision not to contact the regulator. The regulator said the deal’s size would have been the biggest in the UK and could have affected confidence in the country’s financial system.

The Guardian, Thursday 28 March

Royal Bank of Scotland is being sued for misleading investors during its £12bn emergency fundraising in 2008, in a landmark joint claim brought by Dutch bank ING and pension funds for British coal miners.

Tallaght Hospital scandal: No need for accountability


Public Inquiry · Examining corruption in Ireland

I wrote recently about the missing link that marks the difference between how things are done in Ireland and how they’re done in functional democracies.

When suspicions of corruption are raised in functional jurisdictions there usually follows an investigation by an independent authority.

If the suspicions are confirmed consequences follow such as sackings, heavy fines or perhaps a trial followed by appropriate punishment.

All this is done under the principle of justice being seen to be done and the whole matter is usually followed up with new rules/regulations to prevent such events from happening again.

All these stages of accountability are also carried out in Ireland with the notable exception of holding anybody to account.

The recent scandal at Tallaght Hospital, as reported in the Irish Examiner, is a great example.

Background:

The hospital is unable to explain why five senior officials received almost €700,000 in non-salary ‘top-up’ fees between 2005 and 2010.

Ernst and Young carried out a financial investigation last year as a result of concerns raised by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA).

The investigation found:

The hospital was unable to provide any documents showing why the large payments were made.

The hospital was unable to explain why the supplementary payroll, under which the payments were made, was set up or what approval procedures were followed.

Board members at the time provided inconsistent recollections as to the existence and approval of the fund.

One individual received €225,833 in extra pay. Four other staff members received €104.667, €61,250, €24,000 and 259.000 respectively.

This was all taxpayer’s money at a time when Tallaght Hospital was making severe cutbacks to its budget.

We have now reached the critical point where, in a functional democracy, stronger action would ensue – police investigation, courts etc.

In Ireland this stage is skipped completely and replaced by an excuse stage.

Significant management structure changes have been carried out at the hospital – we’re told.

The new management has ‘noted’ the findings of the investigation.

The external payroll system responsible for the payouts has been abolished.

The new board has appointed a new remuneration and terms of services committee.

The new board said they were disturbed and upset by what happened.

So, no further action, no police, no investigation, no courts.

And, we can ask, is the new board a genuine improvement on its predecessor. Will this ‘new broom’ sweep all the old habits away and act in a professional and responsible manner when it comes to accountability?

No, is the emphatic answer.

When asked if the five members at the centre of the scandal were still working at the hospital and whether any of the paid out money can be retrieved they declined to comment.

Or, in plain English – Take a hike, we’re saying nothing.

The only reason, I suspect, the board of Tallaght Hospital can feel confident in refusing to answer this most basic of questions is because of the missing link in Irish accountability.

It there’s no system of accountability – there’s no need to be accountable.

via Public Inquiry · Examining corruption in Ireland.

via Public Inquiry · Examining corruption in Ireland.

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