Daily Archives: February 4th, 2017

Croatia and Hungary Are ‘New Face of Corruption’ in Europe

Nikolaj Nielsen reports for EU Observer:

Perceived corruption in Croatia and Hungary is so high that both have dropped in global rankings when compared to last year, according to Transparency International (TI).

Carl Dolan, who heads the anti-corruption NGO’s office in Brussels, described the two on Wednesday (25 January) “as the new face of corruption in Europe”.

His comments, posted on a blog on TI’s website, followed the publication of the NGO’s annual corruption perception index.

Out Wednesday, the survey noted Croatia and Hungary have now joined the ranks of the worst performers in the EU alongside Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Romania.

The survey ranks some 176 countries and scores them on a 0 to 100 scale, with 0 being perceived as highly corrupt and 100 as being very clean.

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City Lobby Group Comes Out Fighting for Global Brexit in Dramatic U-Turn

Tim Wallace reports for The Telegraph:

City of LondonThe City’s top lobby group has performed a dramatic u-turn on Brexit, scrapping its previous campaign to remain in the EU and instead hailing the vote to leave as “unprecedented opportunity” for the UK to develop a powerful new set of trade and investment policies.

The group, which represents banks, finance firms and the professional services industry, now believes that Britain’s departure from the EU represents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” for a strategic re-think of commercial relationships with the rest of the globe.

Before the EU referendum the organisation had planned for a way to cope with Brexit just in case voters chose to leave the group of 28 nations.

But the new proposals are more than just an effort to make the best out of Brexit – in an apparently major conversion, the group actively points out the ways in which EU membership has proved to be a “straitjacket” in terms of global trade, holding Britain back from building relationships with non-EU nations.

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Cash, Cruises and Sex Parties: Inside Ex-HBOS Manager’s £245m Scam

Simon Goodley reports for The Guardian:

Image result for HBOS Manager's £245m Scam[…] Now it can be reported for the first time that Scourfield, 54, is corrupt,and pleaded guilty last year to six counts relating to his role in a scheme that cost the bank £245m.

On Monday his business associate David Mills, 60, who ran a small business turnaround consultancy Quayside Corporate Services (QCS), Mills’s wife. Alison, 51, plus their associates Michael Bancroft, 73, and Tony Cartwright, 72, were all convicted for their roles in helping to run Scourfield’s scam.

A sixth man, Mark Dobson, 56, who worked for Scourfield at HBOS, was also convicted, while one other defendant, Jonathan Cohen, 57, was acquitted.

Despite his absence from the courtroom having changed his plea last year, Scourfield’s presence loomed over proceedings each day of the four-month trial.s

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From ‘Drain the Swamp’ to Government Sachs

John Cassidy reports for The New Yorker:

Gary Cohn (far right) has suggested that the Trump Administration will attempt to significantly roll back post-2008 regulatory reform on Wall Street.Until now, Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, has been the invisible member of the Trump Administration. Now we know why: he has been busy preparing favors for his old pals on Wall Street. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Cohn said that Trump was preparing to sign an executive order designed to pave the way for a broad rollback of the regulatory regime that the Obama Administration and Congress introduced after the disastrous financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.

Although Cohn gave few specifics, his comments suggested that the Trump Administration wants to hobble the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Congress created to protect the interests of ordinary Americans and investors; reduce the amount of capital that big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have to hold in reserve; spare some non-bank financial firms—such as major insurers—from the enhanced scrutiny they have been subjected to in recent years; and scythe away other key elements of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. “This is a table setter for a bunch of stuff that is coming,” Cohn said in reference to the executive order, which Trump signed on Friday.

During last year’s campaign, Trump portrayed both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton as pawns of Goldman Sachs. And after the self-described “Leninist” Steve Bannon took over as his campaign C.E.O., Trump broadened his critique, at one point depicting Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s C.E.O. and Cohn’s old boss, as a member of a cabal of global financiers who had “robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” Even when it was happening, though, it was clear that all this rabble-rousing was mainly for show.

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‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Rolls Back Wall Street Regulations

Deirdre Fulton reports for Common Dreams:

President Donald Trump is set to hand the U.S. economy “back over to Wall Street” on Friday, with a regulatory rollback that critics say could put consumers and the financial system at risk.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump plans to sign executive orders Friday “establish[ing] a framework for scaling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law” and rolling back an Obama-era regulation requiring advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. That rule was set to go into effect in April.

Trump plans to sign the orders surrounded by bank CEOs.

“The Wall Street bankers against whom Trump ran are making policy now,” said Robert Weissman, president of watchdog group Public Citizen.

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Extreme Vetting, But Not for Banks

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Donald Trump, the man who positioned himself as the common man’s shield against Wall Street, signed a series of orders today calling for reviews or rollbacks of financial regulations. He did so after meeting with some friendly helpers.

Here’s how CNBC described the crowd of Wall Street CEOs Trump received, before he ordered a review of both the Dodd-Frank Act and the fiduciary rule requiring investment advisors to act in their clients’ interests:

“Trump also will meet at the White House with leading CEOs, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, and BlackRock’s Larry Fink.”

Leading the way for this assortment of populist heroes will be former Goldman honcho Gary Cohn, now Trump’s chief economic advisor.

Dimon, Schwarzman, Fink and Cohn collectively represent a rogues gallery of the creeps most responsible for the 2008 crash. It would be hard to put together a group of people less sympathetic to the non-wealthy.

Trump’s approach to Wall Street is in sharp contrast to his tough-talking stances on terrorism. He talks a big game when slamming the door on penniless refugees, but curls up like a beach weakling around guys who have more money than he does.

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Reports Suggest Elliott Abrams Will Be Deputy Secretary of State

Daniel Larison reports for The American Conservative:

There are reports that Elliott Abrams [Right Web Profile] will be Rex Tillerson’s deputy at the State Department.

Abrams’ name had been mentioned before, but it seemed hard to believe that Trump would want one of his most vehement critics in his administration. The “good” news is that Bolton won’t be getting the job after all, but in his place will be someone with an equally awful foreign policy record and similarly warped judgment. Abrams is a Bush administration veteran and one of the most committed Iraq war dead-enders. He has the added distinction of having been involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, and withheld information from Congress when they were investigating it. Putting him in an important foreign policy position gives us strong evidence that Trump and Tillerson both have poor judgment, and it tells us that we should expect that the administration’s foreign policy will become even more aggressive and meddlesome than it already has been.

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Brexit: Past the Point of No-Return

British flag and EU flag in Parliament Square in London, June 19, 2016After decades of debate, years of acrimony over the issue in the Conservative Party, months of brutal brinksmanship in Westminster, and hours of debate this week, MPs have just approved the very first step in the process of Britain leaving the European Union.

There are many hurdles ahead, probably thousands of hours of debate here, years of negotiations for Theresa May with our friends and rivals around the EU, as she seeks a deal – and possibly as long as a decade of administrative adjustments, as the country extricates itself from the EU.

On a wet Wednesday, the debate didn’t feel epoch-making, but think for a moment about what has just happened.

MPs, most of whom wanted to stay in the EU, have just agreed that we are off.

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