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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, September 17, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

Revenue & Customs 'winding down' inquiries into HSBC Swiss tax evaders
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reopened its investigation into British customers of HSBC Suisse in February, but has failed to add to the single prosecution of a tax cheat from the bank. The disclosures have dismayed MPs who had pressed for further action over the HSBC files, which were first handed to HMRC five years ago. The tax office has been criticised for offering an amnesty to hundreds of the 3,600 UK customers it identified as potentially hiding money in Switzerland. Jennie Grainger, HMRC’s director general (enforcement and compliance), said: “We have collected more revenue, we now have £142m, but we have just about exhausted what we have from the data.” Conservative MP Stephen Phillips, a member of the public accounts committee, said: “HMRC’s view that it’s OK for people who illegally hid their money in Swiss bank accounts just to pay the back tax and a small percentage penalty without being prosecuted sends an appalling message. Rightly, it makes everyone who abides by the law and pays all their taxes very angry.” GUARDIAN

G4S and Serco, caught and banned for overcharging, are still being paid for prisoner tagging
G4S and Serco were referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the Ministry of Justice for tagging offenders, some of whom were back in prison or who had already died. Following the scandal, Capita won the contract — worth £400m over six years — to manage the electronic tagging of offenders in 2014. But the secondary contract to supply the new generation of GPS satellite tags has so far failed to deliver, forcing the government to rely on tags supplied by G4S and Serco anyway. As a result, G4S was paid a total of £8.7m between March 2014 — when it lost the tagging contract — and February 2015. Serco was paid £4.5m during the same period. Michael Gove, the justice secretary, told a recent select committee that the procurement had “been deeply unsatisfactory.” According to the think-tank Reform, prison places are nearly five to six times more expensive than tagging, costing £73 per prisoner a day compared with the new GPS tags, which will cost £8 to £16 a day. It also pointed to US research indicating that the use of tags could reduce reoffending rates. FINANCIAL TIMES

Trade Union Bill: Recruiters warn against new strike laws that allow their agency workers to step in
As part of its Trade Union Bill, the government wants to end the ban on using agency workers to replace striking staff. The government says its reforms will end unjustified disruption to working people's lives. There has been a ban on using agency workers in strike action since the 1970s. But Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the REC, said: "We are not convinced that putting agencies and temporary workers into the middle of difficult industrial relations situations is a good idea for agencies, workers or their clients." The big recruitment agencies work in countries around the world. Most have signed up to the International Labour Organisation's convention on private employment agencies. It states that "private employment agencies should not make workers available to a user enterprise to replace workers of that enterprise who are on strike". The UK has not signed up to the convention. But it is understood that many employment firms are keen to ensure that they are not seen to be sidestepping their international obligations. TUC boss, Frances O'Grady, said: "Everyone knows that if you can just replace strikers overnight, that undermines all the power that workers have to bring their employers to the table... Imagine the impact on the safety of whole workplaces run by untrained, inexperienced temporary staff. Think about what that would mean in education, energy or border control." BBC NEWS

Berlin to push for bank financial transactions tax to cover all of EU
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble will push for a planned European tax on stock and bond trading to apply in all EU countries in spite of firm UK opposition to the scheme and warnings from banks it would hurt their business. While only 11 nations — including Germany and France — are planning to participate in the financial transactions tax, Mr Schäuble said that this should be seen only as a first stage, and that efforts should then be made to convince other nations to join. The European Commission first proposed the tax in 2011, as politicians sought to quell public anger over massive bank bailouts. Advocates of the measure — which has been strongly pushed by France — argue that it would force banks and other financial firms to make a fair contribution to the public purse. Another motivation is to discourage speculative trading that is not linked to the real economy. But the mooted tax has become a bogeyman for Britain, which has warned that the original blueprint for the measure would see UK-based traders hit even though the country has ruled out participating. FINANCIAL TIMES


Investors force Wall Street banks to settle CDS lawsuit for $1.87 billion
Some of Wall Street’s biggest financial institutions -- including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and HSBC Holdings Plc -- have agreed to a $1.87 billion settlement to resolve allegations they conspired to limit competition in the lucrative credit-default swaps market. The settlement averts a trial following years of litigation by hedge funds, pension funds, university endowments, small banks and other investors, who sued as a group. They alleged that a dozen global banks -- along with Markit Group Ltd., a market-information provider in which the banks owned stakes -- conspired to control the information about the multitrillion-dollar ($16 trillion in 2014) credit-default swap market in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. The U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division had probed the conduct of Markit and the banks, but shelved the investigation in October 2013. An investigation by the European Union’s antitrust arm remains open. Daniel Brockett, a lawyer for the group who pursued the case independently, said their research generated “millions” of documents, including e-mails. “In a case where neither the DOJ or the EC was able to make any charges stick against the banks in their investigations, we came in and took over the case and they will pay almost $1.9 billion,” said Brockett. Other defendants in the suit include Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc, UBS Group AG, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and BNP Paribas SA. BLOOMBERG

Ex-energy secretary Ed Davey hired to advise law firm on renewable energy projects
Davey has been given clearance by the Cabinet Office to provide consultancy to Herbert Smith. The law firm provides advice on two power projects he was closely allied to when in office: the Hinkley and Swansea Bay schemes.  The former Liberal Democrat minister, who lost his parliamentary seat in the spring general election, says he will only help Herbert Smith on renewable power projects, but not the Swansea Bay tidal project or Hinkley Point. The contract with Davey is in the first place a short-term one and has been arranged alongside a separate consultancy deal with Macquarie Bank. The latter arrangement will also be relatively brief and concentrate on giving advice on UK rooftop solar projects where the Australia-based bank is a significant lender. Davey is also to add a more permanent job to his post-ministerial career by becoming chairman of Mongoose Energy, a co-operatively owned community power project based in Bristol. Davey says he wants a portfolio approach to his working life currently but has not dismissed the idea that he may eventually return to frontline politics. There has been much criticism in the past about a perceived “revolving door” between lucrative business contracts and former members of parliament. GUARDIAN

Sports Direct denies 'Dickensian practices' in face of investor revolt
The company, which has gained notoriety for keeping 20,000 staff on zero-hours contracts while making founder Mike Ashley a billionaire, robustly defended its treatment of workers at its annual shareholder meeting after strong criticism from activist investor groups. A representative from the pressure group ShareAction claimed that workers are “jeopardising their health” for fear of being dismissed while another shareholder said the company’s reputation as an employer was “atrocious” and asked its chairman, Keith Hellawell, why he had not resigned. Unite union members protested outside Sports Direct’s headquarters in Derbyshire, where the meeting took place, by dressing up as Dickensian workers and holding a banner reading: “It’s a ‘workhouse’ not a workplace.” Leading up to the meeting, Sports Direct had also faced heavy criticism from the City over corporate governance failings. City institutions including Royal London Asset Management are unhappy about the company lowering the performance targets in its bonus scheme, failing to hire a new finance director for 18 months and buying stakes in rival retailers such as Tesco and Debenhams. The Investment Association issued a red-top alert, its most severe warning, ahead of the meeting. Excluding Ashley, 50.3% of shareholders voted against Sports Direct’s remuneration policy for directors, while 28.6% refused to back Hellawell as chairman. Legal & General, which owns 3% of Sports Direct and is a top-10 shareholder, voted against Hellawell. However, the support of Ashley, who owns 55% of Sports Direct, meant both resolutions were passed at the meeting. GUARDIAN

MoJ to close controversial commercial division that sells prison expertise to Saudi Arabia
Michael Gove, the justice secretary, has ordered the closure of Just Solutions International (JSI), telling MPs it was because “of the need to focus departmental resources on domestic priorities”. The commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice – which has been criticised for selling British prison expertise to regimes with appalling human rights records, including Saudi Arabia and China – is to be closed down. JSI was set up by the previous justice secretary, Chris Grayling, as the trading arm of the national offender management service (Noms) to sell its expertise in prisons and probation – including in offender management, payment by results, tagging and privatisation – around the world. JSI, which is staffed by civil servants, has worked with several countries with poor human rights records in their criminal justice systems, including China, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria. It has also undertaken work in Oman, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Kosovo, Turkey, Macedonia and the Seychelles. But certain existing contracts will be honoured. A £5.9m contract with Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for public beheadings, torture and amputations within its justice system, was particularly criticised by Amnesty International. But Gove told MPs the Saudi project would continue because it is so far advanced that the financial penalties for cancellation would be “detrimental” to the British government’s wider interests. GUARDIAN

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