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from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong needs to defend shareholder democracy

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By Una Galani and Peter Thal Larsen

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Hong Kong needs to make a stand for shareholder democracy. Alibaba’s decision to shift its giant stock market listing to the United States has sparked a debate about control of public companies in the former British colony. Hong Kong’s stock exchange, whose rules wouldn’t have permitted a plan to let Alibaba insiders nominate a majority of board directors, is preparing a public consultation on shareholder rights. But dumping the principle of “one share, one vote” would be a mistake.

For a city that likes to bill itself as China’s gateway to global capital markets, missing out on the initial public offering of the largest e-commerce company in the People’s Republic is a symbolic blow. The snub raises fears that other fast-growing Chinese companies will choose to raise capital elsewhere, leaving the Hong Kong exchange as a stagnant backwater dominated by local tycoons and stodgy Chinese state-owned companies. Weibo, another hot Chinese tech company, is also planning a New York IPO.

In the United States, insiders can control public companies even when they no longer own the majority of the shares. Google and Facebook – to name just two of the companies Alibaba views as its peers – have blazed a trail by creating multiple classes of shares with different voting rights.

from Breakingviews:

Comcast’s $45 bln deal warrants some utility logic

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By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Imagine Comcast’s $45 billion plan to buy Time Warner Cable gets the utility treatment. It isn’t a big stretch these days to liken the pipes that bring the internet into homes to those carrying water or electricity. When power companies and the like merge, though, regulators want consumers to share the spoils.

from Felix Salmon:

Yes, the SEC was colluding with banks on CDO prosecutions

Back in 2011, I asked whether the SEC was colluding with banks on CDO prosecutions. And now, thanks to an American Lawyer Freedom of Information Request, we have the answer: yes, they were.

This comes as little surprise: it beggared belief, after all, that every bank would end up being prosecuted for one and only one CDO. But now we have chapter and verse: the key precedent, it seems, was the first one, Goldman Sachs.

from Breakingviews:

Anadarko’s $5.1 bln settlement adds up in market

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By Kevin Allison
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Stock investors seem to have a firm grip on Anadarko Petroleum’s toxic waste settlement. The record $5.15 billion settlement on Thursday, covering years of environmental claims, was at the low end of a court-defined range which had a midpoint of $9.8 billion. The 15 percent jump in the oil company’s market capitalization is mostly explained by those numbers. And it brings Anadarko’s 12-month stock performance nearly back in line with the S&P 500 after a bumpy ride.

from Breakingviews:

High-speed traders just latest market rent-seekers

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By Martin Hutchinson
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

High-speed traders are just the latest to earn opprobrium as market rent-seekers. In his new book “Flash Boys,” Michael Lewis claims they are rigging U.S. equity markets. Even Goldman Sachs Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn acknowledges concerns. New rules, taxes or structures could reduce the high-frequency traders’ unfair advantages.

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: GE should put itself up for sale

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

General Electric should sell itself. If that sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke, think again. It’s a real proposal on the ballot at the industrial group’s annual meeting. Setting aside the absence of any obvious buyer for the $260 billion company, the proposition illustrates the kind of shareholder democracy gone wild that many boards, and even some regulators, would like to squelch. They have half a point.

from Breakingviews:

Official attention will make or break bitcoin

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By Daniel Indiviglio
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Official attention will make or break bitcoin. Scrutiny from tax authorities like the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and financial regulators around the world may deter off-the-grid types from using the digital money. Yet interest from investors and even creators of derivatives could start drawing bitcoin into the mainstream.

from Breakingviews:

Can regulating prostitution like a business work?

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Would regulating prostitution like a business be a good idea? A landmark study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice raises that age-old, vexing question. What emerges from the analysis of the commercial sex trade in eight American cities is an industry with mostly willing buyer/willing seller transactions, albeit with highly coercive management - suggesting that though prostitution may always be immoral it might be less damaging if legal.

from Felix Salmon:

Annals of captured regulators, NY Fed edition

Peter Eavis has a worrying story today: the chairman of the New York Fed, William Dudley, has effectively, behind the scenes, managed to delay the implementation of an important new piece of bank regulation.

The first thing to remember here is that delaying regulations is an extremely profitable game for the financial industry. If a new regulation will cost a bank $100 million per year, and the bank gets that new regulation delayed by a year, then it’s just made $100 million in excess profit. What’s more, the further away you get from the crisis, the harder it becomes for new rules to grow teeth. So when the banking lobby doesn't like a certain piece of regulation, its tool of choice is to bog it down and delay it to the point at which no one but the banking lobby cares any more. And then allow it to be implemented with so many loopholes and carve-outs that it’s effectively toothless.

from Breakingviews:

A credible strategy for Barclays’ investment bank

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By Dominic Elliott
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinion expressed is his own.

Barclays’ Transform plan needs urgent transformation. Chief Executive Antony Jenkins’ year-old strategy to revamp the UK lender is already struggling. First, the Bank of England jacked up gross equity-to-assets requirements last summer, necessitating a scrambled 5.8 billion pound rights issue and a one-year delay to the bank’s 12 percent return-on-equity target. Then Jenkins reneged on an assumed policy of reining in pay – and justified it with a decidedly pre-crunch declaration of needing to pay up to retain talent.

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