Feb 27, 2015 10:58 UTC

Review: Building HSBC’s sprawling, flawed empire

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By Peter Thal Larsen

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

On March 3 it will be exactly 150 years since the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation opened for business. Normally such a milestone would prompt celebration: after all, the bank founded by colonial merchants now ranks among the world’s largest financial institutions. However, any merriment is likely to be mute. For HSBC the birthday brings challenges as great as any it has ever faced.

Feb 26, 2015 15:34 UTC

Rob Cox: Welcome to the new, global Tangentopoli

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By Rob Cox

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

It seems about impossible to find a corruption-free corner of the earth. Scandals involving business and political elites have struck from Sao Paulo to Beijing, Virginia to Santiago and Madrid to Mexico, and seem to unfold daily. Welcome to a new, global Tangentopoli.

Feb 13, 2015 15:54 UTC

Review: Art market’s old vices go global

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By Carol Ryan

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

In “Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the 21st Century” Georgina Adam describes how today’s contemporary art boom is reshaping the business of art. Much of what goes on in the global market, worth 47 billion euros ($65 billion) in 2013 according to the European Fine Art Foundation, is not new – from the sky-high prices paid by super-wealthy collectors to market manipulation. What has changed is its global scale.

Jan 30, 2015 16:19 UTC
Guest Contributor

Review: What the Great Depression taught the Fed

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By Edward Chancellor

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

No event in economic history has been more closely studied than America’s Great Depression. The last chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve was even an acknowledged expert on the subject. Yet Ben Bernanke was unable to foresee, let alone forestall, the financial calamity which struck in 2008. In fact, his flawed narrative of the Great Depression informed the policies which produced the global financial crisis. For monetary policymakers, the one thing more dangerous than ignoring the lessons of history is trying to implement them.

Jan 23, 2015 16:04 UTC

Review: The Mad Men are watching you

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By Martin Langfield

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

A lot happens in a split second online, much of it good for the advertising business but worrying for privacy advocates. Lightning-quick auctions to push tailored ads to individual web users are growing fast, writes Mike Smith, a digital publishing executive, in his new book “Targeted.” Smith predicts such auctions will be a big part of the industry’s future. Ad men will need ever more personal data to fuel them.

Jan 16, 2015 15:37 UTC

Review: Why banking is flawed and how to fix it

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By Dominic Elliott

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

“The End of Banking” is an important book about finance. Jonathan McMillan, the nom de plume taken by an investment banker and a macroeconomist, provides a holistic and compelling explanation of the crisis of 2008. The authors predict a repeat, barring a revolution in finance.

Jan 9, 2015 16:18 UTC
Guest Contributor

Review: Trade can bring war

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By Edward Chancellor

The author is a guest columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Few doubt that international trade usually increases the wealth of nations. Does it also bring peace? Many think so, but economic historian James Macdonald points out in “When Globalization Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana” that the last high point of globalization ended just over a century ago in a devastating world war – between countries which were also each other’s largest trading partners.

New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman writes about the “Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention,” positing that no two countries that are part of a global supply chain have ever fought a war with each other. Macdonald decries such thinking as simplistic and unhistorical.

Jan 2, 2015 11:42 UTC
Edward Hadas

Review: Two centuries of trust, frauds and finance

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By Edward Hadas

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

Financial fraud can be fascinating. There is something compelling about the way confidence men, from Thomas Cochrane to Bernard Madoff, take advantage of both the human willingness to believe and the weakness of greed. Madoff’s scam was exposed as markets crashed in 2007. For Cochrane, who made a fortune on a false rumour of Napoleon’s death in April 1814 in London, Ian Klaus’ new book – “Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds and the Rise of Modern Finance” – provides not only the facts but the economic context of that early example of market manipulation.

Dec 26, 2014 16:44 UTC

Review: Fixing the CIA – a novel approach

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By Martin Langfield

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

Could an outsider best reform the CIA in the wake of torture revelations? In David Ignatius’ novel “The Director,” a pro-privacy tech CEO tries to drag an agency that has lost its way into a new world of tighter rules, leaky secrets and mounting cyberthreats. It’s a good idea, with uneven results for both Ignatius and his hero.

Dec 19, 2014 17:36 UTC

Review: An Icelandic tycoon’s sorry saga

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By Quentin Webb

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

Bjorgolfur Thor Bjorgolfsson embodies Iceland’s volcanic rise and fall. He made a fortune in Eastern Europe, lost a bank in 2008 and caused Deutsche Bank years of grief. His memoir, “Billions to Bust – and Back Again,” is self-critical – but unlikely to win him new friends in Reykjavik.