Felix Salmon

America needs a modern payments architecture

I was sad that I had to miss Bruce Summers’s presentation at the Kansas City Fed’s payment conference this morning; I was a couple of miles down the road, at the Kauffman Foundation. But I did manage to grab five minutes to summarize his argument for the assembled econobloggers: it’s an important one, which deserves a lot more attention than it’s likely to get.

Why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should run the World Bank

I first wrote at length about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in September 2005, when the magazine gave her its genuinely prestigious Finance Minister of the Year award. It’s here, on my Tumblr, since the original is behind a paywall. (Update: you can read it directly now, Euromoney has taken it out from behind the paywall.)

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The evolution of prepaid debit

Maybe it’s a function of the Durbin act, which explicitly excluded prepaid debit cards from the massive decrease in debit interchange fees that it imposed on all other debit cards. But whatever the reason, prepaid debit cards are huge right now. One panel at today’s conference — a panel which wasn’t even meant to be about prepaid debit, but rather much more broadly about “Ensuring Consumer Access to the Payments System in the Connected Age” — had four people sitting next to each other, three of whom talked with great excitement about their prepaid debit cards.

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The stranglehold of payments networks

I’m mostly offline today, since I’m attending a payments conference at the Kansas City Fed. (And tomorrow I’m attending an econobloggers’ conference at the Kauffman Foundation: how jealous are you?) There’s a lot to digest here, but one thing already seems clear: if you look at the main players in the payments industry, whether they’re incumbents or new innovators who aspire to disrupting the status quo, everybody seems almost unthinkingly resigned to working on and within the present architecture, where consumers pay with their credit or debit cards, and merchants require some kind of way of accepting those payments.

Jim Yong Kim and Dartmouth’s culture of sexual assault

What is it about the heads of the World Bank and IMF and their relation with sexual politics? Both Paul Wolfowitz and Dominique Strauss-Kahn lost their jobs because of the way that they treated women, while Strauss-Kahn’s predecessor, Rodrigo de Rato, resigned unexpectedly in the midst of what was described as an “acrimonious divorce”. No woman has ever headed the Bank, and Christine Lagarde is the first woman to head the IMF; they’ve historically been men’s clubs, and none the better for it.

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Annals of art world skullduggery, Larry Gagosian edition

Randy Kennedy has a good overview of the litigation going on between Jan Cowles, a prominent art collector, and Larry Gagosian, the world’s most prominent art dealer. He doesn’t provide or link to any of the primary documents, however, which can be found here, and they’re where all the fun is.