Financial Regulatory Forum

Banks face myriad difficulties in trying to return corrupt Gaddafi money

By Martin Coyle

LONDON, Aug. 30 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Banks face enormous legal and logistical challenges as they try to repatriate the billions of pounds worth of frozen Libyan assets invested in the war-torn North African state, according to industry officials. The process could take years to resolve even though the United Nations has already unfrozen some $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid which will be sent to the country.

The fears follow the overthrowing of Colonel Gaddafi’s dictatorship by rebel fighters and the formation of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) in Tripoli. It is estimated that as much as $120 billion of Libyan assets are sitting in bank accounts worldwide, including up to $17 billion in the UK alone. UK foreign secretary William Hague said yesterday that it might take a while to repatriate frozen Libyan assets. The U.S. and South Africa last week struck a deal that will see $1.5bn of frozen money released for humanitarian aid by the U.N. The South African government initially had concerns about money being sent to the NTC, which it does not recognise. Diplomacy has smoothed over this, however.

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Bankers, broker-dealers should do their homework before saying ‘yes’ to Chinese companies

By Cavas Pavri, Thomson Reuters Accelus contributing author

NEW YORK, Aug. 26 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The considerable negative publicity surrounding Chinese companies listed in the United States has made it increasingly difficult for investors to separate the undervalued from the fraudulent. Essential for success: Taking a close look at the firms’ auditors and corporate governance practices going forward.

In April 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledged that it had established a task force to address what it deemed to be abuses by Chinese companies accessing the U.S. markets through the use of reverse merger transactions. SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar referred to the proliferation of these companies as a “disturbing trend that seems to have challenging implications for capital formation and investor protection.” In addition to the SEC, the U.S. national stock exchanges have been taking more aggressive actions against Chinese companies. In 2011, almost two dozen Chinese companies have seen trading in their securities halted or have been delisted because of accounting irregularities.

This article discusses areas that investors should focus on in performing their due diligence on investments in Chinese companies.

PERSONAL VIEW: Reflections on the successful prosecution of Tom Wilmot, UK boiler room king

By Alex Davidson – the views expressed are his own.

LONDON, Aug. 26 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Earlier this week Tomas Wilmot was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to nine years in jail for conspiracy to defraud investors out of 27.5 million pounds through boiler rooms. I took a particular interest in the case because I had once worked for a short period as a dealer at Harvard Securities, a licensed dealer in securities run by Wilmot in London in the late 1980s.  One of the most powerful bosses of speculative share dealing operations over some 25 years had finally been caught.

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Basel III: Chinese banks saving for new capital adequacy ratio

By Helen H. Chan

HONG KONG, Aug. 26 (Business Law Currents) – New capital adequacy rules from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) are prompting banks to hit up investors in Hong Kong and Shanghai’s capital markets. Part of the Basel III implementation process, the rules will require Chinese lenders to shore up additional capital to protect against credit risks.

Under the new rules, which are currently open to public review, systemically important banks in China will be subject to a minimum capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 11.5 percent; other banking institutions will be required to adhere to a minimum CAR of 10.5 percent.

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UK tax migration hits reverse under temporary exemption rules

By Christopher Elias

LONDON, Aug. 24 (Business Law Currents) – The UK offshore migration hit reverse recently when London-listed Bermudan reinsurer Lancashire Holdings decided that UK tax changes had made going offshore unnecessary.

Sailing home to Blighty was Lancashire, who recently announced that it intended to move to a UK tax residency from its current offshore Bermuda location, as the UK’s Controlled Foreign Companies (CFCs) rules introduce a temporary period of exemption. (more…)

Two hats or one: revisiting the role of board chair in Canada

By John Mackie

TORONTO, Aug. 23 (Business Law Currents) For institutions, regulators and investors, executives who wear two hats, such as CEO and chairman, are in an inherent conflict of interest. The situation is complicated further when roles are shared, such as in cases of co-chairs or co-CEOs.

One company that has been the center of this ongoing debate in Canada is Waterloo-based Research in Motion (RIM). In RIM’s case, the complexity is taken to an extreme, with co-CEOs who are also co-chairs. (more…)

SEC’s new whistleblower website – ‘winning’ Dodd-Frank style

By John Sutton

Aug. 17  (Business Law Currents) – As the fabled story goes, almost a decade passed between the time that fraud investigator Harry Markopolos first submitted evidence of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme to the SEC’s Boston office and his arrest in late 2008.

With the adoption of the new whistleblower program under Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act and the release of the program’s related website specifically designed for whistleblowers to provide tips, the SEC is now able to get serious about following up on whistleblower leads. (more…)

from The Great Debate:

Merkel and Sarkozy are right about a Tobin tax

By Mark Thoma
All opinions expressed are his own.

The financial transactions tax is back in the news today. According to reports, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will propose a financial transactions tax in September.

Is this a good idea? It would certainly provide needed revenue to cash strapped governments, but at what cost? Governments must raise revenue somehow, but is this the best way to get the cash they need? Some taxes have a large distortionary effect on economic activity -- with a financial transactions tax, the worry is that investment activity will be curtailed-- and others have a much smaller effect. Some taxes can even make markets work better, e.g. taxes that force firms to internalize pollution costs and other externalities improves the decisions firms make. From society's point of view, they are more, not less efficient. Thus, in designing a tax system, we should look for taxes that provide the most revenue at the least cost.

So is a financial transactions tax a highly distortionary, costly tax? The answer is no. The tax would discourage short-term speculative activity, but much of this activity provides little social value. It pushes money around among winners and losers, and traders like it for that reason, but if this activity is discouraged through taxation it would have little effect on long-term investment decisions by firms. For example, one thing this would discourage is high frequency computer trading to exploit minute differences in prices. Does it really matter for long-term investment if these differences persist for a few seconds or minutes more?

New Canadian compensation rules make work for issuers in coming proxy season

By John Mackie

Aug. 16  (Business Law Currents) With the recent announcement by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) that changes in executive disclosure requirements will apply for financial years ending on or after October 31, Canadian issuers may want to do some advance planning in order to avoid last minute scrambling in the New Year.

The proposed amendments to Form 51-102F6 – Statement of Executive Compensation range from simple drafting changes and clarifications to new substantive requirements, and reflect both the proposal issued last November and the comments received in response.

Perhaps the biggest changes contemplated by the new form are the obligation to disclose an issuer’s risk management practices vis-à-vis compensation policies and practices, and the emphasis placed on discussions of performance targets. For issuers, the former may require stepping onto unfamiliar ground, and the latter may test their willingness to share financial planning data with the street at large.

Start-up rating agencies urge national regulators to promote competition, change

By Rachel Wolcott

Aug. 15  (Thomson Reuters Accelus) –  Even as national governments cry foul over recent sovereign ratings downgrades, new rules and regulation aimed at rating agencies is making it harder for newcomers to break into the ratings market. Standard & Poor’s (S&P), Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings may have come under renewed fire because of the sovereign debt crisis, but rules set out in the United States’ 2006 Credit Rating Agency Reform Act and the Dodd-Frank Act have yet to open up the market as hoped.

The European Union, via the European Securities and Markets Authority, has also taken steps to clamp down on ratings agencies, but there again the ratings oligopoly remains largely unchallenged. Now, new entrants to the ratings market are urging regulators and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic to focus their efforts on promoting competition in the sector.

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