FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the local headquarters building in Tallinn, Estonia March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
June 18, 2019
By Esha Vaish
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank has suspended with immediate effect the two most senior executives of its Estonian business, which is being investigated over alleged money laundering.
Sweden’s oldest retail bank has already parted ways with its chief executive and chairman this year after alleged links to a money laundering scandal at Danske Bank, and is being investigated in the United States, Sweden and the Baltics.
The most recent allegations, reported by Swedish state TV in March, said that Swedbank processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.
Although Swedbank initially denied the allegations, which first related to between 2007 and 2015, mounting shareholder pressure for transparency led to the bank’s admission in April to failings in combating money laundering and an internal inquiry into compliance with anti-money laundering rules.
Robert Kitt, who has been Estonia CEO since 2015, and Vaiko Tammevali, Estonia CFO since 2014, had both been suspended, Swedbank said in a statement late on Monday.
“(The) decision is a consequence of the ongoing internal investigation,” Charlotte Elsnitz, Swedbank’s head of Baltic Banking, told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday.
Elsnitz declined to give any details about the reason for the suspensions, but said Swedbank remained committed to Estonia, where it is the largest bank with more than 900,000 private and 132,000 business customers.
Kitt and Tammevali, both Estonian, have worked at the bank for more than 15 years. Kitt’s previous jobs include heading the wealth management and corporate banking units, while Tammevali’s included leading the private banking and credit risk units.
“It has been a fantastic journey. Fiercely tense, frantically interesting, with fantastic colleagues and a team. But every race is running out of time and my mandate in Swedbank Estonia as (Head of Unit) ended today,” Estonian media quoted Kitt as saying in a statement posted on Facebook.
Reuters could not immediately independently verify the statement, which was confirmed by a Swedbank spokeswoman, while Kitt did not respond to requests for comment.
Tammevali could not immediately be reached.
Credit Suisse analysts said that the suspensions could help Swedbank in any discussions with authorities.
The Estonian financial regulator declined to comment and said that their investigation with Sweden and other Baltic authorities was ongoing, while Swedbank said it was cooperating fully with authorities.
Swedbank said Olavi Lepp, its chief risk officer, had been named acting CEO of Swedbank Estonia, while Anna Kouts, its head of treasury, would become acting CFO in the Baltic country.
The bank’s shares, which have lost about a third in value since the scandal broke, were down 1.6 percent at 138.35 Swedish crowns at 0930 GMT.
(Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom and Esha Vaish, editing by Deepa Babington/Keith Weir/Alexander Smith)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump captured the Republican Party and then the presidency in 2016 as an insurgent intent on disrupting the status quo. As he mounts his bid for reelection, Trump is offering himself as the outsider once again — but it’s a much more awkward pitch to make from inside the Oval Office.
Trump is set to formally announce his 2020 bid on Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Florida, where advisers said he aims to connect the dots between the promise of his disruptive first-time candidacy and his goals for another term in the White House. His promises to rock the ship of state are now more than an abstract pledge, though, complicated by his tumultuous 29 months at its helm.
Any president is inherently an insider. Trump has worked in the Oval Office for two years, travels the skies in Air Force One and changes the course of history with the stroke of a pen or the post of a tweet.
“We’re taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people,” Trump said in a video released by his campaign Monday to mark his relaunch. “It’s the people, you’re the people, you won the election.”
That populist clarion was a central theme of his maiden political adventure, as the businessman-turned-candidate successfully appealed to disaffected voters who felt left behind by economic dislocation and demographic shifts. And he has no intention of abandoning it, even if he is the face of the institutions he looks to disrupt.
Those involved in the president’s reelection effort believe that his brash version of populism, combined with his mantra to “Drain the Swamp,” still resonates, despite his administration’s cozy ties with lobbyists and corporations and the Trump family’s apparent efforts to profit off the presidency.
“He’s still not viewed as a politician,” said Jason Miller, Trump’s 2016 senior communications adviser. “Voters don’t define him by the party label, they define him by his policies and his message of shaking up the status quo in Washington. That’s the biggest reason he was able to win blue states in 2016.”
Democrats, though, predict Trump won’t be able to get away with the outsider branding.
“How can you say: Forget about the last two years, he is an outsider, he is bashing down doors,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, a former senior Obama campaign official now at MoveOn.org. “People’s lives are harder because of what he has done as president. Voters are paying their attention and are not going to buy it.”
Republicans working with the Trump campaign but not authorized to speak publicly about internal conversations said campaign advisers believe that Trump is still perceived as a businessman and point to his clashes with the Washington establishment — including Congress, the so-called Deep State and members of his own party — as proof that he is still an outsider rather than a creature of the Beltway. Helping further that image, Trump advisers believe, is that his main Democratic foils are all career politicians: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Vice President Joe Biden and, yes, Hillary Clinton.
“He promised that he’d go to Washington and shake things up, and he certainly has,” said Trump campaign manager Tim Murtaugh.
Still, it’s not as though Trump is running from Washington. If anything, he’s wrapping himself in the trappings and authorities of his office. Last week, Trump granted behind-the-scenes access to his limousine, Marine One helicopter and Air Force One for an hourlong ABC News special meant to highlight the singular advantage he has over his rivals — that he already has the job they want.
And Trump is eager to use the power of the office to further his case for reelection. Last month in Louisiana, he promised voters a new bridge if he wins, and in the pivotal Florida Panhandle, he pledged new disaster relief money would flow in a second Trump term.
Trump advisers also point to his popularity among white working-class voters, who consider themselves “forgotten Americans” left behind and mocked by elite insiders. For those voters, many of whom in 2016 cast their first ballots in decades, Trump remains the embodiment of their outsider grievances, their anger stoked by his clashes with political foes and the rest of government (even when his party controls it).
Advisers believe that, in an age of extreme polarization, many Trump backers view their support for the president as part of their identity, one not easily shaken. They point to his seemingly unmovable support with his base supporters as evidence that, despite more than two years in office, he is still viewed the same way he was as a candidate: the bomb-throwing political rebel.
Americans acknowledge Trump is a change agent, but they are divided in their views of that change. Early this year, a CNN poll found about three-quarters of Americans saying Trump has created significant changes in the country, and they split about evenly between calling it change for the better and change for the worse. More recently, a March poll from CNN showed 42% of Americans think Trump can bring the kind of change the country needs.
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.
FILE PHOTO: Lyft President John Zimmer and CEO Logan Green applaud as Lyft lists on the Nasdaq at an IPO event in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
June 17, 2019
By Suzanne Barlyn
(Reuters) – Companies going public in the United States face insurance costs that have increased as much as 200% in the last three years to cover their executives against lawsuits alleging they misled investors.
A rise in securities class-action cases involving initial public offerings is spurring IPO insurers to double and triple prices for directors and officers coverage, or “D&O” coverage, insurers and brokers told Reuters.
A $5 million policy that cost $200,000 in 2016 can now easily cost $500,000 to $600,000, said Paul Schiavone, head of North American Financial Lines for Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, an Allianz SE unit.
“You want to be part of the market, but there are also lots of risks in IPOs,” said Schiavone. “If things don’t go well in a year, you have the investors saying, ‘I want my money back.’”
The tightening insurance market follows a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows some securities lawsuits to proceed in state court in addition to federal court.
“Since then, the market has gotten absolutely more challenging,” said Jennifer Sharkey, President of the Northeast Management Liability Practice for insurance broker Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Investors who used to wait months to see how a new stock would perform now waste little time to see if promises made in offering documents come to fruition – and are swift to accuse the executives of misleading investors if they do not.
“You have a lot more aggressive lawyers and investors out there who are looking where the cash is,” said Jeff Lubitz, who heads Securities Class Action Services for Institutional Shareholder Services. “And now, it looks like they will have multiple choices on how to jump on this.”
The changes come amid a spate of mega-IPOs, including recent offerings by ride-sharing rivals Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc. There were 205 IPOs in 2018, up 14% from 2017, according to accounting and consulting firm EY.
Many larger companies have ample funds to pay the premiums, but smaller companies that need the insurance in order to attract reputable board members may feel the strain, insurance brokers said.
There have been 25 lawsuits related to IPOs so far this year, against 19 companies. Six companies that launched IPOs face suits in both state and federal court, including Lyft, BrightView Holdings Inc, and US Xpress Enterprises.
Shareholders slapped Lyft with a lawsuit about three weeks after its stock began trading on March 28 and quickly tanked more than 20%. The suit alleges that Lyft misled investors by overstating its market share. A Lyft spokeswoman declined to comment.
As the pace quickens and litigation picks up in two court systems, insurers are on the line to pay tens of millions of dollars in defense costs and substantial settlements.
IPO-related settlements have totaled $929 million since 2017, including a $250 million settlement by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd in April, after an earlier $75 million state court settlement. Last year, LendingClub Corp settled a suit for $125 million, according to ISS.
About 25 insurers sell D&O coverage to companies going public, including American International Group Inc, Chubb Ltd, AXA XL, Beazley PLC, and Allianz SE. The insurers, collectively, can offer about $150 million coverage, according to broker Aon Plc.
Insurers are chopping coverage limits and requiring IPO clients to pick up more costs before a policy kicks in. And they are requiring companies to pay a percentage of the eventual loss, said Rachel Turk, D&O team leader for Beazley.
(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York, Editing by Neal Templin and Rosalba O’Brien)
FILE PHOTO – Actress Gloria Vanderbilt speaks at a panel for the HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid” during the Television Critics Association Cable Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, California, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
June 17, 2019
By Bill Trott
(Reuters) – Gloria Vanderbilt, the “poor little rich girl” who lived a life at the highest levels of fashion, society and wealth as an heir to one of the greatest family fortunes in U.S. history, died on Monday at the age of 95, her son, CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper, said.
The network said Vanderbilt died at home among family and friends. Cooper said she had learned this month that she had stomach cancer.
Vanderbilt became a fashion icon in the 1970s and ’80s with an eponymous line of tight-fitting blue jeans that bore her signature and trademark swan logo. They were a must-have for any woman with aspirations to style.
“If you were around in early 1980s it was pretty hard to miss the jeans she helped create but that was her public face – the one she learned to hide behind as a child,” Cooper said on CNN. “Her private self, her real self – that was more fascinating and more lovely than anything she showed the public.”
Vanderbilt wrote that as a girl she had considered becoming a nun, which would have been an incredible loss to the chroniclers of high society and celebrity tumult. Instead of a nunnery, she went on to a life that could have provided storylines for dozens of soap operas, romance novels, Broadway musicals and tear-jerker movies.
Vanderbilt was born into wealth on Feb. 20, 1924, in New York City. She was the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th century railroad and shipping magnate who amassed one of the greatest fortunes of the time.
She was not yet 2 years old when her father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died and she spent many of the following years living in Europe with her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, on her trust fund, which was estimated at $2.5 million – the equivalent of at least $33 million today.
Gloria’s aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, said Gloria’s mother was misusing the trust fund on a free-wheeling lifestyle that included a female lover, and went to court. Whitney won custody of the child in an acrimonious, sensationalized case that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The custody battle featured high-society character witnesses for both sides and testimony so sensitive that courtroom spectators were barred at times. The public closely followed the fate of “Little Gloria,” who was protected at the time by 12 bodyguards.
Whitney eventually won custody of Gloria with one judge reproaching the girl’s mother for living a lifestyle that was “calculated to destroy her health and neglectful of her moral, spiritual and mental education.”
Vanderbilt said being taken from her mother started her on a lifelong quest for love and approval. This led her to marry a 32-year-old Hollywood agent, Pat DiCicco, when she was only 17. They divorced in 1945, when at the age of 21, Vanderbilt married conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was 63.
The couple had two sons and by the time they separated in 1955, Vanderbilt was being seen around New York with singer Frank Sinatra. After another divorce, Vanderbilt found herself in another custody fight – this time with Stokowski claiming that she was an unfit mother who spent too much time in psychotherapy.
From 1956 to 1963 Vanderbilt was married to Sidney Lumet, director of the acclaimed films “12 Angry Men,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico” and “Network.”
She was married to her fourth husband, writer Wyatt Cooper, until his death during heart surgery in 1978. They had two sons, Anderson and Carter.
In 1988, in the greatest tragedy of Vanderbilt’s life, Carter, aged 23, killed himself by jumping from the family’s 14th-floor apartment in New York, in spite of his mother’s attempts to stop him.
She later wrote a memoir, “A Mother’s Story,” in which she reflected on her painful upbringing and blamed Carter’s suicide on psychosis brought on by an anti-asthma drug.
Vanderbilt called her son’s death “the final loss, the fatal loss that stripped me bare,” and said she did not think she could survive it.
In a 2012 television interview with her son Anderson, she said she thought about the tragedy every day and that she had considered jumping after her son.
“There was a moment when I thought I was going to jump after him but then I thought of you … and it stopped me from doing that,” she told Anderson.
Vanderbilt dabbled in acting, painting, poetry and modeling before the Hallmark greeting card company bought some of her artwork for a line of paper goods in the early 1970s. Her work also graced a collection of scarves before she started the line of jeans and expanded to perfume, shoes, leather goods and accessories. In 1978 she sold her Gloria Vanderbilt brand and started another fashion company.
Vanderbilt won a $1.5 million judgment in 1993 against her lawyer and psychiatrist, claiming they had stolen from her. Because the lawyer had not paid her taxes for several years, she owed the Internal Revenue Service so much money she had to sell a summer home in Southampton and a New York City home.
Sex, Vanderbilt said, was a subject she found endlessly fascinating. One of her memoirs told of her romances with Hollywood figures such as Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Gene Kelly and Howard Hughes (she was a teenager at the time), as well as various married men. In 2009 at age 85 she published an explicit erotic novel, “Obsession.”
Vanderbilt also challenged racial standards of the times by dating black photographer-filmmaker Gordon Parks in the 1950s.
“I embrace it all – the pain and the pleasure, the drama and the disappointments,” Vanderbilt wrote in summing up her life in the romantic memoir, “It Seemed Important at the Time.”
(Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Matthew Lewis)
FILE PHOTO: The Nordea bank logo is seen outside their corporate headquarters in Stockholm February 2, 2011. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo
June 17, 2019
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – The Danish headquarters of Nordea was searched on June 12 by Denmark’s state prosecutor in relation to an ongoing money-laundering investigation into the bank, a Nordea spokesman told Reuters.
Nordea, the Nordic region’s biggest lender, took a 95 million euro provision in April for a possible fine for alleged money laundering.
(Reporting by Jacob Grønholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Keith Weir)
After receding from the national stage, the free college movement is resurfacing as a central rallying point for Democrats as they set their sights on the White House.
At least 18 of the party’s 23 presidential contenders have come out in support of some version of free college . Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts promises free tuition at public colleges and universities. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota says it should be limited to two years of community college. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wants to provide free tuition in exchange for public service.
The candidates are responding to what some say is a crisis in college affordability, an issue likely to draw attention in the first primary debates later this month. Year after year, colleges say they have to raise tuition to offset state funding cuts. Students have shouldered the cost by taking out loans, pushing the country’s student debt to nearly $1.6 trillion this year. Even for many in the middle class, experts say, college is increasingly moving out of reach.
Free college, a catchall term for a range of affordability plans, is increasingly seen as a solution. Nearly 20 states now promise some version of free college, from Tennessee’s free community college program to New York’s Excelsior Scholarship, which offers up to four years of free tuition at state schools for residents with family incomes below $125,000 a year.
But research on the effectiveness of state programs has been mixed. Critics say the offers are often undermined by limited funding and come with narrow eligibility rules that exclude many students.
“This is a problem that has not gone away but has gotten worse in many communities,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research for Demos, a liberal think tank. “It’s enough of a problem that people expect some action on it, and they expect some plan for how to get there.”
Plans from Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Obama housing chief Julian Castro aim to eliminate tuition at all public institutions. The candidates say that would open college to a wider group of Americans and greatly reduce the need for loans. Warren argues that college, like other levels of schooling, is “a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation.”
Others, including Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden, have backed more moderate plans to provide two years of free tuition at community colleges, similar to an idea pushed by President Barack Obama in 2015.
And there are some who say students should be able to graduate without debt. To do that, several candidates want to help students with tuition as well as textbooks and living costs. Such “debt-free” plans, which aim to steer money toward students with lower incomes, are supported Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, among others.
Proposals for free college nationwide started to gain popularity among Democrats during the Obama administration and in the 2016 primary race. That discussion stalled after the election of President Donald Trump, who is seen as hostile to the idea. His administration blames colleges for the debt crisis, saying they ramp up tuition because they know students have easy access to federal loans.
Before Trump was elected, Sanders was credited with bringing the issue to the fore when he campaigned on a promise to make tuition free at public colleges. Hillary Clinton, the party’s 2016 nominee, initially criticized the idea but later adopted a similar plan. Now, early in the 2020 race, Democrats have been quick to show their support. Instead of debating whether it should be free, most are weighing which model is best and how to achieve it.
“It’s striking how much the debate has shifted over the past decade,” Huelsman said. “If you look at the 2008 election, 2012, it was not something that was necessarily a prominent part of the debate.”
For most candidates, free college is just part of the solution as they confront student debt and college access. Several also promise to help borrowers refinance loans at lower interest rates; some want to wipe away huge chunks of the nation’s student debt.
Those types of proposals are likely to be popular among the growing share of voters paying off student loans, said Douglas Harris, an economics professor at Tulane University who has studied the effectiveness of free college.
“Something like 1 in 5 voters has college debt, which is a huge percentage,” he said. “And when you have a huge number of people affected by something, then that certainly gets people’s attention.”
One of the major sticking points over free college is the price. Warren’s total education plan is estimated to cost $1.25 trillion over a decade. Sanders’ free college plan would cost $47 billion a year. Both call on the federal government to split the cost with states while also raising taxes on Wall Street or the wealthiest Americans.
Some Democrats, though, say that kind of spending is untenable. Klobuchar has rejected the idea of free college for everyone, saying the country can’t afford it. Instead she backs two years of free community college as a way to help prepare workers and fill shortages in the job market.
“When I look at the jobs that are available right now out there, we have a lot of job openings in areas that could use a one-year degree, a two-year degree, and we’re just not filling those jobs,” Klobuchar said at a March town hall in Iowa. She added that students can attend community college and then “later go on to complete their four-year degree.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke supports free community college for all Americans, along with debt-free college at four-year institutions for students with low and modest incomes. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says he would make community college free “for those who can’t afford it.”
Many free college supporters see promise in a federal plan that could bring more funding and share the cost with states. But in Congress, that kind of plan has yet to take hold.
In March, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, reintroduced his Debt-Free College Act, which calls for a partnership with states to make sure students can afford all college costs without borrowing loans. The idea died in the previous session and has yet to be taken up in this one, but the new bill has gained wider support from Democrats.
Among those backing the plan are four 2020 candidates: Gillibrand, Harris, Warren and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cbinkley
FILE PHOTO: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech inside Parliament in Khartoum, Sudan April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo
June 15, 2019
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s chief prosecutor said on Saturday that ousted President Omar al-Bashir would be sent for trial soon on corruption charges related to his three decades in power.
Alwaleed Sayed Ahmed Mahmoud told a news conference the trial referral would be made after a one-week period for objections expires, adding that criminal cases have been opened against 41 other former officials accused of graft.
The prosecutor’s office said on Thursday that Bashir, who was ousted by the military in April following months of protests against his 30-year autocratic rule, had been charged with corruption after an investigation was completed.
The charges are related to laws on “suspected illicit wealth and emergency orders,” the office said, without giving more details.
Bashir had already been charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters. Prosecutors also ordered his interrogation on suspicion of money laundering and terrorism financing.
Mahmoud also said he had attended a meeting with military heads to discuss judicial supervision of a plan to clear what he called “criminals” from an area adjacent to a protest camp in the center of the capital.
But the idea of dispersing the protesters was not discussed, he added.
The country’s military rulers said on Thursday they had thwarted several coup attempts and that some officers had been arrested over the deadly dispersal of protesters at a sit-in in Khartoum earlier this month.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Helen Popper)
Well isn’t this interesting.
On Thursday afternoon Ellen Weintrab, a DEMOCRAT Chair of the Federal Election Commission posted a statement online condemning President Trump for suggesting he may accept oppo research from a foreign government.
Democrat Weintraub was appointed by George W. Bush during a recess appointment.
One more fun fact about Weintraub — she worked for the DNC-Hillary Clinton-Deep State law firm Perkins Coie prior to being elected to FEC chair.
Per the FEC:
Commissioner Weintraub took office on December 9, 2002, after receiving a recess appointment; she was renominated and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on March 18, 2003. Commissioner Petersen was nominated and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate on June 24, 2008.
Prior to her appointment to the Commission, Ms. Weintraub was Of Counsel to Perkins Coie LLP and a member of its Political Law Group. Before joining Perkins Coie, Ms. Weintraub was Counsel to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for the U.S. House of Representatives (the House Ethics Committee). Ms. Weintraub received her B.A., cum laude, from Yale College and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Is this why Weintraub said nothing when Hillary Clinton paid for a junk Russian dossier and hid the payments by funneling the money through her law firm PERKINS COIE, worked with Ukrainians to obtain dirt on Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and reportedly had foreign intelligence agencies spy on the Trump campaign?
In October of 2017, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an FEC complaint alleging the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign committee violated campaign finance law because they failed to disclose the purpose and recipient of payments for the phony Steele dossier.
Is this also why the FEC is ignoring Hillary Clinton’s $84 million campaign finance scandal?
Source: The Washington Pundit