Tag Archives: Business

What The Hell Is Happening To Our Society?

la-oe-goldberg-disability-entitlements-2013040-001            Work-Makes-Free-Clear

 

With each passing day, as I read and see more and more injustice and cruelty from this feeble excuse of a government, I wonder just what the hell is going on here?

Here’s a selection of video interviews by the amazing Artist Taxi Driver to make my point for me. The last one made me so angry and frankly, ashamed to be British and it reminded me of a documentary I saw online recently exposing the truth about the British monarchy. Its called Royal Babylon and I’ve included that too. Prepare to be shocked if you’re the kind of person who thinks the Queen is just a sweet old lady and Winston Churchill etc were ‘great’ British leaders…this is definitely NOT the version of British history that Michael Gove wants to ram down our kid’s throats.

 

 

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The Tale of Sir Gerald Howarth, QuickQuid and other Loan Shark Tory Donors.

Baroness Thatcher death

Those of you who followed the debates in Parliament about the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill will have fond memories of watching ex Defence Minister, Sir Gerald Howarth make a complete arse of himself by claiming that decent, upright ‘straight’ people like him who opposed gay marriage were in constant danger of assault by raging homosexuals. I wasn’t sure what I found most incredible about this performance – the fact that he could argue his case in the face of overwhelming evidence that the very opposite of what he was claiming was in fact the truth, or the amount of ‘Honourable Friends’ he gave way to during his speech in order for them to agree with him.

images It comes as no surprise then to discover that this homophobic Tory has very recently accepted a paid job as a part time advisor to CNU Holdings Ltd who own the pay day loan shark company, QuickQuid. He explained to the House of Commons that his role with the company would be “advising on the effects of legislative changes and other matters” though he didn’t elaborate on what those ‘other matters’ might be. For this he will be paid £20,000. Clearly the people at QuickQuid are unaware of his woeful grasp of the truth or they wouldn’t be wasting their money.

images (2) CNU Holdings Ltd aka CashNetUSA are an American outfit who’ve set up QuickQuid over here to take advantage of the huge growth in the loan shark market. They’ve made a killing so far, seeing their UK revenues sky-rocket from £58m in 2010 to £196m in 2012. Recently Daniel Fehan, CEO of CNU Holdings has been heard to express concern over the calls to amend the Financial Services Bill to allow caps on interest rates on pay day loans. He’s been warning that their profits were under threat from possible UK legislation. Oh dear, we can’t have now that, can we? I wonder if the profit- friendly Cameron has sent Sir Gerald along to reassure them that his government are ‘all about growth’ and so will do nothing to stop QuickQuid exploiting the poor in the UK. Maybe those ‘other matters’ Sir Gerald is pocketing his £20K for are to do with explaining to his temporary US employers how much the Tories are doing to improve their market with their policies of impoverishment.

article_6e1ac20819072878_1337630402_9j-4aaqsk  After all Cameron wouldn’t want to upset some of his more generous Conservative Party donors by introducing legislation that hit the pockets that financed him, now would he? Pictured here is the infamous banker Adrian Beecroft, who not so long ago was advocating legislation that allowed the sacking of  ‘unproductive’ workers with no nasty Tribunals getting in the way to slap employers’ wrists.

images (3)        This charming character owns Dawn Capital Investments which is a major shareholder in another pay day loan company, Wonga, the one that endears itself to the unsuspecting public by advertising its racket with cute, cuddly old lady and men puppets who wouldn’t harm a fly. This guy not long ago generously added £800,000 to Tory coffers. And by doing nothing at all about the 4000+% interest rates that Wonga typically charge the Tories have played their part in tripling Wonga’s turnover since 2010.  (What was that you said, Dave, about Labour being in the pocket of the unions? Notice any union members’ wages tripling recently, have you?).

SHOCKING_COPY_Fuck_Me_Wonga   The Tories came up with another nice little earner at their Party Conference in Bournemouth last year. They hired a ballroom and set up a kind of ‘speed dating’ event. Representatives from Wonga were among other corporate lizards who paid £1500 a head to woo such Tories as Michael Fallon, the enterprise minister, David Gauke, the Treasury’s exchequer secretary, and Sajid Javid, its economic secretary, Of course, when questioned about this example of Tory prostitution the Party refused to confirm anyone from Wonga was there, claiming it was a ‘private event’. Couldn’t be they were being tight lipped because Wonga’s practices were under major investigation at the time by the OFT, could it? Of course, nothing really came of that investigation….I wonder why?

hcl2_zpsfa78c3d7 Next up we have another banker, Henry Angest, CEO of Arbuthnot Banking Group which owns Everyday Loans. Henry is a good friend of the Camerons and a major donor to the Tories having given them £7 million. Very recently he’s been very nice to them again by offering them a £5 million loan at a very, very nice interest rate of just 3.5%. Not exactly a pay day loan, eh? This is obviously a chap who enjoys his country suppers.

images (4)  This advert for Henry’s loan racket certainly gives me, as an average kind of punter, the strong impression its one of the pay day loan variety. However, despite saying EveryDay Loans is designed for the kind of customer who is ‘under served by high street banks’ Henry flatly denies its one of the pay day loan kind because his loans only have an interest rate of 74.8%. Only? For how long?  I suspect Henry is being a tad disingenuous here because he only acquired EveryDay Loans very recently under the guise of Secure Trust Bank – part of his Arbuthnot Banking Group – he bought it for the consideration of £1 from Alchemy when, ironically, it was struggling with debt, mainly as a result of the mis-selling of PPI. It has a loan book of almost £64 million and its operating profit for 2011 was a mere £4.6 million. Henry, being the thrusting capitalist that he is, will want to see it grow but he’s not going to compete in the loan shark market if he keeps his interest rates at 74.8%. And he’ll be hoping, like busy Beecroft that the generosity he’s extended to the Tories will stop any nasty laws being introduced to get in the way of his profits. I think we need to keep an eye on EveryDay Loans…

mitchell  So what’s happening with the legislation, then?  Last year when the Financial Services Bill came up for a reading in the House of Lords, Labour peer, Lord Mitchell proposed an amendment that pay day loans have the interest rates capped. Sounds like a good idea to me. They’ve done it in Canada where its capped at 60% and in Australia where its even lower at 48%. In the United States some states have caps on interest and restrict the number of loans that can be taken out at any one time. Even more interesting is that in 13 states they’ve banned pay day loans altogether and consider it a felony and racketeering to sell one. If proved guilty you can get up to 25 years in jail. This is the major reason why US companies like CNU Holdings are coming over here and hiring idiots like Sir Gerald Howarth. And its a major reason why they want to keep politicians sweet.

article-2259877-16D71900000005DC-993_638x416  Which brings us to Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury until very recently, when he left to work for Jardine Matheson aka Jardines, a long established trading company infamous for importing opium to China – in other words a one time drug dealer. Banker Lord Sassoon is a mate of banker Lord Freud. They  both worked at Swiss bank UBS. When working there back in the 1990’s he was known as Mr Privatisation because he advised the government of the day in selling off state owned assets. He’s immensely rich and has shares in countless banks and, interestingly enough, in Experian.

sassoon_1450249c       Obviously a (self) important man, then. When Lord Mitchell bravely put forward his amendment  last year, no doubt sticking up for the poor on whose backs the pay day loan sharks are making a killing, Lord Sassoon persuaded him to drop it with a silver-tongued promise to urge the Treasury ‘to bring in some measure’. The noble Mitchell promptly did as he was told and no doubt the likes of Adrian and Henry and the US chancers heaved a sigh of relief.

jo-swinson-300x169                                                                               You may remember a much more recent raising of hopes that the government were about to step in and ‘do the right thing’ by the 99% of us who rely on them for social justice in this country. Yes, the intrepid champion of the customer Jo Swinson, Consumer Affairs Minister. As recently as a few days ago she rode bravely into the breech to give  Wonga and co a hard time and tell them what for. Surely this tough cookie who stood up, no less, against the air brushing of womens’ images on glossy magazines would once and for all put these loan sharks in their place? Sadly, not.

cameron_rothschild400-372x300  No, Ms Swinson was no match for corporate influence, it seems. Her conclusion beggars belief. She said there would be no cap on interest rates because it might drive people to resort to even worse lenders! So it looks like David and Samantha are going to be doing a lot more entertaining in the coming months and the Conservative Party coffers are no doubt going to overflow with the largesse of pay day loan sharks from far and wide. This, my friends, is what being in the ‘global race’ is all about. Its about making us poor enough to accept sweatshop wages and desperate enough to take loans at interest rates that make the Tories friends rich beyond any of our wildest dreams which we may as well not bother dreaming any more.

David Simonds cartoon on Cameron's anti-business speech     So the next time you see David Cameron stand up at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and point in self-righteous anger at the Labour benches and suggest there’s something criminal and corrupt about their funding from unions remember all the businessmen and bankers who prop up his party of privilege. If he can defend the bankrolling of his profit-friendly policies is it fair to complain when working class folk want to club together to help out a party that stands for their interests?

Why has Baron Freud been consulting with his Bankster Mates about our Credit Unions?

italian-banksters    images (11) We’ve all heard the twisted logic coming from David Freud’s lips. Baron Freud’s argument is that because the poor have the least to lose they should take the biggest risks. Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised to hear a former banker talking like this or be further surprised that he seems to measure risk purely in terms of quantities of money and has completely failed to see that while the poor do indeed have less to lose, by losing the small amount of money and possessions they own they would be rendered destitute and homeless. Whereas for the rich to lose the very same amount – the sum total of the poor’s assets – would have no impact whatsoever on the quality of their lives. They certainly wouldn’t go hungry. Freud is not an uneducated man. He’s well aware that the facts I’ve just written above are true. His argument is not based on fact but on a deeply held class prejudice because what he is effectively saying very clearly with his banker’s logic is that the money he and his class own is more important than the very lives of the poor. He knows just as well as we do that when you deprive a human being of the most basic means to survive you condemn them to a slow death. This is the man who has been entrusted with the job of welfare reform. And this is the man who, since early 2011, has been talking to some of the biggest and most notoriously criminal banks about our Credit Unions. Why? images (3)       A Credit Union, as many of you will know, is a member-owned financial cooperative, democratically controlled by its members, and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at affordable rates as well as a few other financial services to its members. Its a very different beast than a commercial bank, not least because it doesn’t exist to make a profit. When the Credit Union Act 1979 was passed it defined the meaning and ethos of Credit Unions and set out their objectives. The central and most basic principle that underpins such organisations is the notion that there is a ‘common bond’ between members. Members were people who had things in common such as being employed in the same industry, living in the same locality, belonging to the same organisation or group or had any other reason to be associated with each other. By virtue of this basic requirement Credit Unions were necessarily small co-operative societies. The objectives laid down in Statute were,

  • the promotion of thrift among the members of the society by the accumulation of their savings;
  • the creation of sources of credit for the benefit of the members of the society at a fair and reasonable rate of interest;
  • the use and control of the members’ savings for their mutual benefit; and
  • the training and education of the members in the wise use of money and in the management of their financial affairs.

Credit Unions were never intended to be banks…. cu_umbrella    Back in July 2006 the then New Labour government started a Growth Fund as part of their Financial Inclusion Fund and in an attempt to encourage growth in run down local economies they handed out grants to Credit Unions so they could provide more loans to local people to help fund small businesses and other projects. They gave Credit Unions grants worth in total £42 million between 2006 and 2008, then pledged a further £38 million to be used between 2008 and 2011. Its estimated that this money benefited around 160,000 people to the tune of £70 million in affordable loans. This was money given up front by government and they took the trouble to do some research and target the most needy areas with the most money. But in 2010 of course the slash and burn Coalition government took over the budget… Mark-Hoban-said-the-euroz-007    In early 2011 DWP Minister Mark Hoban (pictured here with a rather large zit) made a statement about the future of the Financial Inclusion Fund containing a shadowy hint at their plans for Credit Unions,

“The Financial Inclusion Fund will close at the end of March 2011. The Government will work closely with industry and other stakeholders to ensure that tackling financial exclusion remains a high priority. ….. The Financial Inclusion Fund has always been due to close in March 2010(sic). The Government have not yet taken a decision on the future of the projects currently funded from the Financial Inclusion Fund. The Government remain committed to helping poorer households to access appropriate financial services, to improve their financial resilience and to avoid falling into unsustainable levels of debt”

This reference to a commitment to help poorer families access ‘appropriate’ financial services is an ominous one in light of the fate they have in store for Credit Unions. The key is in the use of the word’appropriate’ rather than, say,  ‘affordable’ – because you can be sure its their definition of that word that will prevail given that they have not publicised their plans widely enough to open up the consultation debate to the very poor and low waged who traditionally rely on Credit Unions. We were hearing a great deal about Universal Credit back then  but there was precious little media reporting on this issue at all despite the many opportunities to bring it up whenever there’s been a horror story in the news regarding pay day loan sharks. Its pretty obvious they have deliberately kept it low profile. banks     Whilst a spotty Hoban was speaking in such vague terms to the press, his wily colleague the Baron Freud was consulting with some of the biggest banking and private equity interests in the world. According to DWP records, almost from day one, of the Coalition he was having meetings with a number of big players regarding Credit Unions.

  • In July 2010 he consulted separately with people from Deutsche Bank, UBS and J.P. Morgan for  ‘investment expertise.’
  • In January and February  2011 he met with PMM Partners LLP, a company describing itself as existing for ‘ the purpose of pursuing private equity opportunities in the real estate sector’ and offering help  ‘with all aspects of fund origination, structuring, acquisitions and disposals, due diligence, asset and property management’. One of their customers is Grant Thornton who produced the so-called ‘independent’ report on Furness General Hospital.( http://wp.me/p3mYc5-5J )
  • In April 2011 he met with Barclays who had been ‘donating’ small sums of money -around £30K  – to Credit Unions since 2010 to encourage them to change their business model towards a more mainstream banking version.
  • In December 2011 he met with Barclays again, along with Goldman Sachs and PMM Partners LLP.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions So what’s going on here? Lord Freud seems to be conducting a consultation about the future of Credit Unions by speaking to the banks but not involving the Credit Unions themselves in the process. Well, not quite, but we’ll get to that in a minute…. social-spending-cuts-cartoon        Its important to remember at this point that the grant funding given to Credit Unions by the previous government was coming to an end and the Coalition wasn’t minded to carry it forward. However, Freud and his gang at the DWP knew that they were about to embark on a massive cut in benefits and it can’t have failed to register with them that this was going to leave the poorest people in dire need and thus create a huge market for small loans. There had already been a number of tales of horror about pay day loan sharks getting in on the act with exorbitant interest rates. Credit Unions were the obvious acceptable alternative to this but the tight-fisted, moralising, capitalist Tory attitude baulked at  the thought of simply handing over money with no return. The Baron, it seems, was hatching a cunning plan, which with the right kind of propaganda would make it look like the government was still supporting Credit Unions out of a paternalistic concern for those they were about to impoverish further, when in fact they were about to facilitate a kind of hostile takeover by the Banksters. To this end, back in 2010, they made ambitious claims in the press to be planning to ‘invest’ over £70 million in Credit Unions. 144359404   Freud and Co.then commissioned Experian to do a feasibility study for what they called their ‘Credit Union Expansion Project’. The study found that,

“a market exists amongst people on lower incomes for locally provided banking, savings deposit and loan services from trusted providers such as credit unions:

  • 1.4 million have no transactional bank account at present
  • 4 million incur bank charges

  • up to 7 million use sources of high cost credit”

    http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/credit-union-feasibility-study-report.pdf rman13158l       So there was definitely a market out there and with the roll out of benefit cuts playing in the background any Tory fool could see this was a growing market. But there were problems. The ethos of the Credit Union laid down in statute which kept such organisations small and that relied on a common bond between members didn’t sit well within a market context. The very nature of Credit Unions is to be co-operative not competitive and has a distinctly socialist flavour to it.  Experian saw this as a major drawback and gave the following advice which Lord snooty Freud and his pals have placed at the heart of their expansion programme,

“A major programme of cultural and behavioural change would be required to achieve the modernisation and expansion needed.By achieving the publicly funded change we propose it can speak to the Big Society Bank and other funding organisations as one ‘organisation’ large enough and financially stable enough for investors to be interested in. However, until real change has been achieved there is no realistic opportunity for it to achieve commercial or social investment because it lacks the capacity to repay.”

Now where have I heard that phrase ‘cultural and behavioural change‘ before? 01_awelfarea     It seems the sheer arrogance of this government knows no bounds. Just like IDS the Baron is acting like a feudal lord towards the Credit Unions and by extension to all of us who use them. As members we have shares in them, we OWN them yet here he is treating them as if he has the right to consult with banks behind their backs and make decisions about their future in order to make them a more attractive prospect for the sharks to invest in then impose those decisions on them as a condition for government money which they’ll have to pay back. There’s much more of this draconian approach in the feasibility study that should raise the alarm.

  • Government investment being made in stages on a payment by results basis, with the next stage not approved for commencement until the objectives of the previous stage have been achieved
  • Strict criteria will be applied to ensure that only suitable credit unions, which have already demonstrated sufficient progress are involved.
  • Change programme will need to demonstrate at an early stage a greater capability and willingness to change if Credit Unions want to be selected to participate in a program of behavioural, process and systems change.
  • Legislation to be changed to allow them to charge up to 3.0% pcm ( approx 43% APR) on loans from April 2014.

credit unions    It gets worse. There are over 400 Credit Unions in the UK, some smaller than others. The one I belong to is one of those smaller concerns. Experian didn’t think that government should fully subsidise the gap between income and expenditure for the credit unions in the financial model they produced. This is, in part, because they thought they should be asked to find ways of bridging some of the gap themselves.They point out that this would pose risks for the smaller Credit Unions and as evidence for this they mention that 55 Credit Unions have already had grant funding withdrawn, 25 of which have been forced to cease trading. They also mention that during the course of their study around 80 of the bigger Credit Unions had agreed to sign up for the program BUT they advise this is too big a number, and advise that government  “ will want to select the credit unions you work with in future very carefully.” Following this report the Baron has revised down the figure for investment into this so-called ‘expansion’ of Credit Unions from the £70+ million originally announced to a mere £38 million  to be delivered in phases over 5 years on a payment by results basis. This will effectively be a loan not a grant. So if less than 80 Credit Unions are to be signed up for this what will happen to the remaining 300 plus Credit Unions whose funding will disappear altogether?  images (13)    I said above that it wasn’t quite true that the Baron had only been consulting with big banks over this cunning plan. In fact both he and IDS had just one meeting back in February 2011 with the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd. (ABCUL) who say they represent 70% of Credit Unions and ‘provide a full range of advice, training and development services to help our member credit unions grow and become sustainable financial co-operatives.’ Except for organising a get together of several of the larger Credit Unions in May 2012 where the plans were announced and this year making a patronising token gesture of opening an account for himself at one of the London Credit Unions this is the only serious meeting the Baron has had with anyone who has a grass roots stake in Credit Unions. http://www.abcul.org/media-and-research/news/view/342 On 22nd April this year the Baron announced that ABCUL were ‘the winning bidder in the recent DWP Credit Union Expansion Project (CUEP) procurement exercise.’ The wording of this suggests that there were several bidders for this contract – you can only win something if there’s competition – yet there’s no information on the DWP website at all about this procurement exercise, despite others being available for public scrutiny and despite the government’s trumpeting of itself as aiming to be ‘the most transparent government ever’.(FOI applied for yesterday). And given the lack of evidence of any wider consultation with the shareholders of Credit Unions you have to wonder if ABCUL were given the nod back in early 2011 that the contract was theirs. They have form for this with ATOS. city-of-london1   The question now remains over what part the banks consulted by the Baron are hoping to play in all this. And why he was involving a company like PMM Partners LLB, a private equity firm specialising in real estate. Maybe we can get a taste for what their intentions are by looking across the Atlantic to the United States where the model proposed by the Baron has been playing out for many years, long before the 2008 meltdown. Here are three reasons why Credit Unions should give the big banks a very wide berth indeed

images (4)

The NCUA – the American equivalent of ABCUL – accused London- based Barclays Capital  of breaching state and federal law when it allegedly made misrepresentations in the course of selling securities valued at more than $555 million to the U.S. Federal Credit Union and to the Western Corporate Federal Credit Union between February 2006 and June 2007.Both credit unions were placed under the agency’s conservatorship in March 2009, then into liquidation in 2010. When the NCUA sued Barclays contested it on the grounds that NCUA had left it too late. Both these Credit Unions were part of a corporate consortium of the kind proposed by the Baron for the UK.

http://www.law360.com/articles/381613/credit-union-agency-sues-barclays-over-555m-in-risky-rmbs

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The National Credit Union Administration Board on Thursday hit a UBS AG unit with claims that the banking giant misrepresented the risk of more than $1.1 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities it sold to two now-defunct credit unions. Again these credit unions were part of the consortium. UBS are another bank to have consulted over here by the Baron …and of course he used to work for them.

http://www.law360.com/articles/376102/credit-union-watchdog-says-ubs-falsely-sold-1-1b-in-rmbs

 y69_07-22-09_goldmansachs_risk1

A federal watchdog for the credit union industry slapped Goldman Sachs with a lawsuit in 2011 alleging violations of federal and state laws tied to the sale of mortgage-backed securities

.goldman-sachs-cartoon    The NCUA filed suit in California district court against the financial firm for damages in excess of $491 million. Specifically, the NCUA claims that Goldman’s misrepresentations caused the credit unions to believe certain investments carried minimal risk, while that was not the case.

http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/09/news/companies/goldman_ncua_lawsuit/index.htm images (18)   The government have already changed the law concerning Credit Unions. Enacted in last year it means the following changes have already happened with few of the people it will really affect noticing, let alone being consulted about it.

  • Credit unions  no longer have to prove that everyone who can join a credit union has something in common. This means they are able to provide services to different groups of people within one credit union.
  • Credit unions are able to open up membership to new groups, such as tenants of a housing association or employees of a national company, even if some tenants/employees live outside the geographical area that the credit union serves.
  • Credit unions are no longer limited to providing services to just individuals.
  • Credit unions are able to choose to offer membership to unincorporated associations and corporate bodies such as companies, partnerships and social enterprises.
  • Non-individuals can only make up a maximum of 10% of a credit union’s total membership hold a maximum of 25% of shares in the credit union and be granted a maximum of 10% of loans
  • Credit unions can choose whether to offer ordinary shares – ownership of which will bring all the benefits of credit union membership, or deferred shares, which will only be repayable in restricted circumstances and which will count towards the capital of a credit union.

krauzeyield     The government eventually plan to deliver the new Credit Union services through local Post Offices where most people draw their benefits. Perhaps we can now see why they called their shiny new system Universal Credit. As benefit are slashed further and further Baron the Bountiful is providing the masses he so despises with access to credit, possibly from the same account their benefits are paid into. With the planned increase in interest rates that Credit Unions can charge to around 43% APR these loans won’t necessarily be all that cheap. A quick browse on the internet revealed a number of companies offering far lower rates. Tesco have a loan at 5.1% APR and some companies even offer bad credit risk customers under 20% APR. For Banksters like the Baron it seems the future is bright…..

The Unknown Soldier: Our Government boasts of ‘fairness’ but is THIS fair?

eimage001        I often receive emails from a group whose views I don’t always agree with. But on this occasion I have to speak out in support of what they say. One of their number sent me the photos I’ve reproduced here. The pictures tell their own story. They were sent to me  along with the following statement,

No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women serve in the British Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay on retirement, while Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full-pay retirement after serving one term.  This is the same in Canada, the US and Australia.

It just does not make any sense.

image002      When confronted with photos like this there’s NO argument that can convince me that sending our young men and women to fight wars to uphold the ‘values’ of capitalism is justified.

download (1)         In a world where corporate capital rules the day , where nation states have been subordinated to the interests of multinational companies and where wars are fought to further those interests, all soldiers everywhere are conscripts in the army fighting to uphold those interests.

The fact that they are discarded in this way when injured only serves to demonstrate the vile priorities of those in power.