World
Swissleaks: HSBC chief Stuart Gulliver kept millions in Swiss account

According to a report from The Guardian, the HSBC chief executive was a client of the Swiss private banking arm accused of helping wealthy clients evade tax

 

HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who vowed to reform the scandal-hit bank, himself had kept millions of dollars in a Swiss account, says a report.
 
According to the Guardian, Gulliver, the chief executive of HSBC, was a client of the Swiss private banking arm that is accused of helping wealthy clients evade tax.
 
Gulliver held about $7.6 million in 2007 in a Swiss account in the name of Worcester Equities Inc, a Panama-registered company, according to the newspaper report.
 
Gulliver, who is based in Britain but is domiciled in Hong Kong for legal and tax purposes, was listed as the beneficial owner of the account, the report said.
 
It was published on the evening before Gulliver is due to present HSBC's annual report, expected to be overshadowed by a scandal that has prompted investigations of the bank by Britain's financial watchdog and Swiss authorities.
 
However, a representative for Gulliver told the Guardian that the chief executive had used a Swiss account to hold his bonus payments prior to 2003, when he moved from Hong Kong to London.
 
Gulliver's lawyers said that Hong Kong tax had been paid on this income and that his Swiss accounts had been declared to British tax authorities.
 
British newspapers published a letter from Gulliver apologising for the Swiss division's behaviour in full-page advertisements last week.
 
Gulliver insisted the Swiss arm had been 'completely overhauled' since 2007, when former employee Herve Falciani stole a huge cache of data and passed it to French authorities.
 
It is the latest in a stream of so-called 'Swissleaks' allegations that have hit the reputation of the British banking giant and caused a political storm ahead of a general election in May.
 
British tax authority HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials, accused of failing to act adequately on evidence of tax evasion in the files, are to be grilled by members of parliament on Wednesday.
 

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Anil Ambani’s Reliance group says no search at its offices

The R-ADA Group said work station of only one specific employee from Reliance Power was searched and no incriminating material was found

 

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (R-ADA) group on Monday denied any search or raid at any of its offices.
 
In separate regulatory filings, all listed companies of the Anil Ambani-led Group said 'no search or raid has been conducted by police authorities at any office of the Reliance Group anywhere in India'.
 
The filings made by Reliance Capital, Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Communications and Reliance Power stated that the Group clarifies its position in the interest of millions of its investors, following misleading reports in a section of the media.
 
The RADA Group added that work station of only one specific Reliance Power employee was searched and no incriminating material was found.
 
"We are not aware of the circumstances leading to the arrest of that employee and Reliance Power is fully cooperating with the authorities. We are committed to propriety in all our business dealings and do not support unlawful activities of any nature," the company said.
 

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When a Wildlife Rehab Centre Regulates Charter Schools

Charter school “authorizers” are charged with making sure schools can be trusted with kids and with public money. Problem is, many lack the tools to do the job

 

Nestled in the woods of central Minnesota, near a large lake, is a nature sanctuary called the Audubon Center of the North Woods. The nonprofit rehabilitates birds. It hosts retreats and conferences. It’s home to a North American porcupine named Spike as well as several birds of prey, frogs, and snakes used to educate the center’s visitors.
 
It’s also Minnesota’s largest regulator of charter schools, overseeing 32 of them. 
 
Charter schools are taxpayer-funded, privately run schools freed from many of the rules that apply to traditional public schools. What’s less widely understood is that there are few hard-and-fast rules for how the regulators charged with overseeing charter schools are supposed to do the job. Many are making it up as they go along. 
 
Known as “authorizers,” charter regulators have the power to decide which charter schools should be allowed to open and which are performing so badly they ought to close. They’re supposed to vet charter schools, making sure the schools are giving kids a good education and spending public money responsibly. 

But many of these gatekeepers are woefully inexperienced, under-resourced, confused about their mission or even compromised by conflicts of interest. And while some charter schools are overseen by state education agencies or school districts, others are regulated by entities for which overseeing charters is a side job, such as private colleges and nonprofits like the Audubon wildlife rehabilitation center.
 
One result of the regulatory mishmash: Bad schools have been allowed to stay open and evade accountability. 
 
“Almost everything you see come up as charter school problems, if you scratch past the surface, the real problem is bad authorizing,” said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education. 
 
In 2010, an investigation by the Philadelphia Controller’s Office found lavish executive salaries, conflicts of interest and other problems at more than a dozen charter schools, and it faulted the authorizer – the School District of Philadelphia’s charter school office – for “complete and total failure” to monitor schools. In 2013, more than a dozen Ohio charter schools that had gained approval from various authorizers received state funding and then either collapsed in short order or never opened at all. 
 
“Considerable state funds were lost and many lives impacted because of these failures,” the Ohio Department of Education wrote in a scathing letter last year to Ohio’s charter-school regulators. The agency wrote that some authorizers “lacked not only the appropriate processes, but more importantly, the commitment of mission, expertise and resources needed to be effective.” 
Aside from such dramatic implosions, it’s hard to tell how many authorizers are doing at this important public function. They’re generally not required to say much about the details of their decision-making. 
 
Take Minnesota’s Audubon Centre. As a group, the schools overseen by the centre fall below the state average on test scores. The group has several persistently low performers, acknowledged David Greenberg, Audubon’s Director of Charter School Authorizing, and a few years back, made the tough call to close one. But test scores offer a limited window into how a regulator is performing. The centre works with several schools serving high-need students in Minneapolis, and high-need students tend to have lower test scores. A full picture requires a more holistic evaluation – one that the Minnesota Department of Education is just starting this year. 
 
In the early years of the charter movement, charter supporters focused on creating more authorizers, in order to spur the creation of more schools. That’s still true in some states, where charters are taking off. But as the movement has matured, there’s been a realization that “having too many authorizers undercuts quality,” in the words of the National Association for Charter School Authorizers, a trade group for charter regulators. NACSA has worked to educate states and individual authorizers on what good oversight looks like, while promoting measures such as “default closure” to help bypass authorizers that may be reluctant to close chronically underperforming schools. 
 
While there are promising signs, NACSA acknowledges there’s still a long way to go. “It feels like whack-a-mole, but in the long term, you’re getting closer,” said Alex Medler, the group’s vice president of policy and advocacy. Even if states have some strong authorizers, weak ones can undermine the whole system, as underperforming schools can find refuge with them. 
“It’s not how many are good, it’s are there any bad ones left?” Medler said. “If you’re running a bad school, you look for the presence of bad authorizers. You ignore the good authorizer.”
Consider Indiana, a state that has sought to strengthen charter-school accountability in recent years. On one hand, the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office is widely regarded as a strong charter-school regulator. The schools it oversees have as a group performed better on state tests than Indianapolis Public Schools, and the office has made some tough calls, revoking charters when it sees fit and flagging suspected cheating at its schools.
 
On the other hand, there’s Trine University, a small private college in rural Northeast Indiana and a charter-school regulator that has taken on schools that left other authorizers, in some cases after those regulators had sought to close them. 
 
One of Trine’s schools is a charter operated by Imagine, a national charter-school operator trailed by a track record of questionable financial dealings at schools in multiple states. In 2006, Imagine had sought approval from the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, which roundly rejected those charter applications, noting that “the evidence regarding the performance of Imagine Schools nationwide is limited and mixed,” according to internal notes from the mayor’s office. Staffers also raised concerns about the fees the schools would have to pay to Imagine. 
 
So Imagine tried again with Ball State University, another regulator, got approvals, and began operating several persistently lagging schools until Ball State toughened up and sought to close seven schools at once, including three Imagine schools. The remaining Imagine school – which had gotten progressively worse over the years, going from a C to a D to an F – then jumped ship to Trine University.
 
 
 

 

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