Wettbewerbsvorteile

Competition advantages.

The E.U. Commission said they are going to file complaints with the European Court of Justice against Deutsche Bahn, the German rail system, and Deutsche Post, the German post office, for competition violations.

Deutsche Bahn is accused of an unclear accounting system without “eindeutig geregelt,” unambiguously regulated, procedures for keeping separate money for the rails network and and for traffic [“Schienennetz und Verkehr“]; E.U. law requires separation between the ownership and operation of rails networks. The Commission said money paid by D.B.’s competitors to use its rail networks might have been “alienated from its purpose” for improper “cross-subventions.” Also, taxpayers’ money which the government must contribute to the maintenance of the rails network infrastructure might have been diverted into Deutsche Bahn’s passenger and freight traffic. Such redirection might have enabled the company to establish unfair advantages over its competitors, thus the complaint from the E.U. competition authority, though the E.U. transportation commissioner Siim Kallas (libertarianesque Estonian Reform Party) who approved the C.S.U.’s car toll on foreigners entering Bavaria also said he wants new legislation to create more competition between European railroad companies. Generally, the German government is accused of not having adequately blocked D.B. from such repurposing and unclear accounting, and if the court agrees it appears Germany may be fined.

At issue for the Post is old government aid payments for which, the E.U. said, the German government did not adequately require reimbursement. The Deutsche Post paid back ~300 million euros plus interest of the 500 million to 1000 million euros the E.U. accused it in 2012 of receiving improperly in the form of high regulated postage prices and “Zuschüsse” [grants, subsidies, subventions, extra payments, benefits] to bureaucrats’ pension plans. Calculating how much the Post had improperly received was left to German authorities.

Süddeutsche.de reported the E.U. had allowed the Post’s unusual subventions in 2012 in principle but felt they were too high. There was also disagreement about how many divisions of the Post were involved: Germany argued only Postal Services should have to pay back the subventions, while the E.U. said Postal Services and Business Customers.

(VET bev airbz FOR tie leh.)

Parteiengesetz

“Political parties law,” which defines some German election rules.

An Armistice Day article in Spiegel.de on the continuance of the neonazi-legacy N.P.D. party’s temporary loss of government political party financing due to “chaotic bookkeeping” mentioned some interesting aspects of German public financing of political parties and the parties’ reporting obligations. Under the Parteiengesetz, the German government gives all parties that receive at least 0.5% of the vote in Bundestag or European Union elections, and/or 1% in state elections, 85 eurocents for each vote received in E.U., Bundestag and German state parliamentary elections. That is reduced to 70 eurocents per vote >4 million votes. “Also, for each euro a party receives as a membership fee or donation, up to 3300 euros, the government pays another 38 eurocents.”

This money is paid to the parties in quarterly installments.

Spiegel.de said the N.P.D.’s financial trials began in 2007 when a Thuringian N.P.D. official named Golkowski was caught using fake donation receipts in order to get more matching funds from the government. This may have been going on since the 1990’s. The error was compounded by the so-called “chaotic bookkeeping” in that year’s year-end reporting that should have been glass-clear in order to avoid more trouble but in which party treasurer Köster apparently misplaced almost 900,000 euros by using the wrong tables at one point. As per the Parteiengesetz, the N.P.D. had to return the inappropriately obtained donation-matching funds (almost 900,000 euros) and pay a fine double that amount. Accordingly, the Bundestag announced the N.P.D. would be fined 2.5 million euros for the malfeasance, but in December 2012 the supreme constitution court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, reduced the fine to 1.27 million euros because, they said, the Bundestag had overlooked the fact that the radical right-wing party had provided “coherent/conclusive explanations” [“schlüssig erläutert“] of some of the points they were accused of. In May 2013, in response to the N.P.D.’s accelerated appeal to the supreme constitutional court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht said the government would have to pay the N.P.D.’s 15 May 2013 and 15 Aug 2013 quarterly payments “in advance” until a final court decision in the main hearing on the fine’s legality; this financed the party until at least the 22 Sep 2013 Bundestag election.

On 11 Nov 2013, the Bundesverfassungsgericht announced that the neonazi party’s fine would not be cancelled more yet and their 15 Nov 2013 payment can now be stopped. Although the N.P.D. had filed an accelerated appeal to the nation’s highest court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht said the party had not exhausted its relevant appeals in Berlin. The N.P.D. said they need this money now more than ever, with the E.U. Parliament election coming up.

Spiegel.de’s chart shows government contributions to the N.P.D. from 2003 to 2011. Red bar numbers represent government contributions in millions of euros. Beige bar numbers are government funding’s percentage of total N.P.D. income that year.

(Pot EYE en gezz ETZ.)

Brutto nicht netto

“Gross not nett,” what rural U.S. landowners should try to take their ~12.5% royalty from if signing an agreement to let oil and gas companies frack their land. Previously, landowners had to worry about drillers’ resistance to the ethical challenges arising from the fact that it’s the driller who measures and reports the yields produced. Technology is also presenting drillers with ethical challenges: it’s now possible to drill sideways underground much farther than you’d think, for example.

Now ProPublica.org has reported drillers and/or pipeline owners have been using “creative accounting” in the office to reduce how much they say they owe farmers and other rural people whose land they are fracking, from Pennsylvania to North Dakota.

For example, “But some companies deduct expenses for transporting and processing natural gas, even when leases contain clauses explicitly prohibiting such deductions. In other cases, according to court files and documents obtained by ProPublica, they withhold money without explanation for other, unauthorized expenses, and without telling landowners that the money is being withheld. … In Oklahoma, Chesapeake deducted marketing fees from payments to a landowner – a joint owner in the well – even though the fees went to its own subsidiary[.]” The companies have also sold the product to subsidiaries at artificially low prices on which they paid farmers’ royalties, then resold at the higher market value.

Natural gas is apparently priced by volume, yet in pipelines it can be compressed and subjected to other processes the drillers and transporters call “proprietary” and won’t describe. Ownership of pipelines is not only becoming obscure, it’s a new field for innovative financial trading: Transport pipelines are being sold off to multiple third parties. Fracking rights purchased from farmers are being divided up and sold off to other companies in dribs, drabs and perhaps even tranches. One of the more “cutthroat” drillers has also been found to consistently report getting lower sale prices for its harvested gas on the market than e.g. the Norwegian partner firm Statoil selling similar products in the same markets at the same time.

A fierce debate is raging in Germany about whether to allow fracking to harvest its “Schiefergas,” shale gas or slate gas.

(BRUTE oh   nichh t   NET oh.)

Kollisionsschutz

“Collision protection.” In a surprise move ~14 May 2013 the German Defense Ministry [Bundesverteidigungsministerium] cancelled its Euro Hawk drone development cooperation with the USA because the drone was not going to receive permission from civilian authorities to fly in European airspace. When the cancellation was announced, GDefense said they’d spent 550 million euros on the project, but now they’re saying 660 million. The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported GDefense knew about the “Euro Hawk” civil-airspace permission problems in 2004, three years before they signed the procurement contracts to purchase the drones. Airspace permission was denied to the unmanned surveillance drone because it lacked an adequate “collision protection” system [“fehlende Kollisionsschutz“]. Air safety authorities, business people in the aerospace industry and the German Defense Department’s own licensing office warned the Defense Ministry about the paperwork problems in 2004. Furthermore, the opposition SPD and Green Party accuse, GDefense subsequently “massively interfered” in the German Federal Court of Auditors [Bundesrechnungshof]’s attempt to do their job by investigating what the hell was going on there. On 18 May 2013 the Bundesrechnungshof auditors said they’d still not received all the documents they’d requested and some of the status reports they did receive were blacked out by censors.

Half the project’s money was spent on developing the drone vehicle in the USA and half on developing the drone’s special electronic surveillance system in Germany. The surveillance system is supposedly too large to go in other drones but could be carried by a normal plane. One Euro Hawk prototype was delivered and four more drones were going to be ordered.

The F.A.Z. Sonntag reported that serious problems occurred during the drone prototype’s delivery flight from California to Bavaria in 2011, when contact with the controlling satellite was lost twice for about ten minutes at a time and the drone deviated from its course. But the Defense Ministry did not report these problems to the Bundestag. US air safety authorities also had refused to issue airspace permission to the drone, before its 2011 transfer flight. Anti-drone activist Medea Benjamin, author of “Drone warfare: Killing by remote control,” said in a 24 Sep 2012 interview that the US air force admits about one-third of these drones have been crashing. She said apparently it’s OK for them to crash on some countries but not other countries.

The German Defense Ministry’s reason for refusing to share the information requested by the controlling authorities, the Bundesrechnungshof auditors, was agreements made with “industry partners” not to share information with third parties. A spokesman for the federal auditing authority said not receiving all the information they needed to do their jobs was “unusual. We don’t experience something like that very often.” And: “The Bundesrechnungshof has an unlimited right of inspection which the Defense Ministry cannot nullify via agreements with third parties. We can and will not accept the Defense Ministry’s limitations of our access to the files.”

On 22 May 2013, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) said he will let the federal auditors see all documents now, even despite putative contractual conditions agreed with the USA.

Germany has also contributed ~483 million euros to NATO’s Hawk drone (“Global Hawk”?) which is based on the same US drone and thus might also have civil airspace licensing issues.

(Coe LEE zee OWNS shootz.)

Sponsoring-Karten

“Shponsoring tickets,” a new kind of money-equivalent created by big soccer and big stadiums. Shponsoring tickets nominally worth hundreds of thousands of euros can be printed for each large soccer game, apparently.

After auditors found valuable sheafs of these lying around in soccer club safes, German companies started developing accounting procedures to document gifted sports tickets. Now when German companies are caught in some other impropriety people point out it’s ridiculous that … isn’t being tracked as carefully as soccer tickets.

Update on 07 Mar 2014: Reporting on the Ukrainian crisis mentioned that Germany’s biggest soccer sponsorship is Deutsche Telekom’s, for the team Bayern Munich, and the second-biggest is Gazprom, for Schalke 04.

(SHPON soar ingk   CAW ten.)

Bierdeckel

The paper mat your beer glass is set on. Used to be your bar bill. In the old days, not too long ago, your tab was kept on that coaster by a series of coded tally marks. One tick mark = the beer unit you’d get if you caught the bartender’s eye and pointed at the ceiling.

(BEER deckle.)

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