“Media economist,” a job title seen amongst the pundits discussing journalism’s future.
(Mae dee en ÖKO gnome.)
“Media economist,” a job title seen amongst the pundits discussing journalism’s future.
(Mae dee en ÖKO gnome.)
“Finance scientist,” a job title some German economics experts are using in lieu of “economist” in interviews on German television.
(Fee NONCE viss en shoft lah.)
With free tuition, German universities don’t use money to determine who gets an education and who doesn’t. But they’re having a bit of a budget crunch so, if they don’t get more money from the government, the universities threatened to restrict admissions of new students for majors that don’t yet have restricted admission.
Medicine and law are two famous numerus clausus departments, with admissions depending on how many doctors and lawyers the government calculates Germany will need in x years.
An informal way German universities do restrict admission is by requiring students to pass certain highly-set hurdles in order to graduate (though you can put off graduation for a very long time while still taking classes and haunting libraries). Humanities subjects frequently require a Latin proficiency certificate. Other subjects use statistics classes for the purpose. Medical students’ ranks used to be further thinned by a notorious class in physics.
Even with free tuition, money still limits who can study and who cannot. The semesters are set up with long breaks so students can work enough to earn money for the next semester. Student rebates are provided to try to help with the costs of living and the costs of not working. The rebates I remember applied for foreign students and included low rent on well-designed student housing, cheaper mandatory health insurance (incl. dental and medicines), reduced or free public transportation (trains, buses, subways), cheaper admission to museums, movies, concerts, lakes and swimming pools…
Less but comparable.
The New York Times’s editor-in-chief was fired this week by the Sulzberger heir after some management style differences and then because she took steps when she found out they were paying her less than her predecessor. The paper announced that Jill Abramson’s pay was less than but comparable to Bill Keller’s.
(VANE ig gah AH bah fair GLY chh bah.)
Benefitting from the absence of rule-of-law in Russia and from the presence of rule-of-law in London.
An argument that Russia’s economic elites’ use of the relative safety of western countries’ financial and legal systems should depend on whether in Russia those people have participated in what would be considered lawbreaking in the western systems.
An interesting pundit said on Australian radio, for example, that money from selling exported Russian oil and gas is often moved through western financial leveraging instruments before being imported into Russia, to make it harder for that cash to be arbitrarily seized there. Even well-connected Russians are just as hostage to Vladimir Putin as the Crimean Tatars.
He said a counterargument holds that oligarchs will learn from living and working in rule-of-law countries and import some of that back to their homeland. Yet with the west’s inadequate oversight members of these groups might likewise grow corruption in their partner countries and firms. It does look as if German power utility companies who worked with post-Soviet Russian partners who demanded bribes in Russia might have started using extralegal shortcuts to achieve their goals at home; at the very least, their German competitor utilities would have had to compete with them while they were using such methods. Corruption really does seem to breed more corruption: apparently after the multinational Siemens developed streamlined procedures for paying bribes in corrupt countries it began offering them in relatively clean countries.
In a worst-case outcome, it would be interesting to see how western jurists would determine culpability in a country without an independent judiciary.
(FORE tile nay men fun rect SHTOTT lichh ah OB vaze en height da HIME oont rect SHTOTT lichh ah ON vaze en height inn LAWN dawn.)
Also, more agile, speedy, swift, brisk, deft, lissome, slippy, nippy and “fly.”
Non-bank-owned “mortgage servicing” companies have been buying up mortgage servicing rights from large banks in the U.S.A., controlling 3% of the mortgage servicing market in 2010 and 17% in 2014 said NYTimes.com. Homeowners in trouble seeking help with their mortgage found themselves being asked to supply the same documentation over and over as their mortgage servicing was sold on from group to group.
Initially, some U.S. regulators thought that moving banks’ mortgage management responsibilities from mortgage servicers the banks owned to private companies the banks didn’t own would benefit consumers because the private companies would be “nimbler.”
One of the largest of these companies, Ocwen, has now been found to have been cutting numerous corners. It was also affiliated with companies that profit from foreclosures. The chair of Ocwen was chair of a company that bought foreclosed properties and turned them into rentals, but Ocwen told regulators that it maintained an “arms-length relationship” from his foreclosure company.
Though it’s been said the private mortgage servicers are unregulated in the U.S., there may instead be a bit of a patchwork of too-light regulation because in December 2013 the U.S.’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and 49 state attorneys general negotiated a $2.1 billion settlement with Ocwen for “mortgage servicing violations.” The C.F.P.B. commented that Ocwen “took advantage of borrowers at every stage of the process.”
Cut corners attributed to the private mortgage servicers have included:
The head of the state of New York’s Department of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, installed an independent monitor at Ocwen who reported on the inadequate bookkeeping, as a result of which Mr. Lawsky stopped Wells Fargo’s sale or transfer of mortgage servicing rights for 184,000 mortgages, worth $39 billion, to Ocwen in February 2014.
Ocwen was headquartered in Atlanta, with staffing centers in India and Uruguay, an affiliate incorporated in the tax haven of Luxembourg and an affiliate based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.
The structure of the companies and possibly of the hedge funds investing in them during their recent rapid growth begs the question of whether mutual stock price embetterment has been an objective and, if so, how that was done. It looks as if moving profits and losses around the world for tax benefit could also have been envisioned. You have to note the big banks’ balls in selling off their buggy business as “rights” rather than paying people to take it as a favor. The ways innovated to make money off such a venture might be instructive. They might include gaming of a U.S. system in which state regulators have to do the job of federal regulators while families lose their homes.
Ocwen itself said that servicing mortgages has a limited lifespan and it has been seeking to diversify. FT.com reported the company was planning to sell up to $1 billion in a new type of debt this year: mortgage-servicing-rights-backed bonds.
A new type of bank apparently that doesn’t spend a lot of money on brick-and-mortar branches. Direktbanks use the internet and provide interest advantages. ING-Direktbank, the German subsidiary of the large Dutch bank ING, is the first major bank in Germany to eliminate overdraft interest rates for the standard giro accounts everyone uses in lieu of checking. Overdrafts there will now be charged the bank’s normal interest rate for short-term small loans [Dispokredit or drawing credit], which they also lowered from 8.5% to 7.95%. The eliminated overdraft interest rate had been 12%; other German banks are still charging up to 18% on overdrafts. The European Central Bank’s prime interest rate is currently 0.25%.
Spiegel.de said that last year ING-Diba acquired half a million new customers. That was before they eliminated overdraft interest and other banks didn’t.
The bank’s top German executive also proposed that a [neutral, reliable] central authority should publish a list of all short-term credit and overdraft pricing schemes offered at all German banks. Perhaps the Stiftung Warentest could do it, he said, mentioning a product-testing foundation that has the reputation of Consumer Reports in the U.S.A.
Update on 21 Apr 2014: A Spiegel.de article said some smaller banks were first to end overdraft interest rates on giro accounts but it didn’t list them. The article was in praise of another bank of the Genossenschaftsbank type (a mutual?) which reduced the highest interest rate on one type of extreme overdraft.
(Dear ECKED bonk.)
A non-native speaker’s attempt to translate
“intelligence agencies’ black budget”
into German, after the non-native German speaker was
very impressed by the clarity of WashingtonPost.com’s
succinct presentation showing where ~$50 billion goes that the U.S. government allocates annually to agencies in its National Intelligence Program.
One reason the C.I.A. is the top recipient (at ~$14 billion annually) is because e.g. they’ve been modding aircraft and G.P.S.-controlled 500-pound smart bombs and giving them to e.g. the government of Colombia. This is also from an excellently explained WashingtonPost.com article, with a well-designed timeline of the history, map of the area, blueprint of the missile and scaled drawings showing the relative sizes of the aircraft and bombs used in the four-step attacks on the F.A.R.C.
(NOCHH richh ten DEENST lichh ah SHOTTEN house halt.)
“New S.E.P.A. payment transfer system.”
A new bank transfer system for making payments is scheduled to go into effect in 33 European countries on 01 Feb 2014 for companies and associations and at a later date for individual people. S.E.P.A. transfers will use new 22-digit I.B.A.N. bank account numbers. There were concerns that some businesses hadn’t updated their forms in time to fit in the extra digits. On 24 Oct 2013 the Bundesbank warned that some firms were starting late and their mistakes could hurt their employees.
The new transfers between accounts in any of the 33 countries are supposed to cost no more than a domestic transfer and arrive no later than the next business day.
(NOY ess ZAY pah TSOLL oongs iss taym.)
According to a law passed by the E.U. parliament on 12 Dec 2013, every E.U. burgher is going to have a right to have their own giro-type bank account, which have replaced checking accounts.
Twenty years ago, my experience was that checks were regarded with suspicion in Germany while almost every payment and donation was made by filling out bank transfer forms. Your wages were transferred into your account (quickly and for free) and your rent, universal health insurance (incl. dental and medicines), university tuition (about $200/year? mostly student union fees, much of which the student government spent on scholarships for foreign students), public broadcasting fees, &c., were transferred out of your giro account automatically each month after you filled out permission slips for regular automatic transfers. Donations to charities, one-time payments, magazine subscriptions, court-imposed fines: all were paid for twenty years ago by filling out a transfer form and handing it to a bank clerk or mailing it to a company.
The E.U. parliament is creating this right to a giro account because they said you need one to have a normal life there “and no one should be left out because e.g. they are homeless or have financial difficulties.”
The base giro account will be able to make and receive transfers but not be overdrawn. The individual Member States still must approve this law, said ZDF heute journal moderator Heinz Wolf.
(R-r-r-echh t ow! f JEE roe conn toe.)
Making government re-education camps unnecessary, surplus to requirements, superfluous.
As part of the exciting reform package announced on 15 Nov 2013, China will be eliminating labor camps from its criminal justice system! No time schedule was mentioned though.
Other reforms that were announced, translated from Spiegel.de:
N.B.: On 19 Nov 2013 Daimler announced it would be the first international auto manufacturer to invest directly in a state-owned Chinese auto manufacturing company, buying 12% of its Chinese co-manufacturing partner, a cars subsidiary of Beijing Automobile Investment Company Limited. The 625-million-euro deal took nearly a year to negotiate. Daimler will get two seats on the supervisory board [Aufsichtsrat] of the Chinese company.
Spiegel.de wrote that German industry and economics leaders welcomed these changes, expecting good results from them and from other reforms such as improvements in social welfare services.
Update on 28 Dec 2013: China implemented the announced reforms.
(SHTOT lichh eh OOM eah TSEE oongs LOG eah er-r-r ÜÜ brig en.)
German reporting showed “possible inspection targets in Iran,” first on a map, then with satellite images and finally with ground-level photos taken in the plant or perhaps of similar equipment. This was part of ZDF heute journal’s 08 Nov 2013 coverage of the exciting meeting between Iranian diplomats and other countries’ diplomats in Geneva.
Reporter Luten Leinhos’s helpful map featured six areas of nuclear interest in central Iran and two on the coast. He described half of them for viewers:
Natans: biggest nuclear fuel plant, with centrifuges producing up to 3.5% enriched uranium for the Bushehr nuclear reactor but also uranium up to 20% enriched for research purposes; Teheran could offer to stop the 20% enrichment.
Arak: “a heavy-water reactor that produces plutonium as a byproduct, as it were.” Arak isn’t up and running yet. Iran said it may now allow 24-hour video monitoring in the Arak reactor.
Fordo: bunkered up, only satellite photos available; long kept secret. Teheran could offer to let in inspectors and video monitoring.
Parchin: military research complex, absolutely sealed off. Were nuclear tests simulated there?
Update on 11 Nov 2013: Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed on a road map for inspecting Iranian nuclear sites.
Update on 24 Nov 2013: Küsschen, Umarmung und Schulterklopfen [ceremonious little kisses on the cheek, hugs and clapping one another on the shoulder]. An agreement was reached among foreign ministers from Iran and the U.N. veto-power countries to reduce some economic sanctions against Iran, reduce some nuclear development projects in Iran for now, and to pause Iran’s nuclear weapons program for six months while further arrangements and controls are negotiated and agreed on.
Update on 09 Feb 2014: The International Atomic Energy Agency quietly published a heartwarming announcement: “of the six initial practical measures that were agreed three months ago[,] Iran has taken the initial practical measures that were foreseen.
“Iran and the Agency reached agreement on seven practical measures to be implemented by Iran by 15 May 2014.
“The agreed measures are:
Update on 17 Apr 2014: Diplomats announced that according to a report by the I.A.E.A. Iran continues to “precisely follow” the agreement reached in November 2013. “Everything is proceeding as planned.” Iran has diluted or converted to uranium oxide 75% of its original 200 kg of highly enriched uranium. The other 50 kg are to be converted or diluted by 20 Jul 2014, and in return western countries will loosen economic sanctions against Iran.
Update on 20 May 2014: I.A.E.A. said they met with Iranian officials to confirm the “good progress made on the seven practical measures that were agreed three months ago.” Five new practical measures have now been agreed (to be done between now and 25 Aug 2014):
(MIG lichh ah inz peck tea OWNS TSEAL eh inn ee RON.)
Shadow budgets of many Catholic bishoprics in Germany.
An incident made the news which in turn made people aware that Catholic bishops in Germany appear to have large discretionary funds, sometimes, whose contents and disposition are not transparent.
The incident happened to be the scandalous new bishop’s residence in Limburg, originally approved for 2.5 million euros but now at 31 million and possibly costing up to 40 million ultimately as the digging and draining that proved so unwieldy and expensive for the site itself may turn out to be endangering the stability of historical buildings around it. Limburg has been settled since at least the Stone Age and has Roman ruins dating back to before the Roman empire became Christian in 380 C.E.
In tumultuous economic times, especially when Germans see more reasons to worry about their traditional issue of inflation, moving cash into real estate may be a wise investment. But the Limburg bishop’s motivations appear not to have been entirely practical ones. He was also caught subsequently perjuring himself about church finances, according to procecutors in Hamburg.
An ecclesiastical friend gossiped to me that the Limburg bishop’s shadow budget or discretionary fund was about 90 million euros because his predecessor was a saver.
In addition to reporting details about the bishop’s construction projects, which were hidden behind an expensive high stone wall and included designer gardens, conference rooms, housing for nuns (as domestic servants?), a chapel, the bishop’s own apartment and an underground relics room, reporters have also used this opportunity to explain the history of how Germany got to its strange semi-separation of church and state whereby the states collect a “church tax” and distribute it to the dioceses (income tax is collected state-by-state in Germany). After Napoleon invaded some German principalities and enacted legal reforms, in 1803 the so-called Reichsdeputationshauptschluss or “German mediatization” according to Wikipedia stripped the officially recognized churches of their property but set up annual payments—almost pensions—to the churches to compensate for the loss. Now, two hundred years later, the government still pays compensation [Staatsleistungen] to the bishoprics—my ecclesiastical friend said these obligations were eliminated for dioceses smaller than bishoprics during the last decade or so—for the church property technically confiscated in 1803. The state also pays churches Staatsleistungen for the social services the churches provide, such as day care. Also, anyone who ticks a box marking themselves as Catholic or Protestant on their mandatory registration form with the local police will automatically owe church tax [Kirchensteuer]. People voluntarily do this because they feel religious, they want to get married in a church in addition to the standard civil marriage in the town hall, or, especially, they are desperate for preschooler day care which was mandated but not provided in Germany until 2013, when actual penalties went into effect for towns that didn’t provide enough day care. Money for saving and maintaining wonderful old church buildings, bells and organs also comes from the state in these forms. Such income streams are how German cathedrals are kept heated in winter despite being giant stone piles with ceilings 20 meters above the floor ducts.
German news reported that the transparent public budget of German Catholic bishoprics includes taxpayers’ voluntary church tax [Kirchensteuer], collected and handed over by the government, for free, and the government’s own payments [Staatsleistungen, several hundred million euros annually] as rent on the property seized in 1803. Bishoprics’ untransparent private budget includes income from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, legacies willed to the church and interest income. ARD’s tagesschau.de reported e.g. that the Catholic bishopric of Würzburg said its private property was 271 million euros, and Cologne said it had 166 million euros. A political scientist and journalist disagreed with these numbers however, telling tagesschau.de that the Cologne diocese had three billion euros in cash and property, including an investment in a company that owned ~23,000 apartments, he told ZDF heute journal. The researcher, Carsten Frerk, published a 2010 book estimating annual subsidies of German churches at 19 billion euros and accusing churches of “false labeling” because, he said, nearly all the religious business they carried out was subsidized by government funds, taxpayers’ direct church tax and even N.G.O.’s such as Germany’s health insurance schemes. Mr. Frerk also noted that churches in Germany are exempted from paying property tax or tax on interest income and from many fees as well, while taxpayers can take church tax as a 100% deduction for which the government also receives no compensation.
Tagesschau.de reported that Hildesheim is the only Catholic bishopric that is fully financially transparent. Their books are published in their entirety, and kept according to the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch]. ZDF heute journal reported that in the wake of the Limburg scandal 14 of Germany’s 27 Catholic bishoprics started publishing financial statistics about themselves that they hadn’t disclosed before.
To finally financially separate church and state in Germany, governments would have to make large 1803-concluding lump payments to the bishoprics which they feel they can ill-afford right now. Thus the situation continues.
Update on 09 Feb 2014: A report is expected soon from the Catholic church’s five-member commission investigating the financial scandal in Limburg. It doesn’t look good, said Spiegel.de. Construction costs of the bishop’s 2.5-million-euro residence will exceed the most recent estimate of 31 million euros. Some church foundation money [Stiftungsgelder] was diverted into the project; apparently this is mentioned because it was done improperly. Spiegel.de’s source used interestingly arcane words: The investigators managed to document possibly prosecutable [justitiabel] offenses, based among other things on information found in a “secret registry” [Geheimregistratur] found in a “conspiratorial apartment” [konspirative Wohnung] rented separately in Limburg, where the “most important documents” on the church construction project were found together with financial papers bearing the bishop’s signature which could be used as evidence. The commission’s report is supposed to go to the catholic bishops’ conference and the Vatican, but it would be nice if it were shared with the general public as well.
(SHOTTEN house halt ah FEEL ah cot OLE ish en BISS toom ah.)
“Well, okay then.” Actually, this is yet another thrilled German headline about the warming of diplomatic relations between Iran and the U.S.A. The wonderful détente is very exciting. Hopefully, now, we can all get rich together, a wish expressed by my Iranian kitchenmates at German university ten years ago.
A recently published “history of Iran for beginners” said the country had ~38 auto manufacturing companies, presumably in response to international sanctions. Perhaps innovators like Google or Tesla could work out deals with some of these groups to supply novel parts for renewable-energy car projects. There could now be excellent internationally sponsored engineering programs at Iranian universities, and training exchanges around the world.
“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.)
“Discussable management structures.” Shortly after the Offshore Leaks trove went public, in April 2013, Spiegel let go its two co-editors-in-chief, one for the excellent hourly-updated internet presence Spiegel-Online (who had started out as a journalist for the print edition) & one for the excellent weekly print edition (who started as a journalist at Spiegel TV), citing “differences of opinion on strategic orientation” and “effective immediately.” The new sole editor-in-chief is a former Spiegel-Online guy. Spiegel.de’s blog post about the shuffle indicated that the magazine’s top management structures are flexible when it mentioned that the duarchical online-and-print editorship eliminated in 2013 was established in a 2011 reorg.
Update on 26 Aug 2013: Complaints at der Spiegel because the tabloid Bild Zeitung’s deputy editor is going to become the new deputy editor at Spiegel, under new editor-in-chief Wolfgang Büchner. Büchner said the title is just a shoulder pat, that Nikolaus Blome won’t have as much influence on the news magazine as previous deputy editors, that he will in fact just run the Berlin branch office where Büchner is and not be at Hamburg headquarters, that he won’t be able to give instructions to department heads.
50.5% of Spiegel stock is owned by its journalists via Mitarbeiter KG [“Employees Inc.”], which read a statement at the (tough) meeting repeating its strong objections to Blome and to hiring Blome anyway after Mitarbeiter KG’s objection.
Süddeutsche.de wrote that the Mitarbeiter KG consortium of shareholder journalist employees’ co-management at Spiegel is based on arrangements made at the print half, which has falling circulation. The online half is apparently doing better, though it’s unclear whether SZ means that as measured by unique hits or by net profits, but its journalists find themselves in a “weaker position” than the print side’s journalists.
(Diss coo TEA ah bah rah LIGHT oongs strrrooc TOUR en.)
“Economic espionage,” industrial espionage. June 2013 reports that Germany was the N.S.A.’s most-spied-on country in the E.U. created German misgivings that financial advantages might be being sought.
The Guardian.co.uk’s “heat map” for the NSA’s “Boundless Informant” surveillance system indicated only countries like Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and India were being monitored more than Germany.
This fear was not alleviated by Süddeutsche Zeitung and Norddeutsche Rundfunk reporting on 02 Aug 2013 describing Snowden-trove British General Communications Headquarters docs from 2009. It listed U.K. telecoms that “assisted” G.C.H.Q. (with each company’s code name): Verizon Business (“Dacron”), British Telecommunications (“Remedy”), Vodafone Cable (“Gerontic”), Global Crossing (“Pinnage”), Level 3 (“Little”), Viatel (“Vitreous”) and Interoute (“Streetcar”); some of these telecom companies even developed software to help spy on their customers and were paid for that by G.C.H.Q. “For the good of the British economy” was a reason given in a G.C.H.Q. PowerPoint presentation for why these telecoms were selling their customers’ communications.
Update on 19 Jan 2014: ZDF heute journal reported the listening post atop the U.S. embassy in Berlin was indeed used for economic espionage: they were interested in the Chancellor’s opinions about the euro currency, for example.
In 2003, the company Ferrostaal, headquartered in Essen, was competing with a U.S. company for a contract to deliver radio monitoring equipment to Nigeria. The U.S. embassy in Berlin supplied Ferrostaal’s U.S. competitor with data from Ferrostaal’s secret bid, according to an embassy cable found in the Wikileaks trove. Details ZDF showed in a copy of the cable included the German company’s offered price (24 million euros) and financing (“5.1 to 7.0 percent for possibly 5 years”). The U.S. company won the contract.
(VEE at shofts ess pee own OJ.)
“Please insert your ATM card and enter your PIN,” as it appears in Vatican City. From the book Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche.
There have been concerns about the Vatican Bank (the “Institute for Works of Religion,” IOR) and money laundering, to the extent that the European Central Bank even blocked Vatican Bank ATM and credit card terminals at one point, practically excluding Vatican City from the EU. In response to pressure from the Roman district attorney’s office, the Bank of Italy, Italy’s central bank, froze electronic transfers with EU banks for the IOR, which initially instead of cooperating tried to find a new banking partner in Switzerland. Now, the Vatican’s government has created a financial oversight authority which presented its first report on 22 May 2013, the first time in history such a thing has happened. The head of the authority announced that six suspicious cases had been reported to them. After investigating, they forwarded two of these cases to Vatican district attornies.
Update on 02 Oct 2013: A group of cardinals is meeting in Rome to discuss Vatican reforms that include issues at the Vatican bank. The I.O.R. published its financial data for the first time on 01 Oct 2013.
An 07 Oct 2013 Spiegel.de article said in Summer 2013 the Vatican Bank had ~1000 accounts held by people not actually eligible to have a Vatican bank account, containing ~300 million euros.
Update on 04 Dec 2013: Former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glindon is chairing a “papal committee” that will submit reform suggestions, but Pope Franziskus has already tasked his personal secretary Alfred Xuereb with overseeing the following reforms, said Spiegel.de:
“These reforms have been described in detail in a manual for employees, as well as how to handle cash transactions; the I.O.R. averaged about triple the percentage of cash transactions as worldly banks.”
“Goal line technology.” After considering options such as attaching magnetic chips and/or accelerometers to game balls, FIFA has decided to test the use of 14 HD cameras in the July 2013 Confederations Cup to verify ref calls on whether soccer balls have crossed the line into the goal box. When the technological request for proposals was issued, FIFA estimated the new equipment would cost about EUR 200,000 per stadium, whatever they ended up using.
(TOOOOOR lean ian TECHH nick.)
“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.)
“Europe-wide.” A controversial Arte documentary has drawn attention to the new EU water guideline the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier (of Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party) is about to issue in which local European government water projects will accept bids from all of Europe. Water activist Jean-Luc Touly warned the current plans for the guideline will make it difficult for public utilities to compete against profit-driven private utilities that are, he said, not primarily motivated by consumers’ best interests. 80% of the French water market has been privatized, the 2010 Arte documentary “Water Makes Money” claims to show instances of corruption in that French privatization and there was an increase in French water quality problems post-privatization, Touly said.
Around the world, many privatization contracts appear to have gone to subsidiaries of just a few big companies such as Bechtel (USA), Enron (USA, now spectacularly bankrupt), RWE (Germany) and Suez/Veolia (France). Opening privatization of city water utilities to Europe-wide bidding might encourage reductions in international competition among these providers.
(Oy ROPE a v eye t.)
“No books with seven seals.” Slogan for a movement being shared and discussed at the 2013 Leipzig Book Fair that publishes simplified-language versions of adult books to entertain adults with reading difficulties and help them practice reading. As someone who learned to read German as an adult by forcing my way through children’s books, stopping to look up words on every page, I really appreciate this project! It should also open new markets for publishing companies, in and outside Germany.
(K eye n BOOCHH mit ZEE ben ZEEG ell n.)
“President Barack Obama blamed the sequestration on the intransigence of House Republicans; House Republicans blamed Obama’s desire for new tax revenues in addition to budget cuts and Senate Democrats’ failure to pass a replacement bill; House Democrats blamed House Republicans for spitefulness and Obama for underestimating House Republicans’ spitefulness; Mitt Romney blamed Obama for poor leadership; and lexicographers blamed the prevalence in the media of the noun ‘sequester’ on the complexity of the more proper ‘sequestration.'”
(SHPAW wren nochh ROZ en MAY err met ODE eh.)
“Blocking minority.” If, for example, Bersani’s (center-left) coalition gains control of Italy’s House but Berlusconi’s (center-right-f’tang-f’tang-biscuit-barrel) coalition wins enough votes in the Senate, Italy will be ungovernable because Bunga-Bunga will have the ability to block legislation. Hopefully, Bersani and Monti, perhaps even with television comedian Grillo’s help, will gain enough seats to call for another election, which will be blessed with better turnout. Spiegel-Online ventured to note that the new parliament might consider passing some electoral reforms before the new election, to stabilize the Italian government and make Italian politicians seem more reliable to voters.
(SHPERRRM ee nore ee tate.)
“Rat catchery,” how departing Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti referred this week to billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi’s ridiculous campaign promise to pay voters’ real estate taxes out of his own pocket, hot air intended to encourage poorly-informed people to hitch their wagons not to a 21st-century democratic system but to a strong-seeming man no matter what ethics he displays.
(ROTTEN feng err EYE.)
“Future Party,” the German translation of former journalist Yair Lapid’s “There is a Future” centrist political party Yesh Atid that did well in Israel’s recent election because of voters’ concerns about economic issues.
(TSOO koonfts part eye.)
“The raspberry kingdom.” New play running with the same cast in two German theaters. It uses anonymized quotes collected by director Andres Veiel during a year of confidential interviews with bankers, brokers and board members.
Raspberries are considered elegant berries in Germany, and the title of the play refers to the great rock candy mountain bankers supposedly find themselves on when they retire.
(Doss HIMM beah reichh.)
To loll, lounge, sprawl.
“‘You don’t become an investment banker because you expect security,’ said a UBS investment banker, who’s still working there. He fläzt himself in his chair in the visitors’ room at Finsbury Ave. 1, legs in a ‘wide stance,’ right arm casually draped over the back of the chair. Once upon a time he wanted to go into politics; now he just talks like a politician.”
System-relevant banks, that are “too big to fail,” otherwise known as GSifi (global systemically important financial institutions). The head of the USA’s FDIC and a hohes Tier from the Bank of England published a proposal in the Financial Times on 10 Dec 2012 for reregulating system-relevant banks and making them less of a global economic risk. Under this proposal, if these huge banks got in trouble their top managers would be able to be fired by the responsible regulatory authorities, their shareholders would lose part or all of their investment, their creditors would not be able to collect all their unsecured debt, and rules would be applied to the company/ies at the top level of the holding hierarchy rather than the shuffle of subsidiaries. To promote national financial stability, healthy subsidiaries around the world would be preserved even if the top-level holding company is wound down. There are currently said to be 28 system-relevant banks in the world, of which 12 are in the UK and USA.
(Cis TEHM rellll ev ont eh BONK en.)
“Dividend stripping.” A tax avoidance scheme the HypoVereinsBank is accused of, wherein they allegedly transferred customers’ stocks back and forth between German and foreign banks until it was unclear whether the Kapitalertragssteuer had been paid and then claimed more capital gains tax credits than were owed. Reuters and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that a single Frankfurt investor working with HVB and other banks was told he owed 124 million euros in tax for 2006–08 after the IRS-equivalent refused to accept his capital gains tax break from the scheme; he has been fighting in court since 2011 to get HVB to pay the tax bill. HVB and this investor split the profits 65% HVB, 35% investor. Wikipedia says dividend stripping lost its tax-law basis in 2000, Spiegel says it hasn’t been accepted by German tax authorities since 2007, and Süddeutsche Zeitung says since 2012.
Weird story about the HypoVereinsBank in Spiegel-Online on 30 Nov 2012: A guy accused his ex-wife and other HVB employees of large-scale tax avoidance schemes that moved money to Switzerland, was declared non compos mentis by the Bavarian justice system and has been locked up in a mental institution ever since (2006). The man probably was violent, but he may have been correct about the tax avoidance. He cited names and numbers when he blew the whistle to the Bavarian tax authority, but a judge who was not involved in that case called the tax office and told them not to investigate the bank because the whistleblower was crazy. The institutionalized whistleblower’s case was re-opened in 2013. He was set free in the summer of 2013, after seven years of confinement. Laws committing people to mental institutions and keeping them there are going to be reformed as a result of his case. This started with an 05 Sep 2013 decision by the supreme court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which prioritized a review of the whistleblower’s case and announced failures of the various state courts and criteria that need to be met in future.
The Frankfurt district attorney’s HVB razzia last week found a trail leading to “a Swiss private bank.” Süddeutsche Zeitung says it is thought that Swiss banks will be a very fruitful place to investigate this German tax scandal. Deutsche Bank and UBS are now implicated as well.
Update on 16 Dec 2013: HSH Nordbank has been accused of dividend stripping.
(Dee veed END en shtrrrip pink.)
A blocked or frozen account. Before the troika’s report, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) suggested that rather than wait for the troika’s results Germany make its next tranche payment of aid to Greece anyway, putting it in a frozen account that will automatically pay off certain obligations but not be completely available, somehow. In its 17 Oct 2012 article, Spiegel-Online indicated that the French government too was getting tired of having to deal every few months with problems from Athens. A blocked account similar to the proposed one is currently in use, but it is under the auspices of the Greek finance agency. The new blocked account would be at an institution inaccessible to the Greek government. Spiegel-Online went on to report that additional proposals included giving the Greek minister of finance more powers to strengthen his position versus the other cabinet ministers, bringing in more bureaucrats from other countries to provide development aid in Greece, having Greece issue more “T-bills” and asking or demanding forgiveness of certain debt types.
(SHPARE con toe.)
“The black zero,” meaning a balanced budget. The federal government is saying it’s possible Germany may manage to have a budget with no deficit spending as early as 2014, although this may not be as true after the upcoming German election.
(SHVORTS eh NOOL.)
“High-speed trading.” On 25 Sept. 2012 the German social democrat party SPD (the opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU + FDP coalition) announced their new proposed financial platform of increasing banking regulation, splitting “universal” banks into a business bank and an investment bank, creating an FDIC-type emergency fund with the banks’ own money to save troubled banks, capping mortgage debt at 80% of the unit’s value and limiting high-speed stock trading. One day later, on 26 Sept., Germany’s financial minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) announced that the German government wants to limit high-speed stock trading.
ZDF heute journal said the government was now calling for the following: registration of high-speed traders, disclosure of computer code if a problem occurs and higher fees after too many “fake attacks” in which high-speed traders pretend to buy a stock in order to drive up the price, then rapidly cancel the larger purchase and sell what they were actually holding at the new higher price.
Respect for Wolfgang Schäuble’s quietly reasoned-sounding explanations. Simple, straightforward, highly credible-sounding. He does a great job with them. He’s also quite clever, distracting me from banking reregulation by seizing on this high-speed trading point.
According to tagesschau.de, Schäuble is calling for “mandatory licensing for high-speed traders. Transparency that enables the supervisory authority to identify abuses faster. And the ability for the stock market supervisory authority to, when bad developments are identified in the market, to immediately halt trading.” On 26 Sept. his political opponent in the SPD responded that this doesn’t go far enough and called not only for licensing of trading firms but also of trading algorithms. Germany’s Green Party said the simplest way to handle this would be to forbid high-speed trades, and furthermore that the government is limiting itself to too much of an observing, witness, role, rather than regulating. And the techie German Pirate Party said…?
(HOKE geh SHVIN dig kites hon dell.)
Prebendary, a type of canon in the Catholic or Anglican church. Now used in German to mean someone who receives a stipend without having to work for it. A sinecure holder.
The European Electricity Exchange runs platforms for trading in many power-related markets. It is located in Leipzig and was created by a fusion of Leipzig’s LPX and Frankfurt/Main’s EEX in 2002.
A study commissioned by Germany’s Green Party has announced that while for years now electricity prices have been steadily falling on the EEX, electricity prices have been steadily rising for Germany’s small private consumers. Cost reductions have not been passed along to private consumers and cost increases have. German consumers are paying an estimated EUR 0.02/kilowatt hour too much, totalling three billion euros this year. High-volume customers, such as industrial clients, have meanwhile negotiated lower electricity prices with the utilities and lower environmental contributions with the government. The Bundesnetzagentur has now calculated e.g. that Germany’s biggest electricity customers consume 18% of its electricity but pay only 0.3% of the alternative energy law costs.
Responding to the report, the power companies blamed the flawed system, which they say is politicians’ fault. Also, they say, high prices are caused by taxes and environmental contributions.
ZDF heute journal reports that small private consumers aren’t switching electricity providers enough to create a sense of market competition.
“Wealth destruction weapon.” Criticism of a new plan to have the ESM buy up debt from struggling EU countries and, if needs must, exchange that paper for new euros from the European Central Bank. Some fear this will overeliminate incentives for struggling countries’ politicians to learn to stop overspending. And of course German economists think inflation might result.
(Fer MÖ genz fer NICK toongz voff eh.)
“Compulsory loan.” Idea under discussion of forcing German taxpayers who possess EUR 250,000 or more to loan money to the state. If the state’s economy then prospers, the bond would be paid back, perhaps even with interest. 8% of German adults would qualify for this, according to current stats.
(TSVONG z on lie eh.)
“Information economy.” An environment in which information is a kind of currency.
(In form ah TSEE OWNS virt shoft.)
“Support payment,” “support installment payment.” At least two “high animals” at FIFA received bribe payments totalling 11 million euros, part of a bribe of 100 million euros given to FIFA by a media company in the 1990’s. Sepp Blatter knew about it. At the time, this was not illegal in Switzerland, but it is illegal now. The two known officials (a guy and his son-in-law) were prosecuted and found technically innocent. FIFA then made a seven-figure “support payment” “to keep the files in the prosecution’s filing cabinet,” which is why we’re only finding out about this now, thanks to journalist Jean François Tanda’s successful lawsuit to obtain access to the court files.
(Oon ter sh TOOTS oongs on tsoll oong.)
“Living off the substance.” Consuming the principle rather than the interest. Eating the seeds for next year’s crop.
(Fon der soob STONTS lay ben.)
Burdened by property or ownership. “What you have, has you.”
(Beh ZITS buh lost ett.)
“Financial market stabilization institution.” From the SoFFin acronym, which stands for Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung Finanzmarktstabilisierungsanstalt. SoFFin was founded in 2008 to stabilize struggling banks.
Update on 16 Jul 2013: Between 01 Jan and 30 Jun 2013, the German taxpayer-supported SoFFin fund paid out ~18 billion euros in aid, ~17 billion being in the form of Eigenkapitalhilfe [equity assistance? does this translation apply for banks?], which, ZDF heute journal reported, Hypo Real Estate benefitted most from, followed by Commerzbank and WestLB successor Portigon.
(Fee NONTS mark t shtah beel ee zeer oongs ON shtoll t.)
The new “Market Transparency Office,” under the auspices of the German Federal Cartell Authority. The MTO is intended to gather and evaluate data from electricity companies and especially gas stations to ensure there is no price fixing. These data will not be shared with the public. It is not clear whether this new office will be functional or grandstanding.
Update on 12 Sep 2013: Starting today, drivers will have access to the price data ~13,000 German gas stations have been sending to the federal cartel authority [Bundeskartellamt] since 31 Aug 2013. The bundled data are forwarded to several phone apps and “registered consumer protection centers” or “consumer portals” drivers can use to compare gas station prices in real time; price changes are updated to the market transparency office every five minutes. Beta testing is scheduled to end 01 Dec 2013.
The following consumer portals have been approved for this so far:
Spiegel.de reported another eight “information services” have been approved to help share the price data with consumers and another hundred have applied for approval.
The Green party called this a placebo office, criticizing inter alia that it does not fix inflationary pricing malheurs committed by the refineries (which have the same ownership as some large gas station chains in some cases). Also, it doesn’t cover all fuels or 100% of the market because the smallest gas stations can apply to be exempted. Germany has about 14,000 gas stations, so ~1000 are not participating as the service is launched.
(MARKED trons par ENTS shtell ah.)
“Historian error,” a.k.a. outcome bias. Hindsight.
(Hiss TOR ick er EAR toom.)
Swallowing toads. When you have to accept unpleasant things.
(CRUT en shlook en.)
“Let something go down the Wupper river.” Let something break, die, go bankrupt.
(OO bur dee VOOP er gay hen loss en.)
Squeeze money out of someone. Also, a cupping treatment used in the Middle Ages.
To gape, to be ajar, to yawn. What a loose sphincter does, or a budget shortfall.
To be “fully invested,” which is why you don’t have cash available at the the moment.
(FOAL invest EAR t.)
Closed today because the country has run out of money.
(Shtots bonk RAW ts fry.)