Transparenzgesetz

Hamburg’s “Transparency Law,” requiring the administration to publish all its documents with the exception of e.g. personal data and business secrets. The compulsory publication will go online in October 2014 in a central “information register.”

Hamburg passed this law in 2012 after an initiative by Mehr Demokratie!, the Chaos Computer Club and Transparency International.

So far the city-state’s government has held 120 training seminars to tell 1700 officials what the new law will mean.

One trainer began his sessions with an 1838 quote from Prussia’s interior minister, Gustav von Rochow.

“It is not fitting for subjects (…) to apply the standards of their own limited insight to the head of state’s actions and to presume in their bigheaded arrogance to make a public judgment about the lawfulness of said actions.”

(Tronce paw RENTS geh zetts.)

Schlagende Verbindung

The German university fraternities that deliberately cut each other in the face while swordfighting, as a result of which any company manager with a facial scar is thought to have a powerful right-wing network supporting him. This is still going on.

Not all Burschenschaft fraternities are schlagende Verbindungen.

Hamburg’s state Verfassungsschutz has announced they will be keeping a closer eye on the “Germania” Burschenschaft because some of its members might be right-wing extremists.

In 2013, said the officials, HB Germania’s political activity increased and included:

Multiple invitations to right-wing extremists, including a public relations expert and neonazi politician, Jürgen Schwab, who was to give a talk on “Manipulation of International Law.”

Close ties to a Hamburg fraternity of right-wing extremist high school students [Schülerverbindung]. I did not know there were Verbindungen-type fraternities for schoolchildren.

Update on 11 Jun 2014: The foundation in charge of the Wartburg castle in Eisenach said the Deutsche Burschenschaft will no longer be allowed to hold their annual meeting at the castle. Spiegel said this group is an umbrella association of right-wing student Verbindungen, who’ve caused talk lately by wondering aloud if they should require proof of Aryan ancestry for membership!

Update on 13 Jun 2014: In addition to Hamburg’s “Germania” fraternity, Verfassungsschutz is also looking at Munich’s “Danubia.” And two N.P.D. members of Saxony’s state parliament have said they were members of Gießen’s “Dresdensia-Rugia.”

The president of Saxony’s state Verfassungsschutz is a Burschenschaftler. He indicated that in college he joined a fraternity that his family member(s) had joined, that he has been active as one of their Alte Herren (“old gentlemen,” the alumni), and he didn’t mention it before because he thought this was a private matter.

(SHLAWG en da   fair BIN doong.)

Betriebsrat

Workers’ council, a committee elected by employees that is involved in management of German workplaces.

Spiegel.de reported on 11 Nov 2013 that Microsoft was not renewing the leases for its offices in Hamburg, Böblingen and Bad Homburg, where ~500 of the company’s ~2700 Germany-based employees work. These workers were to be dispersed into telecommuting as “Homeoffice-Mitarbeiter.”

Labor advocates accused the company was doing this to outflank efforts by the Betriebsrat workers’ councils at those locations to negotiate resolutions to Microsoft’s overtime situation, with workers regularly putting in 50 to 60 hours per week in a country that usually has a work week <40 hours, said overtime “being neither off-celebrated [with time] nor offset [with money].” Celebration is a synonym for time spent not working, in German.

Labor advocates also alleged that Microsoft’s plans to rent conference rooms for future meetings with clients was an attempt to ensure there were never more than four of its employees gathered together in one place at a time because, they said, German law requires Betriebsrat representation for workplaces with five employees or more.

(Beh TREEBZ rah t.)

Untreue wegen mangelndes Risikomanagement

Breach of trust due to inadequate risk management.

The entire former management board of northern German bank HSH Nordbank is on trial in Hamburg for approving a deal in 2007 allegedly without sufficiently informing themselves first (“bullwhipping it through in only three days right before Christmas” on the basis of a memo that did not contain the data required by due diligence, so the prosecutors). This is the first time an entire bank board has been put on trial in Germany, but it presumably won’t be the last.

In 2007, to avoid receiving a lower rating from the Wall Street ratings agencies one year before the bank’s scheduled stock market launch, prosecutors said, HSH Nordbank moved a collateralized debt obligation package that included risky real estate and commodities paper “away” into an entity called Omega 55, for which the French bank BNP Paribas guaranteed. In return, HSH guaranteed when BNP Paribas moved risky paper, valued at 2.4 billion euros and including Iceland government bonds from Lehman Brothers, into the Omega 55 entity [Zweckgesellschaft, “special-purpose vehicle” according to Bloomberg.com]. HSH’s guarantees for BNP Paribas securities ended up costing HSH >150 million euros in 2008; ultimately in the course of the global financial crisis the bank had to be bailed out by 30 billion euros that included taxpayer money from its majority owners, the German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, and taxpayer money from the German bank bailout funds BaFin and SoFFin. Omega 55’s losses were in part kept off the bank’s books, which is why two of the six former HSH board members are further going to be tried for balance sheet falsification [Bilanzfälschung, “false accounting” according to Bloomberg.com]. Guilty verdicts in the breach of trust trial could also result in a civil lawsuit from HSH against its former managers.

Update on 23 Jul 2013: Bloomberg.com reported that charges were also brought against managers from Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB), Sachsen LB and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, but these cases have not yet gone to trial.

Update on 16 Dec 2013: HSH Nordbank has been accused of dividend stripping.

Update on 28 May 2014: Hamburg prosecutors are asking for probation and fines of up to 150,000 euros, after they reduced their estimate of damage done to the bank from ~150 million euros to ˜50 million. This is in the breach of trust trial, for signing off on what was a “circular transaction” in 2007, without questioning inconsistencies in the information presented to them.

Update on 09 Jul 2014: The entire former management board of HSH Nordbank was found innocent. Dubious deeds and dereliction of duty, said the judge from the Economic Crimes Court [Wirtschaftsstrafkammer], but he didn’t think there was enough evidence to prove serious dereliction of duty. Also there’s no evidence that the HSH Nordbankers profited financially from the damage they caused. Trials against managers from IKB and the Baden-Württemberg Landesbank for their risk management before the global financial crisis have also been canceled, said Spiegel.de. At the time, what those bankers did was neither illegal nor unusual.

The states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein had to pump 13 billion euros into HSH Nordbank to bail it out.

Update on 10 Jul 2014: The judge gave the prosecutors the option of appealing this decision, and they will appeal it to the supreme court in Karlsruhe.

(OON troy ah   vague en   MON geln dess   REESE ee co men edge ment.)

Miniatur-Wunderland

“Miniature Wonderland,” a flabbergastingly extensive, ambitious, complex, technically impressive and beautiful model train exhibit in Hamburg. They recreated the Swiss Alps, the Frankfurt Airport, a floating Scandinavian cruise ship, Las Vegas and Florida. There are dozens or perhaps hundreds of tiny jokes to hunt for. The sun rises and sets every fifteen minutes, with lights coming on in all the little villages. Visitors can watch the Wunderland artist-engineers at work in their glass cubicles, while they can watch you enjoying the show.

(Min ee ah TOUR   VOON da lond.)

Bausoll

Though this word looks like it might mean “obligation to build” it’s actually a “construction targets” document describing precisely what has to be done in a construction project, documents apparently neglected in three prestige enterprises recently gone awry in Germany: the Elbphilharmonie riverfront concert hall in Hamburg, the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport, and the expansion of the Stuttgart train station underground (“Stuttgart 21”). ZDF heute journal reported part of the systemic problem is that responsible parties include politicians, absent in 15 to 20 years when the project finishes, who absolutely want to build the shiny thing and construction firms that absolutely want to obtain the building contracts without, apparently, feeling constrained to submit realistic bids. Also, planners’ fees apparently are a percentage of the project’s ultimate cost?

(BOW zollll.)

Bugsieren

To tow boats. The world’s (temporarily) largest container ship, the “CMA CGM Marco Polo,” recently sailed into Hamburg with the tide. It had to be turned and moved into place rather quickly before the tidewater receded, and only a quarter of its 16,000-container capacity (in TEU, twenty-foot-equivalent units) could be shifted; advocates for deepening the Elbe river are using the visit as a PR action.

Larger container ships (18,000 TEU) are currently under construction in Korea for Maersk, and will ply the seas in 2013.

(Boog ZEEE ren.)

Wattverlust

“Loss of mud flats.” One of many environmental concerns cited in a recent environmentalist lawsuit to halt the project to deepen the shipping channel in the Elbe river between Hamburg and the sea. Litigation of the dispute will take years, so in order to keep irreversible faits accomplis from being created in the interim, the court has temporarily stopped the dredging. Hamburg is 130 kilometers from the ocean and still trying to compete with Rotterdam.

The plaintiffs say previous deepening of the Elbe’s shipping channel caused visible environmental damage that included loss of mud flats, increased current, lack of oxygen and loss of habitat.

(VOTT fer loose t.)

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