A travel consultant who testified in the National Rifle Association bankruptcy case said chief executive Wayne LaPierre asked her to omit certain flight stopovers from invoices she sent to the human rights group. firearms for Mr. LaPierre’s private jet trip, a disclosure that NRA lawyers are disputing. keep out of court record. The travel counselor testified, in a video filing released in bankruptcy court Thursday, that some invoices she sent to the NRA omitted stopovers in Nebraska and the Bahamas, at Mr. LaPierre’s request. Some of Mr. LaPierre’s relatives who frequently traveled on private jets paid for by the NRA live in Nebraska. The NRA chief previously said he travels frequently to the Bahamas to stay for free on a 108-foot yacht in the Bahamas with family members, provided by an NRA vendor, for safety reasons. Testimony that Mr LaPierre sought to hide some private jet stops from the NRA’s own accountants could be evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he was deliberately hiding it, legal experts have said . “If this is true, it appears to be a clear and documented example of misusing NRA assets and covering up this abuse,” said Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington nonprofit lawyer. .
The German banking regulator received a series of whistleblower tips over the past year that made “multiple allegations of fraud” at Greensill Bank, prompting it to sue for repairs at the bank, according to an internal German government report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The regulator, known as BaFin, received the first series of warnings in the second quarter of 2020. The information alleges that some of Greensill’s assets were backed by fake invoices, according to the report, which outlines the regulator’s efforts over the past year to supervise banks.
BaFin received another alert in the third quarter of 2020 and three other submissions this year. The German-language report, which did not specify the origin of the filing, said the information raised “concerns about the financial situation of the Greensill Group as well as various allegations of fraud.”
There are mainly concerns about the loan Greensill Bank is making to the GFG Alliance, a metals company owned by the British-Indian steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta.
A Mr. spokesperson. Gupta declined to comment.
It’s hard to think of a recent failure that could match the EU’s Covid vaccine launch. Protectionism, mercantilism, bureaucratic incompetence, lack of political accountability, crippling security-ism – it’s all here. Keystone Kops in Brussels and European capitals would have been hilarious if the consequences weren’t so serious.
But hospitalizations and deaths increased again in Italy, Germany and France while successful vaccinations reduced illness and death in the US, UK and Israel. To date, the US has administered 34 doses per 100 population, the UK has entered 40 doses, and Israel has 111. Most vaccines require two doses. Compare that to about 12 in France, Germany and Italy.
As the pandemic moves into the reopening phase, Europe’s mistake will cost the entire world economically as the Continent struggles to emerge from lockdown.
Take the latest mistakes first. Various European regulators and politicians have spent this week claiming Oxford /
the vaccine – the only one currently widely available in the EU – may not be safe, just to be rethought and now begging people to start taking it.
This time the concern is that the puncture has caused blood clots or problems with blood platelets in some patients. Some people who receive the vaccine develop blood clots, but the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found the vaccine was not associated with an increased risk overall.
Among the 11 million or more vaccinated in the UK, serious freezing is less common than would be expected in the general population. People can develop clots for a variety of reasons including health conditions and other medications. Covid-19 can also cause clots, so any risk-benefit calculation supports vaccination.
This is part of the peculiar European safety-ism that has followed the vaccine program from the start. The introduction of the AstraZeneca jab was withheld even after the EMA approved it because bureaucrats in Germany claimed there was no evidence that the injection was successful in patients over 65 years of age.
Fewer elderly patients were included in the sample during the vaccine trial phase, but that is the extent of this claim. This was quickly debunked – real-world evidence available even then from Britain showed high efficacy in an older group – but not before French President Emmanuel Macron took up the theme.
Such sloppy talk prevented vulnerable European parents from receiving the vaccine last month. It also changes the priority list. Younger teachers and university professors in Italy received pre-sick injections and the elderly under a scheme developed when officials claimed it would not work for older people.
One problem is that no one appears to be entirely responsible for monitoring safety and efficacy. Nominally, that is the job of EMA, and the agency is handling it with the typical eurocratic self-confidence. The EMA approval process is more bureaucratic, requiring input from all EU member states. Imagine if the FDA consulted all 50 states.
But national governments are also allowed to make their own safety decisions on “emergency” grounds. Great Britain used this option to agree
and AstraZeneca fired quickly despite being a member of the EU late last year.
Other governments are using this policy to slow down vaccine rollouts. EU capitals refuse to follow Britain in authorizing emergency use, apparently out of fear of hurting European solidarity. But some governments are happy to impose unilateral blocks on vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca blood clot riot. European regulators live by the adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” but in this they apologize with no added security.
At least now, millions of doses are available for Europeans who want it. This is not always the case, after a procurement negligence has delayed deliveries and nearly sparked several trade wars. Brussels officials last year seized the opportunity to push for the general procurement of vaccines to increase the EU’s credibility with European voters. Buying on behalf of 500 million Europeans should also give the bloc more influence with pharmaceutical companies.
There’s been chaos. The EU bureaucracy has little experience with procurement on this scale, and is also struggling to reach a block-wide agreement for ventilators and protective equipment. Brussels officials signed vaccine contracts months after the US and UK did so last year – and only after several European governments threatened to arrange their own procurement.
Washington and London understand that it is essential for mass procurement to waste large sums of R&D money on many companies in the hope that some will succeed. Brussels focuses on haggling cost-per-dose. Europeans pay a few dollars less per dose but end up near the back of the delivery line.
The EU response – a combination of threatened export restrictions, boisterous commercial clashes with pharmaceutical companies, and delusional efficacy issues – has undermined Europe’s credibility on trade matters. It also risks fueling vaccine nationalism and trade restrictions elsewhere.
Could everything be different? The Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed demonstrates how a major government can use its fiscal resources to fund R&D in a crisis. Britain and Israel have shown that small countries can take advantage of regulatory agility to move forward. But somehow the European Union – a continent-wide political bloc made up of smaller nation-states – managed to get the worst of both worlds. It suffers from sluggish bureaucracy from big governments and quarrelsome inefficiency.
Europeans can debate in their spare time who is to blame for this and how to prevent it from happening again. The whole world can only hope they get their vaccination action soon.
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Appears in the print edition of March 20, 2021.
A German court ruled Tuesday that a small bank linked to the collapsed British financial company went bankrupt, triggering losses for dozens of small German cities.
Greensill Bank AG was deemed bankrupt by the local court, leaving the city as a likely creditor. Around Germany, at least 12 cities with a combined € 200 million, equivalent to about $ 238 million, in deposits are in a similar situation. Individual depositors are covered by insurance.
Among them is Keny, a small town in southwestern Germany. Like most cities that put money into banks, Ken tries to avoid the small losses that come with negative interest rates.
Bremen-based Greensill Bank, formerly known as NordFinanz Bank AG, was acquired in 2014 by Greensill Capital, which itself filed for bankruptcy on March 8. The bank offers slightly positive interest rates, beating the negative interest rates offered by a growing number of German banks.
The mayor of the city, Stefan Bubeck, said that the city is not trying to get high interest rates, but to avoid negative interest rates. Cities “don’t want our savings to decrease,” he said. Mr. Bubeck is worried that most of the money invested will be lost. We were shocked.
The city said it had diverted € 6 million into three banks offering slightly positive interest rates. He deposited € 3 million – a third of his total reserves – at Greensill in November. The bank offers an interest rate of 0.6%, compared to the minus 0.5% offered by other regional lenders in the city.
Other cities said they shifted reserves to Greensill at a lower price to avoid the guaranteed loss of negative prices. Schwalbach am Taunus, a municipality outside Frankfurt that has € 19 million in deposits in Greensill, estimates that negative rates could cost taxpayers half a million euros a year.
Deposit fees have also forced a growing number of individual customers to shop for better prices elsewhere. In fact many park their money outside Germany, in countries such as Bulgaria and Latvia, use platform service providers. The European Union has domestic guarantees on retail deposits of up to € 100,000. Greensill retail customers will further be covered up to € 75 million each with a separate deposit insurance plan provided by commercial banks.
BaFin, Germany’s financial regulator, froze all bank accounts in Greensill earlier this month after an audit could find no evidence of specific collateral used by big customers to borrow money. BaFin has filed a criminal complaint against the bank with prosecutors, who will decide whether to carry out an investigation. On Tuesday, regulators said a local court started bankruptcy proceedings against the bank after BaFin determined the bank would not be able to repay all customer deposits.
A person familiar with the bank said it was currently estimated that up to € 700 million in deposits out of a total of € 3.6 billion would not be covered by insurance. The majority will likely come from local governments.
Cities have their deposit guarantees if they put their money in pseudo local and regional banks that charge negative rates. Their deposits at commercial banks like Greensill were protected until 2017, when insurance was canceled following an expensive bank failure in which many depositors were urban.
Local governments said they could not see the Greensill problem coming, and were confident about the bank’s investment grade rating from ratings agency Scope Ratings.
“Because of this bank’s rating, we had to take a very safe form of investment for time deposits,” said Schwalbach am Taunus Mayor Alexander Immisch.
In a statement, Scope said it now suspects relevant information about Greensill’s business and risks was withheld from analysts, and that misinformation was provided. A Greensill spokesman referred questions to Greensill Capital bankruptcy administrator Grant Thornton, who declined to comment.
In Giessen, a university town north of Frankfurt, Mayor Dietlind Grabe-Bolz said the city was taking all appropriate steps to deposit € 10 million – roughly one-fifth of the city’s reserves – in Greensill, including evaluating bids from banks brought by the institute. different finances. broker. The money is intended to help cover future expenses such as road repairs and school projects.
Miss Grabe-Bolz has raised concerns about BaFin, who began conducting forensic audits at the bank last summer, but her investigation was only announced this month. Giessen transferred his deposits to Greensill Bank in October and December last year for 0.09% and 0.1% interest.
“While BaFin has already started assigning special investigators without the knowledge of investors, Greensill’s bid is still continuing,” the mayor said. “All of this shows that BaFin has let us down.”
A BaFin spokesman said because of their confidentiality duties, they could not notify the city government and other investors about special audits or other surveillance measures. He added that cities are well aware that their deposits in commercial banks are not guaranteed.
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Allegations that the Australian attorney general committed rape 33 years ago and sexual harassment claims against a member of the defense minister’s staff have sparked widespread outrage among women, with tens of thousands marching in major cities this week.
The allegations, which have nothing to do, have highlighted state politics and the handling of sexual harassment and complaints of sexual violence.
Many protesters dressed in black and waved placards reading “enough” on Monday to express their frustration at the government’s response to the allegations, and the treatment of women by male MPs and their staff. They also seek to raise concerns about harassment and women’s rights at work and in society.
Australia lags behind other countries in terms of the proportion of women in the legislature. It now ranks 50th, next to Croatia and behind Zimbabwe, for women’s representation, according to data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international organization of national parliaments based in Geneva. Two decades ago, it was ranked 21st.
One of the speakers at Monday’s protests was Julia Banks, a center-right lawmaker who quit politics in 2019, citing bullying and sexist behavior by lawmakers. Over the past decade, several other female leaders have summoned male colleagues in parliament for their behavior, including Julia Gillard, who is the country’s first female prime minister. On one occasion, Miss Gillard’s main political opponent stood outside the parliament building next to a sign reading “The Witch’s Sewers.”
“A culture has developed over the years,” said Julie Bishop, a former deputy prime minister, this month in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I think it is embedded in parliament because the environment, conventions, protocols, all of them are formed when there are no women in parliament or very few women in parliament. “
Monday’s protests were a challenge for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose popularity has risen because of it handling of the corona virus pandemic, but is now facing pressure from women’s rights activists to respond more firmly to allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Protest leaders are calling for new national laws on gender equality, more funding to prevent violence against women, and for the implementation of recommendations from a national sexual harassment investigation launched a year ago. While it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender in Australia, protest leaders say the laws are not sufficient to produce equal representation.
“It feels very profound,” said Suzannah Marshall Macbeth, a communications manager who attended one of the largest rallies outside Canberra’s Parliament Building. “Our politicians are so busy with this and they are accountable to us … it’s time to really demand change.”
A 2018 survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is government-funded but operates independently, found that nearly a quarter of Australian women said they had experienced or attempted rape on at least one occasion.
A recent survey by government statisticians on personal safety found that one in two women in Australia have been sexually harassed. The 2016 report also found that the proportion of women who experienced sexual violence within 12 months had increased compared to the previous survey four years earlier.
Mr Morrison has stood beside the attorney general, Christian Porter, who is the subject of a rape charge. Mr. Porter, the country’s chief legal officer, said he was 17 years old in 1988 when the alleged rape took place, and knew only briefly the whistleblower. He said he was 16 years old at the time.
Mr Porter denies allegations of rape and condemns what he says is a “trial by the media”. The allegations were detailed in a document sent anonymously to the prime minister and several other lawmakers. This allegation was first reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, without naming Mr. Porter, before the Attorney General identifies himself as the accused.
“The things that were claimed to have happened did not happen,” said Mr. Porter in the press conference on March 3 was held to address these allegations. She indicated the rape allegedly took place when she and her accusers took part in an international debate competition at the University of Sydney.
Mr Porter did not respond to a request for further comment.
His accuser died of suicide last year shortly after deciding not to pursue a police complaint, according to police, who said there was not enough “acceptable evidence” to file a criminal charge.
Police said the woman first met detectives in February last year and was in contact with the agency “at least five times.” In June, the woman sent detectives an email indicating that she “no longer feels she can continue to report the matter, for both medical and personal reasons,” police said.
The police said by not filing an accusation against Mr. Porter at the time, they were following standard procedures in investigating the history of sexual assault because they had not obtained and reviewed all available evidence.
Porter’s press conference comes two weeks after former Secretary of Defense Linda Reynolds’ staff member, Brittany Higgins, announced allegations that an unnamed male colleague raped her in the minister’s office. Reynolds inside the Houses of Parliament in 2019.
Speaking at the Canberra rally on Monday, Higgins said his colleagues on staff did not support him when he came forward and cared more about their political livelihoods.
“I was raped in the Houses of Parliament by a colleague and all this time I felt that people around me didn’t care about what was happening because of what it meant to them,” said Higgins.
Higgins said he initially met the police shortly after the alleged rape but asked officers in April 2019 not to continue the investigation because he felt it would jeopardize his career. He made a formal complaint to the police last month.
On Friday, Mrs. Reynolds apologized for mentioning Ms. Higgins as the “lying cow”, and retracted his comments, which he said were made privately. She previously said the comments referred to the way Higgins’ claims were reported in the media, and not her allegations of rape. “I didn’t mean it in a sense that might have been understood,” he said.
Ms. Reynolds did not respond to a request for comment.
Morrison has publicly apologized to Ms. But Higgins has rejected calls for an independent investigation into the allegations against Mr Higgins. Porter, saying that it was the police’s responsibility to investigate.
On Monday, speaking in parliament, Morrison said all cases of sexual violence must be referred to the authorities and that the government is committed to ensuring all workplaces are safe and free from harassment and assault. She drew further criticism when she said women protesting outside the Houses of Parliament were lucky to do so in Australia when demonstrations in Myanmar were “greeted with bullets.”
Protest organizers estimate more than 100,000 people participated in Monday’s march across Australia. One of them, Janine Hendry, said she was motivated to act because she has a 16-year-old son.
“When I look around and see role models, senior politicians and senior business people – these are role models that will influence him, and that doesn’t make me happy,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Write to Philip Wen on [email protected]
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