Category Archives: Investment

Does money matter more than your life? Corporations prepare lawsuits against countries over Covid-19 protections


Remember the fuss over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? No?

Let me tell you a story.

Back when the UK was part of the European Union, there was a move to create a trading partnership with the United States, allowing goods to flow between the two power blocs, practically tax free.

But problems arose over a so-called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ system that would have allowed corporations to prosecute individual nations if they passed laws that – for example – protected citizens from having to buy inferior goods that put their health at risk.

This would have interfered with the corporations’ profits, you see.

The possibility of entering an agreement that gave ultimate power to greedy shareholders rather than national governments that – at least nominally – exist to protect citizens killed the TTIP stone dead.

Now we have evidence of what a good idea this was:

Countries could soon face a ‘wave’ of multi-million dollar lawsuits from multinational corporations claiming compensation for measures introduced to protect people from COVID-19 and its economic fallout, according to a new report.

Researchers have identified more than twenty corporate law firms offering services to mount such cases, which would seek compensation from states for measures that have negatively impacted company profits – including lost future profits.

Measures that could face legal challenges include the state acquisition of private hospitals; steps introduced to ensure that drugs, tests and vaccines are affordable; and relief on rent, debt and utility payments.

Under controversial ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) mechanisms, foreign investors, companies and shareholders are able to sue states directly at obscure international tribunals over a wide range of government actions… in what the researchers describe as “a parallel justice system for the rich”.

This Writer is not aware of the UK being a part of any ISDS procedure, and it is clear that any agreement to take part in one would be an offence against democracy.

Note very carefully that the UK’s Conservative government was very keen to take us into such an agreement with the United States, as part of the EU.

I can only agree with Labour’s John McDonnell…

… and urge that anyone hearing of such lawsuits taking place here in the UK let me know immediately.

Source: Exclusive: Countries to face a ‘wave’ of corporate lawsuits challenging emergency COVID-19 measures | openDemocracy

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While others suffer, this friend of Boris Johnson has made a fortune from the coronavirus

Crispin Odey: This supporter of Boris Johnson bet that coronavirus would crash the stock markets – he is profiting from your misery.

Hedge fund tycoon Crispin Odey has made £115 million from betting on a stock market crash due to the coronavirus.

He told the Mail on Sunday he predicted a crash, and has spent the last three weeks cashing in on it.

What a charmer.

He’s the Brexit supporter who reportedly wagered £300 million on a post-Brexit crash.

Some have said that he lost out because the markets hardly blinked when the UK Brexited at the end of January.

But the real hit is yet to come and we won’t know whether he was right until the transition period closes at the end of 2020.

How do you feel about the fact that this tycoon is picking up a pretty penny because of others’ misfortune?

Source: Hedge fund tycoon Crispin Odey makes £115million from this month’s coronavirus stock market crash – Internewscast

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Yes, the NHS has PFI debts – but put the blame where it’s due… on the TORIES

Okay, the image is a little out of date, but the message is clear: The blame for the crisis in the NHS lies squarely with the Conservative governments – of Theresa May, certainly, but also of John Major, David Cameron, and now of Boris Johnson.

The legacy of the harm done to the National Health Service by the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major has been brought into sharp focus by a new think tank report.

The IPPR think tank has published research showing that NHS trusts will have to pay out £55 billion to Private Finance Initiative (PFI) investors by 2050, having already paid £25 billion.

PFI was used extensively by the New Labour government of Tony Blair to bring desperately-needed investment into the NHS after the Tories bled the service dry.

Hospitals were found to be in severe disrepair and treatments badly underfunded when the Blair administration came into office in 1997, and PFI was considered the only option to restore the service to full functionality.

In total, £13 billion was invested in the NHS during the New Labour years. This will cost the service an eye-watering £80 billion by the time the contracts end in 2050.

It might have been possible to pay these off without difficulty, if Labour had stayed in power. But, as we know, that did not happen.

The Conservatives slithered back into office in 2010, supported by their nasty little yellow helpers, the Liberal Democrats, and NHS funding began to fall at once.

The introduction of private, profit-making companies into the publicly-funded health provider meant billions of pounds were siphoned off into the bank accounts of shareholders, rather than being used to treat patients.

And a huge amount of money has been used in litigation after certain private companies took to the courts to contest failures to gain contracts.

So, while the Tories have been able to claim that investment has increased, real-terms funding for the health service has fallen.

It is in this context that we see health trusts have been burdened with an obligation to use around one-sixth of their annual budgets paying off PFI debts.

It would be easy to blame New Labour for the fact that NHS trusts have been falling into debt. It would also be wrong.

New Labour did what it had to, in order to ensure continuity of care – and to keep healthcare up to date.

It was the Conservatives who forced New Labour into PFI by starving the NHS to the bone, and it is the Conservatives who are forcing the NHS into debt – once again by starving it of funds.

This is evidenced by the fact that the Department of Health has raided £4.1 billion from the NHS’s capital funding budget – which should repair the service’s buildings, build new facilities and buy new equipment – simply to pay day-to-day running costs.

Make no mistake – PFI was a bad idea when John Major introduced it to government budgeting strategies, and Tony Blair should never have been put in a position where it was the most acceptable choice to fund the NHS.

But if we’re going to blame anyone for the current situation, blame the Conservatives – because they deserve it.

Source: NHS hospital trusts to pay out further £55bn under PFI scheme | Politics | The Guardian

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British Steel needs £30 million or it will fail. Will Tories say ‘There’s no magic money tree’?

British Steel in Scunthorpe: It seems the plant here has lost a large amount of income due to Brexit uncertainty.

We’ve been here before.

If you’re not aware, British Steel Ltd was formerly owned by Tata Steel Europe, a company based in India (if I recall correctly). This Site (and many others) reported on the government’s reluctance to do anything when Tata indicated it would pull out of its UK holdings – indeed, then-Business Secretary Sajid Javid was on a junket to Australia when the situation was at crisis point.

The UK business was eventually bought by Greybull Capital for the princely sum of £1, with a possibility of £400m investment to follow. In fact, it seems less than £20m was provided. Now Greybull wants a £75m investment package to keep British Steel trading – on top of a previously-agreed £120m loan*. In the two years following its acquisition, Greybull had charged British Steel £6m in management fees and £34m in loan interest. Links to the evidence in support of these statements may be found here.

Now Greybull and the company’s lenders are putting £30m into British Steel, and have revised their rescue package request down to £30m.

All things considered, one could almost sympathise with the Tory government for being unwilling to help out. Still, perhaps Mr Javid should have exerted himself towards finding a better buyer at the appropriate time. You will certainly, I hope, understand why I tweeted the following:

I was referring to the Kolkata flyover collapse of 2016, when it was believed that substandard steel (sourced from China?) had buckled after concrete was poured onto it. The disaster killed 50 people and injured a further 80.

Unite the Union has called for British Steel to be nationalised if a rescue package cannot be finalised.

And the Labour Party has said it would nationalise the firm, to save the industry – if it were in government.

But the Conservatives – the party of government – have been dragging their feet.

They won’t nationalise.

But they haven’t produced another solution.

Until they do, the possibility of an influx of cheap and nasty Chinese steel endangering our construction projects is rising.

*This was to cover an EU bill for carbon dioxide emissions. At a time when environmental harm is high on the political agenda, this is extremely damaging.

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Labour would halt RBS privatisation – in return for investment

 

This looks like Labour’s plan for a national investment bank, writ smaller.

A Labour government would halt privatisation because it would not profit the state. This makes perfect sense – far more than the current Tory plan to sell to the rich at a loss for the poor.

But the offer is only to delay continued privatisation of RBS – and only if the bank commits itself to lending money to the regions, and to small businesses.

For This Writer, it is not enough. RBS played a large part in the financial crisis of 2008 and it would be fitting if that bank were kept in public ownership and made to put right the damage it caused.

Put the Tories in Labour’s place, with a similar kind of offer, and I’d be calling them liars. History shows that Conservatives will say what they think others want to hear, to get them on-side. Then they renege on the deal.

I wouldn’t mind at all if Labour reneged on this one and turned RBS into a part of – or the basis of – the National Investment Bank in the party’s manifesto.

But Labour is not the Conservative Party and I have a feeling this is a sincere offer. But will the RBS bankers – and their shareholders – share my belief?

[The] Labour party would halt the privatisation of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) if it came to power but would not seek to exert day-to-day control, the opposition party’s shadow banking minister told Reuters.

RBS shareholders voted on Wednesday to approve the bank’s plans to begin buying back its shares from the government in order to accelerate a return to majority private ownership, with more than 98 percent backing the proposal.

RBS remains 62 percent owned by British taxpayers after a £45 billion bailout in the 2008 financial crisis, although the Conservative government has conducted two share sales as it looks to return it to private ownership.

The government’s two RBS equity sales so far have crystallised deep losses for British taxpayers on shares that have almost halved in value since the bank’s rescue.

“If RBS is now paying dividends, and the price of the shares is under what was paid, we cannot see the rationale for selling more shares,” said Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds.

Having previously suggested full nationalization of RBS, Labour has been rowing back as it seeks to build bridges to the City of London and ease concerns about a Labour-led Britain.

The extent of state involvement would depend on RBS’ willingness to increase lending to Britain’s regions and small businesses.

“We don’t have a policy of day-to-day control of RBS,” he said. “But there is clearly unmet demand in lending and a problem with financial inclusion.”

Source: Britain’s Labour says it would halt RBS privatization


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