Don’t Blame Starbucks

20 10 2012

Category; Finance, Law, Media, Politics


It’s easy to get worked into a schiuma by the revelation that Starbucks hasn’t managed to pay any corporation tax in the UK since 2009 – click here for report. Big turnover is, apparently, eaten away by expensive licensing royalties to an overseas subsidiary (Holland) of the Starbucks parent company, expensive beans bought from another overseas subsidiary (Switzerland) and then roasted by yet another overseas subsidiary (Holland).

Politicians and journalists are gleefully calling for a boycott of the company that doesn’t ‘pay it’s share’see here and here. But it’s very simple. Read the rest of this entry »

Only the Little People Pay Taxes

23 06 2012

Category; Politics, Finance

Jimmy Carr and his Bentley

Poor Jimmy Carr has realised he made a ‘massive error of judgment’ and he’s really sorry. The comedian somehow stumbled on a tax avoidance scheme that saved him an awful lot of money – click here.

Carr is a man who feels that his success allows him to stand apart from other people. As Leona Helmsley once said;

 “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.”

And justice. While Leona did serve at least a little time in gaol for tax evasion (click here) Jimmy Carr has repeatedly, well, let me phrase this carefully, he has repeatedly managed to secure the best possible outcome for himself after being prosecuted for motoring offences by hiring very expensive specialist lawyers – see here for more on that.

It was more interesting to see the flailing on this issue from politicians. They simply did not know how to respond. They did not understand how their reactions reflected on the nature of our society and its governance which, given that a basic role of government is gathering and spending money, is quite revealing. I’m not sure our politicians really know what they are there for anymore. Read the rest of this entry »

Funny Money?

11 01 2012

Category; Politics, Finance, Bristol

Bristol Council, in the South West of Britain, seems to have money trouble. It’s been revealed by the BBC that it is planning to raise £50 million in debt to finance a variety of projects – click here for  the BBC website report.

That’s £50 million for the ratepayers of tomorrow, and for years to come, to pay for. Read the rest of this entry »

Still At It

1 12 2011

Category; Finance, Politics, Bristol

It takes a throwaway remark by a part-time local politician in one of Britain’s smaller cities to illustrate that while the eurozone crumbles and the Western world’s economy  faces deep recession, no lessons have been learned.

They are still at it.

The councillor responsible for transport in Bristol was talking about a new scheme to charge visitors to park their cars where it currently is free. This is what he had to say to the local BBC:

“He hoped the move would raise some £200,000 per year – allowing £3m in capital to be raised.”

BBC News 26 November 2011 – click here for the report; Ashton Court Parking

So how does £200,000 turn into £3 million? I’ve already discussed how this works here and then here, and here it is in operation. Read the rest of this entry »

Il Nuovo Sorpasso

13 08 2011

Category; Finance, Politics

Italy has approved a tough austerity plan; the Euro is saved, the ECB will shore up Italian Bonds and Berlusconi can joyfully bunga bunga the rest of the summer away.

Even if parliament approves the plan (click here for details), brought in by emergency decree, the country does not have the political will to follow it. There is absolutely no chance that the austerity package introduced on Friday will be implemented. Read the rest of this entry »

New Economics Foundation & the Bankers

23 11 2010
Category: Politics, finance

The New Economic Foundation is going up in my estimation. They’ll certainly breathe a sigh of relief about that…I’ve been wary of the NEF (Neff? En-Ee-Eff?) for a while.

Ever since they published a report that came to the conclusion that care within the family, and household chores, were ‘seven to ten times’ more valuable than the work of bankers to the economy. Nice round numbers.

They were very pleased with themselves for this report; maybe it was smugness connected to understanding that an economic think tank writing anything negative about bankers was likely to get a good press, no matter how nonsensical.

But the fact they were writing nonsense bothered me. It told me that they were an organisation more focused on the easy headline (and getting on Radio 4’s Moral Maze) than saying important and true things. Read the rest of this entry »

How bad a recession? Ask the new millionaires

21 06 2010

Category: Finance, Politics

Business Week has produced a report on the countries with the most households with assets of more than a million dollars.

Comparisons like that are always a bit dubious given it’s a random figure, all the statistics they’re based upon, and global variations, but there are some striking elements relating to how many new millionaire households there are – lots – and how much of the national wealth is held by those households.

Some of the numbers I was most interested in weren’t included in the report (based on figures from Boston Consulting) so I’ve done some digging to provide more comprehensive information… Read the rest of this entry »

State Funded Majority

11 04 2010

Category; Politics, Finance

© The Guardian

The OECD reports that more than 53% of GDP is now in the Public Sector, not so long ago it was 40%.

There are 6 million people employed in the public sector. I’ve recently mentioned Milovan Djilas writings about the New Class in former Yugoslavia, governing in its own interests rather than those of the state.

When the public sector reaches a certain point it has a distorting effect politically… Read the rest of this entry »

Ratings Agencies – Grade F

27 02 2010

Category: Finance

In my post about some of the financial jiggery-pokery that got the economy where it is I mentioned the problems involved in getting accurate valuations by the ratings agencies. This was well illustrated by the Economist recently with a table of information compiled by Donald Mackenzie of the University of Edinburgh:

With mortgage-backed securities it’s clear the ratings agencies simply got it wrong; dead wrong. They were supposed to be assessing risk, they didn’t do a particularly good job of it… Read the rest of this entry »

Chickenomics 2 – From the Henhouse to Government Debt

1 12 2009

Category: Finance

In my post ‘Chickenomics’ I gave a farmyard illustration of the forces at work with the credit boom. In my example I started out looking to finance a new chicken coop and ended up getting so much money I was looking for a private jet. This is how that process was mirrored in the real economy… Read the rest of this entry »

Chickenomics 1 – From Henhouse to Private Jet

22 11 2009

Category: Finance

For a little while – really a very little while – I accidentally found myself in the heart of the credit-boom. I got a job with the world’s leading law firm working on their hottest area, securitisation, in their boom market, Italy.

I was getting good money and was in an area with great prospects but I felt like I was in the madhouse so I quit to cycle around Milan and eat ice-cream for a while.

When I first started learning about securitisation I could see exactly why everyone got so excited about it and why it’s not going away anytime soon.

It’s alchemy. It really is; it realises value that didn’t previously exist. To try and convey how it works, and a few of the other credit boom phenomena I’ve tried to explain it using a farmyard tale. I’ll explain how the story relates to the real world in later posts. I’m not sure if this chicken parable is at all helpful but here it is… Read the rest of this entry »

Who benefits and who suffers

11 11 2009

Category: Politics, Finance

“But the ones who suffer aren’t the ones who benefited”

That’s George Soros to the Chairman of  the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan who had dismissed the impact of economic downturns (quoted in David Hare’s play ‘The Power of Yes’).

There’s no better metaphor for that, and the whole of the credit boom, than… Read the rest of this entry »