The Seattle Boss Who Gave His Employees A $70,000 Minimum Pay Rise

Source: CBS

Dan Price, the CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, told his employees they'll all be making $70,000 or more a year. Price will be trimming his company's profits and reducing his salary in order to fund the new pay for his workers. But why is he doing it? Anthony Mason found out.

Can The New Luxury High-Speed Train Service in Florida Persuade Americans to Love Trains Again?

Source: Bloomberg

The long, disheartening decline of passenger rail in the U.S. may be turning around, thanks in part to the ambitious efforts of a new high-speed train service in Florida called Brightline (soon to renamed Virgin Trains, connecting Miami to Orlando on fast, luxurious new trains. But can this service survive long enough to convince Americans to take trains more often?

Mr Green online gambling company owned by William Hill fined £3m by regulators

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 28th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

A Gambling Commission investigation found “systemic failings” affecting customers at the online casino business.

An online gambling company owned by William Hill has been fined £3m by regulators for failing to protect problem gamblers and guard against money laundering.

The Gambling Commission said that in one case the site, Mr Green, accepted evidence of a ten-year-old £176,000 claims payout as proof of funds for a customer who deposited £1m.

In another, it failed to freeze the account of a player who gambled away a £50,000 win before depositing thousands more.

The regulator also pointed to a case in which a photograph of a laptop screen showing a sum in dollars, purporting to be a crypto currency trading account, was accepted as proof of funds.

It said Mr Green was the ninth gambling business to face action as part of an investigation into online casinos that has led to more than £20m in penalty packages since 2018.

Richard Watson, executive director of the Gambling Commission, said it had uncovered “systemic failings in respect of both Mr Green's social responsibility ad AML [anti-money laundering] controls which affected a significant number of customers”.

He added: “Consumers in Britain have the right to know that there are check and balances in place which will help keep them safe and ensure gambling is crime-free – and we will continue to crack down on operators who fail in this area.”

The fine paid by Mr Green will go to an initiative to prevent problem gambling.

It came as latest financial results from Flutter – owner of Paddy Power and Betfair – showed how the sector was coming under increasing pressure from regulatory changes.

The group said higher taxes in the UK, Ireland and Australia plus a cut in the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in Britain from £100 to £2 during 2019 had cost it £107m – helping drag overall profits lower.

It also said that a UK ban on the use of credit cards to place bets, introduced last month, would knock up to £17m a year off future earnings.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

CMA Say Many Leasehold Homeowners ‘Misled by Developers’

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 28th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

An investigation into the leasehold property market has found “worrying evidence” that buyers are being treated unfairly and charged unreasonable fees.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said many homeowners found themselves in “serious traps” after being misled by housing developers.

It said it would take action against firms, calling for a change in the law and for refunds to be paid.

But it has not disclosed any names so far as it continues to investigate.

The CMA found some buyers were not told upfront that a property was leasehold and what this meant.

By the time people found out the realities of owning a leasehold, including regular ground rent charges, they were often unable to pull out of the sale, or would have found it very difficult.

In some cases, ground rents doubled every 10 years. This increase is often built into contracts, meaning people can struggle to sell their homes and find themselves trapped.

George Lusty from the CMA told BBC Radio 5 live that people could be in line for refunds.

“If we can attack and challenge these unfair ground rent terms, then they're invalid – all the money that was collected on them isn't valid and that has to be paid back,” he said.

“We're going to do everything we can to get people out of these really serious traps they find themselves in.

“People aren't able to take mortgages on these properties. They can't sell them, that's a terrible outcome and absolutely devastating for the people affected.”

This could result in firms signing legal commitments to change how they do business, and being taken to court if they do not comply.

The CMA said there should be a ban on the sale of new leasehold houses, while ground rents for new leases should be slashed to zero.

Concerns have long been raised by MPs and consumer groups about unfair leasehold contracts, with costly fees or onerous terms, prompting the CMA to announce the investigation last year.

Campaigners have called for leaseholds to be abolished, while some developers say they still have a place.

Walmart in talks to sell majority stake in Asda

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 27th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

US retailer also considers flotation after failure of attempted Sainsbury’s merger


Walmart is in talks to sell a majority stake in Asda, the UK’s third-largest supermarket chain.

The US retailer said it was talking to a “small number of interested parties” about a possible investment in Asda. It is understood to be looking to retain a minority stake in the business, two decades after it moved into the British market by acquiring the grocer.

The move comes after UK regulators blocked Walmart’s plan to merge Asda with Sainsbury’s last April, arguing that it threatened to push up prices and reduce quality and choice for consumers.

Merging Britain’s second- and third-largest supermarkets would have created a business bigger than Tesco, with annual sales of £51bn.

Walmart said: “Following inbound interest Walmart and Asda can confirm that we are currently considering whether there is an opportunity for a third party to invest in Asda, alongside Walmart, in order to support and accelerate the delivery of Asda’s strategy and position Asda for long-term success.”

However, Walmart cautioned that “no decisions have been made” and said a stock market flotation remained an alternative option.

It said: “Walmart firmly believes that an IPO [initial public offering] is an attractive long-term objective for Asda. Asda is a great business with a clear strategy for the future and Walmart is committed to ensuring it has the resources and support it needs to deliver that strategy.

“Walmart has a clear international strategy around ‘strong local businesses, powered by Walmart’ – which involves a number of different ownership arrangements depending on the needs of its different markets.”

Last May, Judith McKenna, the chief executive of Walmart’s international businesses, told Asda staff that Walmart was “seriously considering” a stock market flotation for Asda. This was likely to value the supermarket chain at more than £7bn. Asda’s chief executive, Roger Burnley, said in July last year that a flotation could happen in two years.

Walmart bought the Yorkshire-based company in 1999. Asda’s first supermarkets were opened in the 1960s after the merger of two companies, the Asquith family’s business and Associated Dairies & Farm Stores.

Asda, which has more than 600 stores and controls about 15% of the UK’s grocery market, has been losing share to the German discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Walmart has revamped its international business in recent years by scaling back its operations in countries such as Brazil and targeting higher-growth markets such as China and India.

By Julia Kollewe

Reckitt to invest £2 billion pounds to spur growth

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com –Thur, 27th Feb 2020) London, UK —

(Reuters) – Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) will invest 2 billion pounds to spur growth, its new CEO announced on Thursday, as it reported a 5 billion pound writedown on baby formula maker Mead Johnson.

The British maker of Dettol antiseptic and Strepsils lozenges reported like-for-like 2019 sales growth of 0.8% in line with guidance but that lagged peers such as Procter & Gamble (PG.N) which are targeting 3-5% expansion.

Reckitt bought Mead Johnson for about $17 billion in 2017 to expand in developing markets, especially China.

But slowing birthrates and competition from local players in China have resulted in a loss of market share.

Its writedown on the business meant a 3.7 billion net loss for 2019.

Reckitt shares fell as much as 5% before rebounding into positive territory.

New CEO Laxman Narasimhan announced the results of a strategic review in which 2 billion pounds in investment over three years is expected to help return to Reckitt to mid-single digit sales and earnings per share growth of 7-9%.

Past problems have included slow integration of the Mead business, especially in Latin America and in Asian markets, the company said.

Former Pepsico executive Narasimhan shied away from selling businesses in the review, however.

Instead the company plans to fund new investment through internal “productivity savings” of 1.3 billion pounds that will lower its adjusted margins by about 3.5 percentage points in 2020, it said.

“I think this is the right approach. However, it does mean earnings downgrades for 2020… We will have to see if the margins bounce back to 25% as suggested,” Tineke Frikkee, head of UK equities at shareholder Waverton Investment Management told Reuters.

It will align its brands around three categories – Hygiene, Health and Nutrition, and focus more on Greater China, integrating its businesses there and rebranding its “Hygiene and Home” unit “Hygiene”.

It said it was too early to fully assess the impact of the coronavirus outbreak but it had seen disruption at retailers, in distribution and supply chains.

The virus was driving online orders for Dettol and Lysol disinfectant, it said.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale

Metro Bank scales back expansion after bruising pre-tax loss of £130.8m for 2019

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 26th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

Metro Bank has reported a bruising pre-tax loss of £130.8m for 2019 after an accounting scandal, down from profits of £40.6m the previous year.

It said it planned to cut costs and more than halve branch openings.

The struggling High Street bank will slash new branch openings to 24 over the next three years from a planned 71.

It said there would be no redundancies from the cuts and added that it would offer affected staff the opportunity to relocate to new back-office sites.

Metro Bank's new boss, Dan Frumkin, has described 2019 as a “challenging year”, which is somewhat of an understatement.

Last year, it was also the subject of two regulatory inquiries, plus a class action lawsuit. Its share price crashed 90% while deposits shrank and it had to offer new investors a very expensive 9% return to put in the money it needed just to survive.

On Wednesday, Mr Frumkin laid out a new, more modest strategy for growth at a bank that many think is unlikely to emerge as an independent business.

While not cutting any stores or jobs, Metro Bank is “putting their foot on the ball” in terms of new branch openings.

As a result, the bank will be giving back some of the £120m it took from a £750m fund that RBS was forced to provide to increase competition in the sector.

The good news is that Metro Bank continues to prove popular with retail customers – whose number grew by almost 25% last year – and, it insists, with small businesses. Its capital ratio is also strong.

In addition, its branches are open seven days a week, something no one else does and lots of people like. But no other bank does it because they do not think it's a way to make money.

The problem is that when one-off costs are stripped out, Metro Bank is still losing money. It reported underlying pre-tax losses of £11.7m against profits of £50m in 2018.

The new boss said this morning that there is nothing wrong with the business plan – it is that the bank has failed to execute. He's making life tough for himself by essentially saying that if it doesn't work from here, then it's his fault.

Can Metro Bank survive on its own – or will it need the support of a bigger parent?

Mr Frumkin insists that “there is a path to Metro surviving as an independent business”. Those don't feel like the words of someone who thinks that is the most likely outcome.

By Simon Jack

Lloyds Banking Group announce hundreds of jobs losses

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 26th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

A union resumes hostilities with Lloyds as the bank confirms it is cutting branch jobs as services are wound down.

Lloyds Banking Group has announced hundreds of jobs losses as it continues efforts to scale back branch services.

The bank confirmed a Unite union figure that 780 positions were to go.

A spokesperson told Sky News: “As customers are using our branches less often, we are reducing the number of roles across our branch network.

“This means we can shape our service according to customer behaviour and local demand. Change does mean difficult decisions and we are focused on supporting our colleagues at this time.”

Lloyds announced last month it was to close a further 56 group branches across the UK between April and October – the majority under the Lloyds brand.

It has cut 569 branches over the past two years according to consumer group Which? but has committed to maintaining the UK's largest branch network.

Lloyds, along with its major rivals, has cited a customer drift to online banking for the moves away from branches despite a backlash over access to services.

Unite said Lloyds told its workforce that the jobs affected in the latest cull would go between June and October and it was “more evidence of the bank's ‘profits over people' culture”.

Scott Doyle, the union's committee chairman for Lloyds, said: “The Bank of Scotland, Lloyds and Halifax branches hit by the extensive staff cuts today will have sent shockwaves through the communities which are at present served by highly experienced bank staff.”

He added: “Unite has pressed Lloyds to reconsider these job cuts and ensure that the bank remains rooted in the communities on which they depend for their long-term sustainability.

“There is no doubt that customers need experienced and highly committed banking staff in their communities and not just at the end of the phone or via an app.”

By James Sillars

Thomson Reuters names Steve Hasker as new CEO

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 25th Feb 2020) London, UK —

The parent of Reuters News also announced higher-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, reporting a 60% year-on-year rise in operating profit, helped by lower costs and investments following the separation of the Financial and Risk (F&R) business.

Hasker, most recently a top executive at Hollywood talent agency CAA, will assume his new role on March 15, Thomson Reuters said. Smith, a former journalist who oversaw a period of major change at the company, will stay on for a transition period and become chairman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Stephane Bello, Chief Financial Officer, will also step down from his role and will be succeeded by Mike Eastwood, current Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance. Bello will oversee strategy and business development into 2021, the company said.

Thomson Reuters maintained its organic revenue growth target of 4% to 4.5% in 2020 and said its margins will be a little higher than it forecast in October and also above 2019 levels.

EARNINGS BEAT

Adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter rose to $216 million or 37 cents per share from $135 million or 19 cents a share. Analysts, on average, expected 33 cents a share, according to IBES from Refinitiv.

The news and information provider posted a 4% rise in organic revenues to $1.58 billion and showed higher sales in each of its three largest divisions: Legal Professionals, Corporates and Tax & Accounting Professionals. The Reuters News division saw organic revenue of $164 million, up 5 percent.

“With our reorganization behind us and a clear focus on the future of our core business, this is the perfect time to put in place the next generation of leadership,” Jim Smith said in a statement.

The company, controlled by Canada’s Thomson family, said the board of directors said it approved an 8 cent per share hike in the annual dividend, to $1.52 per share.

In recent years, Thomson Reuters had cut costs and shed some businesses as it recovered from the fallout of the financial crisis in 2008.

Smith’s defining accomplishment was the sale he engineered of a 55% stake in the company’s financial division in 2018 to Blackstone Group Inc (BX.N), valuing the business at $20 billion. Blackstone subsequently struck a deal to sell the unit, now called Refinitiv, to the London Stock Exchange Group Plc (LSE.L). [nL8N24X1SX]

Shares of Thomson Reuters have more than doubled since the Refinitiv deal, and have tripled since Smith took over as CEO in 2012.

European competition authorities are expected to rule on the London Stock Exchange’s (LSE.L) $27-billion takeover of data and analytics company Refinitiv in coming months. [nS8N29P0DZ]

With Thomson Reuters back on strong footing under Smith’s leadership, the board wanted to recruit an executive who would chart a long-term growth strategy for the company, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Hasker, who was a senior advisor at private equity firm TPG and who worked at McKinsey & Co as a media consultant, was selected by Thomson Reuters’ board based on his experience in building platforms and running businesses that collect and analyze data, two sources familiar with the matter said.

At Nielsen, which is primarily known for its TV ratings measurement business, Hasker helped accelerate the company’s transformation into a data and analytics firm tracking media consumption and consumer purchases, former colleagues said.

He negotiated partnerships with Facebook Inc (FB.O) and others to develop measurement tools at Nielsen to help advertisers identify the age, gender and location of people across the internet, one of the former colleagues said.

By Nick Zieminski, Kenneth Li and Jessica DiNapoli in New York

FCA admits revealing 1,600 consumers confidential details

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 25th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

Data breach involved names, addresses and phone numbers of some complainants

The Financial Conduct Authority has admitted to accidentally revealing personal information of about 1,600 people who complained about it, in an embarrassing lapse for the regulator of Britain’s banks and investors.

The FCA published names, addresses and phone numbers in a document on its website, in response to a request for data under the Freedom of Information Act.

The response related to the number and nature of new complaints made against the FCA between 2 January 2018 and 17 July 2019. More than half of the 1,600 complainants had only their names revealed. The FCA said it will write to those who had their addresses and phone numbers revealed to inform them of the breach.

The personal data, which were published in November, were revealed within descriptions of complaints. No financial, payment card, passport or other identity information were included, the FCA said.

The FCA said it had referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which regulates the use of data, over the breach.

The data breach is particularly embarrassing for the FCA, which issued Tesco Bank a £16.4m fine in 2018 for failing to protect customer information.

The FCA is also carrying out an investigation into a security breach at the Bank of England. The FCA chief executive, Andrew Bailey, has promised to recuse himself from the investigation before he becomes governor of the Bank on 15 March.

“The publication of this information was a mistake by the FCA,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “As soon as we became aware of this, we removed the relevant data from our website. We have undertaken a full review to identify the extent of any information that may have been accessible. Our primary concern is to ensure the protection and safeguarding of individuals who may be identifiable from the data.”

The FCA has faced a barrage of criticisms in recent years over perceived failings in its handling of scandals such as the collapse of London Capital and Finance, which sold unregulated mini-bonds, and Royal Bank of Scotland’s mistreatment of small business customers.

By Jasper Jolly

JPMorgan plots digital consumer bank in UK

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 24th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

The world’s biggest bank by market value is to launch a range of consumer services in the UK under the Chase brand, Sky learns.

JPMorgan Chase, the world's biggest lender by market capitalisation, is close to making a stunning entry into Britain's personal banking market.

Sky News has learnt that the New York-listed behemoth will launch a range of savings and loan products using the Chase brand in the UK in the next few months.

The move will represent one of the most significant new entries into the consumer banking sector since the 2008 financial crisis, and could spark a new price war among lenders already struggling to deal with a protracted period of ultra-low interest rates.

JPMorgan is due to hold an investor day next week at which it will set out details of its growth strategy, although it was unclear this weekend whether the consumer banking launch in Britain would be mentioned.

Sources said that JPMorgan Chase has been in discussions with City and banking regulators about securing the necessary approvals to pave the way for the launch.

They added that the new service was likely to launch later this year.

The US-based bank reported in its fourth-quarter earnings last month that Chase had an average deposit base of $708bn (£540bn).

Its consumer banking business operates predominantly in the US, and sources suggested that its expansion to the UK represented a potentially valuable opportunity for one of the world's flagship banking brands.

One insider said that Chase was likely to offer savings and current accounts, as well as a range of open banking services and loan products.

It was unclear whether the bank planned to enter the fiercely competitive UK mortgage market.

Further details of JPMorgan's plans could not be determined this weekend.

In the US, JPMorgan boasts that consumers can open an account online within five minutes, and now has well over 50 million digital banking customers.

It has, however, faced setbacks in its digital expansion strategy, announcing last year that it was closing Finn, its online-only brand, after poor take-up from consumers.

Elements of the technology platform for JPMorgan's UK digital bank are understood to have been developed by 10x Future Technologies, the company set up by Antony Jenkins, the former Barclays chief executive.

Sky News revealed last June that JPMorgan was buying a stake in 10x.

TechCrunch, the technology news website, reported last summer that JPMorgan was also working on a secret digital banking project in London.

In recent weeks, the bank has been actively recruiting staff to work on the project.

An unnamed existing JPMorgan executive is understood to be spearheading the plans.

When the new bank is launched, it would mean the two biggest names on Wall Street now operate consumer banks in the UK, following Goldman Sachs' launch of Marcus in 2018.

Rival Citi previously owned Egg, the consumer lender, but sold it in separate transactions in 2011 to Barclays and the Yorkshire Building Society.

This week, Morgan Stanley announced the biggest takeover by a Wall Street player since the banking crisis when it bought E-Trade, the online brokerage, for $13bn (£9.9bn).

A City source played down suggestions that the new Chase-branded service would be directly comparable to Marcus, saying it would offer a wider range of products.

News of the Chase brand's entry to the UK market comes amid a bank reporting season that has reflected a more upbeat outlook for Britain's economy, while underlining the continued legacy of mis-selling scandals such as payment protection insurance.

Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, pointed this week to “a clearer sense of direction [for the UK] and some signs of gradually improving economic indicators”.

Next week, Metro Bank, which became the first new high street lender for a century when it launched a decade ago, will outline a revised strategy under Daniel Frumkin, its newly appointed chief executive.

Chase's launch in the UK will also throw down a challenge to the ‘neo-banks' which have promised to steal market share from the big five high street lenders.

Revolut is about to announce a $500m (£381m) equity-raise, revealed by Sky News, that is being led by Technology Crossover Ventures, an early backer of Netflix and Spotify.

The funding round, which is being accompanied by a $1bn (£760m) convertible loan, will give Revolut a pre-money valuation of $5.5bn (£4.2bn).

Coincidentally, JPMorgan's investment bank is working with Revolut on the capital-raising.

Monzo, another digital player, is finalising a further fundraising that will value the company at well over £2bn, while Starling Bank has just received a £60m equity injection from shareholders.

For JPMorgan, which has a market value of $431bn (£329bn), its plans contrast with warnings fired by Jamie Dimon, its chairman and chief executive, about its presence in the UK if Britain left the European Union.

Speaking alongside the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2016, Mr Dimon said that as many as 4,000 jobs could disappear from the group's British workforce.

A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment on Saturday.

Mark Kleinman

Tesco to sell racially diverse skin tone plasters

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 24th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

The UK's biggest retailer, Tesco, is stocking plasters in a variety of skin tones as it tries to give a better reflection of racial diversity.

It said the plasters, which come in light, medium and dark shades, would “better represent the nation”.

The retailer said they were developed in response to an emotional tweet from a US man, who used a plaster matching his skin tone for the first time.

Tesco said it was the first UK supermarket to make such a move.

People welcomed the news on Twitter, although some questioned why it had taken so long.

Campaigner Sajda Mughal tweeted: “This is like that feeling as a WOC [woman of colour] growing up not being able to find the right tone of foundation apart from pink!!!… And finally somebody introduces it!!!”

Nicola Robinson, Tesco's health, beauty and wellness director, said: “As one of the largest retailers in the UK, we understand that we have a responsibility to ensure our products reflect the diversity of our customers and colleagues.

“We believe the launch of our new skin tone plaster range is an important step and a move that we hope will be replicated by other retailers and supermarkets across the country.”

The supermarket giant developed the plasters after a tweet from Dominique Apollon, of US racial equality advocacy group Race Forward, went viral.

Mr Apollon said he was overwhelmed after using a plaster matching his skin tone for the first time, and “holding back tears”. It prompted more than 100,000 retweets and comments

It's taken me 45 trips around the sun, but for the first time in my life I know what it feels like to have a “band-aid” in my own skin tone. You can barely even spot it in the first image. For real I'm holding back tears.

Currently, people have little choice when it comes to buying plasters of diverse shades on the High Street. Boots does not stock plasters in multiple shades, although it does offer transparent ones.

Specialist brands are available online but can be expensive.

Tesco, which is the UK's biggest seller of own-brand plasters, said its new plasters would be available at all of its 741 UK stores.

Superdrug told the BBC it will also be launching plasters for dark tone, medium tone and light tone skin in six weeks' time across all of its stores.

Nicola Paul, a diversity expert at Green Park, an executive search firm, welcomed the news.

“Not only is it the right thing to do but there is demand,” she said.

“Companies in the cosmetic industry realised the importance of producing products different skin tones years ago, though you'll also find plenty of blogs and posts explaining they haven't done enough.

“Some fashion retailers have considered their ranges, especially extending their ‘nude' ranges beyond pale, be that shoes, tights or underwear.

“Supermarkets are very competitive when it comes to the sustainability agenda and it would be great to see more examples like this coming through.”

Take A Tour of YachtLife $3 Million Yacht For Rent

Source: BI

YachtLife is an app that let’s users browse yachts that they can rent. The company started in Miami, but now has rentals available across the world. From Florida, to Colombia, to Italy and Spain, customers can use the app to rent yachts for a day or weekend. Rentals come equipped with a captain and first mate, and even a chef if wanted.

FDA First Approved Gene Therapy Miracle Tech That Could Reverse Blindness

Source: Bloomberg

7-year-old Maverick has a rare genetic disorder that severely limits his vision. Now, a medication called Luxturna – the first gene therapy approved by the FDA – has the potential to substantially improve his sight, via an injection of a gene-carrying virus underneath his retina.

Wells Fargo agreed to pay $3bn (£2.3bn) to resolve a government investigation into its sales practices

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 21st Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

Wells Fargo, a major US bank, has agreed to pay $3bn (£2.3bn) to resolve a government investigation into its sales practices, including opening millions of fake customer accounts.

The bank admitted it had wrongly collected millions of dollars in fees, misused customer information and harmed the credit rating of customers.

The settlement comes about four years after the scandal first erupted.

It has already forced out two chief executives and led to hefty fines.

Since 2018, Wells Fargo has been operating under an order from the US Federal Reserve that limits its growth.

Last month, former chief executive John Stumpf agreed to pay $17.5m to settle charges, in a rare example of a bank executive being personally punished for failing to stop misconduct.

Charlie Scharf, who became chief executive in October, said the settlement was a “significant step in bringing this chapter to a close”.

“There's still more work we must do to rebuild the trust we lost,” he added.

“The conduct at the core of today's settlements – and the past culture that gave rise to it – are reprehensible and wholly inconsistent with the values on which Wells Fargo was built,” he said.

The settlement concerns activities between 2002 and 2016, when the bank's intense focus on growth put pressure on staff to meet “onerous sales goals”.

The environment ultimately led workers to create fake accounts, sell services that customers did not need, and shift money between accounts, among other illicit activities, prosecutors said.

Top managers of Wells Fargo's consumer division were aware of the “gaming practices” as early as 2002, they said. In 2004, an internal investigator called it a “growing plague”, according to the settlement.

“This case illustrates a complete failure of leadership at multiple levels within the bank. Simply put, Wells Fargo traded its hard-earned reputation for short-term profits, and harmed untold numbers of customers along the way,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

“We are hopeful that this $3bn penalty, along with the personnel and structural changes at the bank, will ensure that such conduct will not reoccur.”

Of the $3bn, about $500m is set to be returned to investors who were misled by bank disclosures.

The US Department of Justice said the bank would be monitored for three years for compliance, under a deferred prosecution agreement.

If the bank abides by the conditions of the settlement, including ongoing cooperation in investigations, the charges will be dismissed.

JMW Turner new £20 notes enter circulation

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 20th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

At least 2bn polymer notes are to be rolled out across the country from Thursday

The new polymer £20 note featuring the artist JMW Turner is to go into circulation, as the Bank of England begins a mammoth operation to replace the most popular banknote in the country.

At least 2bn have been printed, and the Bank expects half of the country’s cash machines to have switched over within the next fortnight.

In Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale will launch their polymer £20 notes on 27 February, with Royal Bank of Scotland following on 5 March. Banks in Northern Ireland will also change over in 2020, but there is no specific date.

Judging by the huge popularity of earlier polymer note issues, the Bank of England said it expected to see queues outside its Threadneedle Street head office when it opened its doors at 9am.Advertisement

Not all bank branches will be stocking the new £20 immediately. For example, Santander said only 12 of its branches would have the new note from Thursday. They include branches in Birmingham, Cardiff and Leeds.

The note will feature Turner’s portrait in front of The Fighting Temeraire, his tribute to the ship that played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It will also be the first note to include the signature of Sarah John, the Bank of England’s chief cashier since 2018.

The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, chose Tate Britain, which is home to the most important Turner collection, to launch the new note. The Fighting Temeraire, which is currently in the National Gallery, will be on view at Tate Britain in the autumn for a major Turner exhibition.

He said: “I am delighted that the work of arguably the single most influential British artist of all time will now appear on another 2bn works of art – the new £20 notes that people can start using today.”

The Bank said the banknote will be the single biggest switchover to polymer attempted anywhere in the world. While first adopted by Australia in 1988, US dollars and euros have so far resisted the switch to plastic.

According to the Bank of England, if the new £20 notes were laid end to end, they would stretch around the world almost seven times and weigh a total of 1,780 tonnes. The notes are manufactured in England by De La Rue.

Unlike the launch of the polymer £5 and £10 notes, Britain’s central bank has not set a date for when the older paper-cotton notes will stop being legal tender, so they can continue to be used in circulation. It said it will give at least six months’ notice of any withdrawal date.

The Bank is opting for polymer over traditional paper because it is cleaner, longer-lasting and harder to forge.

Old notes removed from circulation are either turned into compost, or burned to generate electricity.

Despite the fact that non-polymer £5 and £10 notes are no longer legal tender, £1.5bn worth are still in existence. The Bank of England said as of July 2019, there were 118m old £5 notes and 93.8m £10 notes that had not been returned.

But individuals have the right in perpetuity to bring old notes to the Bank of England and swap them for a new note of the same value.

Unlike in the eurozone, where the €50 is the most common note in circulation, the British have traditionally preferred lower denominations.

There are about 2bn paper £20 notes in circulation, compared with 1.1bn £10 notes, 400m £5 notes and 350m £50 notes.

Despite the decline in the use of cash, the total value of notes in circulation has remained broadly static in recent years. The Bank said it had found that while people were carrying the same amount of cash as before, it stayed longer in purses and wallets than before before being spent.

By Patrick Collinson

Lloyds paid £2.5bn in final PPI claims

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Thur, 20th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

A surge in complaints about mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) weighed on Lloyds' finances last year.

The UK banking giant posted a 26% drop in pre-tax profits to £4.4bn as it paid out billions of pounds to customers in PPI compensation.

The bill for PPI claims in 2019 would be about £2.5bn, but Lloyds said no further provisions were needed as it had already set aside enough money.

It brings the total paid out by Lloyds over the mis-selling saga to £21.9bn.

Lloyds said there had been a “significant increase” in queries about PPI claims ahead of a deadline to claim in August last year.

The deadline, set by the City regulator, prompted a rush of enquiries, which pushed the bank's bill up from £750m in 2018.

“The group's statutory performance was impacted by a substantial PPI charge related to the deadline for claims submission,” the bank's boss António Horta-Osório, said in a statement.

Lloyds has the biggest bill of all the banks for mis-selling of the insurance policy – which was intended to cover loan payments if, for instance, customers fell ill. But the insurance was often sold to people who did not want it or did not need it.

‘Resilient results'

In the run up to the deadline, Lloyds said it had received about 5 million new claims but only about 10% of those resulted in a compensation payment. “Historic conduct issues remain disappointing but we continue to be focused on doing the right thing for our customers,” Mr Horta-Osorio said.

Last year, Lloyds faced criticism for its handling of a multi-million pound scam at a branch of HBOS, which it now owns. Mr Horta-Osorio promised to implement recommendations of a report that said a scheme to compensate customers had “serious shortcomings”.

“We have apologised to those impacted and are determined to put things right,” he said.

Despite the surge in PPI claims, John Moore, an investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said Lloyds appeared to be in a “decent place”. “Lloyds' performance is typically a reflection of the wider UK economic situation,” he said. “Political uncertainty influenced business and consumer confidence last year; yet, despite this challenge, the bank has posted resilient results.”

Mr Horta-Osorio took the helm after bank was rescued during the 2008 financial crisis. The government sold its final stake in the bank in 2017.

3,000 jobs to be created by Blackhall film and TV studio in Berkshire

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com–Wed, 19th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

A US-based firm says its first investment in the UK will be located outside Reading in Berkshire and operational in 2022.

A US company has announced plans to build a new film and TV studio in Berkshire, saying the £150m facility will create up to 3,000 jobs.

Blackhall Studios – based in Atlanta, Georgia – said its first foray overseas and into the UK market would deliver “the largest purpose-built film studio and digital creative hub complex in the UK”.

It added that several other opportunities were being considered in the country as clients including Disney and Universal – part of Sky News parent company Comcast – seek additional studio space.

The announcement was made two months after Sky revealed its own plans for a new 14-stage site beside the current Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire in a boost for the creative economy.

Netflix completed an agreement last year to create a production hub at Shepperton Studios.

Blackhall, which has hosted production on movies including Godzilla: King of Monsters' and Venom, said its planned UK studio space would be on the University of Reading-owned Thames Valley Science Park and be worth £500m to the economy once completed.

Of the 3,000 jobs it expects the project to create, half the number could be based at the new studios.

Chief executive Ryan Millsap said: “We are excited to be establishing a base in the UK.

“Blackhall is the global standard for entertainment production space and our US-based clients like Disney, Universal and Sony are all asking us to expand into the UK to meet their desire to create productions here.

“We are very excited about the prospect of investing in the UK creative industries as one of the most vibrant markets in the world.”

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “The UK and the US are each other's largest investors, and this announcement demonstrates the strength of our trading relationship, which benefits all sectors and regions in
the UK.

“Blackhall's commitment is a strong endorsement of our creative industry and the great creatives that work in UK film, and is set to deliver hundreds of new jobs in the area.”

By James Sillars

UK Post-Brexit immigration plans unveil no visas for low-skilled workers

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 19th Feb 2020) London, Uk – –

Low-skilled workers would not get visas under post-Brexit immigration plans unveiled by the government.

It is urging employers to “move away” from relying on “cheap labour” from Europe and invest in retaining staff and developing automation technology.

The Home Office said EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK would be treated equally after UK-EU free movement ends on 31 December.

Labour said a “hostile environment” would make it hard to attract workers.

But Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast the government wanted to “encourage people with the right talent” and “reduce the levels of people coming to the UK with low skills”.

Under the plan, the definition of skilled workers would be expanded to include those educated to A-level/Scottish Highers-equivalent standard, not just graduate level, as is currently the case.

Waiting tables and certain types of agricultural worker would be removed from the new skilled category, but new additions would include carpentry, plastering and childminding.

Points-based system

The government says it wants a “points-based” immigration system, as promised in the Conservative election manifesto.

Under this, overseas citizens would have to reach 70 points to be able to work in the UK.

Speaking English and having the offer of a skilled job with an “approved sponsor” would give them 50 points.

More points would be awarded for qualifications, the salary on offer and working in a sector with shortages.

But the government said it would not introduce a route for lower-skilled workers, urging businesses to “adapt and adjust” to the end of free movement between EU countries and the UK.

Instead, it said the 3.2 million EU citizens who have applied to stay in the UK could help meet labour demands.

Workers from European Economic Area (EEA) countries currently have the automatic right to live and work in the UK irrespective of their salary or skill level.

The government says this will end on 31 December, when the 11 month post-Brexit transition period is due to finish.

Pay levels

The salary threshold for skilled workers wanting to come to the UK would be lowered from £30,000 to £25,600.

However, the government says the threshold would be as low as £20,480 for people in “specific shortage occupations” – which currently include nursing, civil engineering, psychology and classical ballet dancing – or those with PhDs relevant to a specific job.

There would no longer be an overall cap on the number of skilled workers who could come into the UK.

What about lower-paid sectors?

Bodies representing farming, catering and nursing are warning that it will be hard to recruit staff under the new system.

The Royal College of Nursing said it the proposals would “not meet the health and care needs of the population”.

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters raised “serious concerns” about the “failure to recognise British food and farming's needs”.

And the Food and Drink Federation spoke of concerns about bakers, meat processors and workers making food like cheese and pasta not qualifying under the new system.

But the government pointed to a quadrupling of the scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture to 10,000, as well as “youth mobility arrangements”, allowing 20,000 young people to come to the UK each year.

Analysis: By Danny Shaw

The government's proposed immigration system represents a balancing act – broadening the base of skilled labour while restricting the flow of those seeking lower-skilled jobs.

People wanting to come to the UK from outside the EU will find rules are being relaxed, such as scrapping the cap on skilled workers or the drop in minimum salary.

But for EU migrants who are used to moving freely between Britain and the continent, the new regime will be something of a shock.

Visitors can come for six months without a visa, but they won't be able to work, those with skills must have a job offer and clear the 70 points hurdle, and there'll be no work permits for migrants prepared to do menial jobs in restaurants, hotels, care homes and food processing plants.

There is some flexibility in the new structure. But the question is, will it be enough to prevent labour shortages and companies taking their business elsewhere?

Benefits

Under the plan, all migrants would only be entitled to access income-related benefits until after indefinite leave to remain is granted, usually after five years.

Currently, EU nationals in the UK can claim benefits if they are “economically active”. Non-EU citizens become eligible for benefits when they are granted permanent residence, which usually requires five years of living legally in the UK.

What is the political reaction?

For Labour, shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said the salary threshold system would “need to have so many exemptions, for the NHS, for social care and many parts of the private sector, that it will be meaningless”.

Changes to the system would be implemented through an immigration bill needing approval from MPs and peers to come into force.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the proposals were based on “xenophobia”.

And Scotland's First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the plans would be “devastating” for the Scottish economy.

UK number of people in work jumped in late 2019, despite election nerves

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 18th Feb 2020) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The number of people in work in Britain jumped again at the end of last year, according to data which underscores how the labour market has defied a broader economic slowdown in the run-up to December’s election.

The number of people in work jumped by 180,000 in the October-December period to 32.934 million, at the top end of forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

Full-time employment accounted for most of the growth, while self-employment also rose strongly, the Office for National Statistics data showed.

Signs of weakness in the labour market in the autumn – when Britain faced deep uncertainty about Brexit and the outcome of a polarising national election – prompted two Bank of England interest-rate setters to vote for a cut to borrowing costs.

But the BoE’s other seven rate-setters backed keeping borrowing costs on hold amid signs that the economy has picked up following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election triumph on Dec. 12.

The number of people out of work dropped by 16,000 to 1.290 million, the ONS data showed.

The unemployment rate of 3.8% remained at its joint lowest level since early 1975.

In another sign of confidence among employers about their hiring intentions, vacancies in the three months to January rose to 810,000, their highest since the three months to September.

“The jobs market remains remarkably robust, with employment levels rising despite the UK economy stalling at the end of last year,” said Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce.

PRODUCTIVITY CONCERNS

“However, the strong headline figures mask underlying problems. Lingering economic uncertainty can mean companies hire staff to fill orders rather than investing for the long-term, weakening productivity.”

Tuesday’s data showed Britain’s productivity growth – the flipside of strong increases in jobs – remains a problem.

Output per hour in the fourth quarter rose by 0.3% in quarterly and annual terms. While the year-on-year growth rate was the strongest since the second quarter of 2018, the ONS said the numbers did not represent a breakthrough.

Many employers fear that Brexit-related uncertainty will return in 2020 as Johnson has ruled out extending a transition period with the European Union beyond the end of the year, saying he will clinch a free trade deal with the bloc by then.

Growth in pay has also slowed steadily in recent months.

Total earnings growth including bonuses rose by an annual 2.9%, the weakest gain since the three months to August 2018.Slideshow (2 Images)

Excluding bonuses, pay growth also slowed to 3.2%, its slowest increase since the third quarter of 2018.

Economists had expected total pay to grow by 3.0% and regular pay to grow by 3.3%.

“In real terms, regular earnings have finally risen above the level seen in early 2008, but pay including bonuses is still below its pre-downturn peak,” ONS statistician Myrto Miltiadou said.

The data also showed workers born in the EU’s 27 countries rose by nearly 6% in annual terms in the fourth quarter of 2019, ahead of Britain’s departure from the bloc on Jan. 31 this year. That was the biggest such increase since the start of 2017.

By William Schomberg