Deutsche Bank to move assets from London to Frankfurt after Britain’s planned exit from the EU

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Mon, 17th Sept 2018) London, UK —

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) said on Monday that it would move assets from London to Frankfurt after Britain’s planned exit from the European Union next year, in line with British and EU regulators.

“The terms on which banks will operate in the EU and UK after Brexit remains unclear in the absence of a firm political agreement but our intention is to operate in the UK as a branch in line with the Prudential Regulation Authority’s guidance”, the lender said in a statement.

It added that it announced in 2017 that would make Frankfurt rather than London the primary booking hub for its investment banking clients.

According to a source close to the matter, Deutsche Bank is considering shifting large volumes of assets from London to Frankfurt and to transform its UK arm into a smaller, less complex and ringfenced subsidiary.

By Arno Schuetze

 

 

The 10 top most lucrative occupations in the Uk you can do from home

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Sun, 16th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The number of people working from home has surged in recent years, fueled by the economic downturn forcing many Britons out of their traditional office jobs, and technological advances making it easier for people to work remotely.

The Office for National Statistics puts the number of home workers at around four million, a 19pc increase over the past decade.

Jobs site Indeed has identified the top 10 most lucrative freelance occupations in Britain, ranked by annual salaries.

1. Development Operations Engineer – £59,449
Development operations (DevOps) engineers are typically responsible for the production and ongoing maintenance of a website platform, so are generally required to know how to code.

Because DevOps spend almost all of their time on a computer, it's easy to work from home, with the occasional office visit to catch up with team members.

 

 

2. User Experience Researcher – £46,004
User experience (UX) researchers spend their time gathering data from consumers for business clients, so that the latter can better understand their customer's behaviour.

This is done through qualitative and quantitative methods, including interviews and surveys – all of which can take place away from an office environment.

3. Freelance Quantity Surveyor – £44,950
Quantity surveyors manage all of the constructions costs relating to building projects, and can either work in an office or on-site. Freelancers can of course carry out much of their work from the comfort of their home, while maintaining regular visits to their construction sites.

4. Proposal Writer – £38,436
Whether for a business or individual, proposal writers create written documents designed to convince the recipient to enter a business arrangement or buy a product. This can all be done on a computer, enabling the writer to work remotely.

 

 

5. Software Developer – £32,740
Software developers, also known as a computer programmers, are responsible for designing, installing, testing and maintaining software systems.

While developers usually work in teams with engineers and managers, it is feasible for them to work from home with regular calls to colleagues.

6. Social Media Manager – £32,424
As the name suggests, social media managers must come up with engaging media marketing campaigns for clients and post the content on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

All of this can be done on a laptop or phone, so doesn't require a person to work from an office.

7. Online Tutor – £29,000
Online tutors (or “e-tutors”) educate and support students learning a particular course, just like a normal tutor, but on the Internet.

Tutors can guide and support students through a course via social media and email, and can even offer services such as “virtual classrooms” through Skype.

 

 

8. Copy Editor – £28,836
Copy editors are responsible for scanning documents for grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as fact-checking, and then making any necessary edits.

This can all be done at home, and copy editors often combine this work with freelance writing to bring in extra money.

9. Content Producer – £28,615
Content producers create and publish written content for different websites and digital platforms.

Everything is done online and communication is most effective via email, making it an ideal job to carry out at home.

10. Event planner – £25,811
While event planning isn't as well paid as many jobs that require you to work in an office, those in the profession will save on travel costs by working from home, where they can easily communicate with clients and vendors on the phone or by email.

By Sophie Christie

 

 

UK economy grew by 0.3% in July helped by World Cup and warm weather

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 10th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The UK economy grew by 0.3% in July after being helped by the heatwave and the World Cup, according to the Office for National Statistics.

In the three months to July, the economy expanded by 0.6%.

“Services grew particularly strongly, with retail sales performing well, boosted by warm weather and the World Cup,” said Rob Kent-Smith from the ONS.

“The construction sector also bounced back after a weak start to the year,” he added, but production contracted.

“The dominant service sector again led economic growth in the month of July with engineers, accountants and lawyers all enjoying a busy period, backed up by growth in construction, which hit another record high level,” said Mr Kent-Smith.

The 0.6% growth rate for the three months to July was at the top end of forecasts, and marks a pick-up from the 0.4% rate seen in the three months to June.

 

 

British Airways boss apologises for hacked firm’s security systems

Wikimedia/Juergen Lehle

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – -Fri, 7 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The chief executive of British Airways has apologised for what he has called a very sophisticated breach of the firm's security systems.

Alex Cruz told the BBC that hackers carried out a “sophisticated, malicious criminal attack” on its website.

The airline said personal and financial details of customers making bookings had been compromised.

About 380,000 transactions were affected, but the stolen data did not include travel or passport details.

BA said the breach took place between 22:58 BST on 21 August and 21:45 BST on 5 September.

Communication
Mr Cruz told the BBC's Today programme: “We're extremely sorry. I know that it is causing concern to some of our customers, particularly those customers that made transactions over BA.com and app.

“We discovered that something had happened but we didn't know what it was [on Wednesday evening]. So overnight, teams were trying to figure out the extent of the attack.

“The first thing was to find out if it was something serious and who it affected or not. The moment that actual customer data had been compromised, that's when we began immediate communication to our customers.”

BA said all customers affected by the breach had been contacted on Thursday night. The breach only affects those people who bought tickets during the timeframe provided by BA, and not on other occasions.

Mr Cruz added: “At the moment, our number one purpose is contacting those customers that made those transactions to make sure they contact their credit card bank providers so they can follow their instructions on how to manage that breach of data.”

The airline has taken out adverts apologising for the breach in Friday's newspapers.

BA data breach: What do you need to do?
By Simon Read, business reporter

 

What data was stolen?

BA says hackers stole names, email addresses and credit card information – that would be the credit card number, expiration date and the three digit CVV code on the back of the credit card.

BA insists it did not store the CVC numbers. Security researchers are now speculating the card details were intercepted, as opposed to being harvested from a BA database.

What could the hackers do with the data?

Once fraudsters have your personal information, they may be able to access your bank account, or open new accounts in your name, or use your details to make fraudulent purchases. They could also sell on your details to other crooks.

What do I need to do?

If you've been affected, you should change your online passwords. Then monitor your bank and credit card accounts keeping an eye out for any dodgy transactions. Also be very wary of any emails or calls asking for more information to help deal with the data breach: crooks often pose as police, banks or, in this instance they could pretend to be from BA.

Will my booking be affected?

BA says none of the bookings have been hit by the breach. It said it has contacted all those affected to alert them to the problem with their data, but booked flights should go ahead.

Will there be compensation for me?

If you suffer any financial loss or hardship, the airline has promised to compensate you.

‘Atrocious'
BA customers have expressed their frustration with the airline on social media.

Mat Thomas said he placed a booking on 27 August, but had not been contacted about the breach.

“Atrocious that I had to find out about this via news and twitter,” he tweeted.

“Called bank and had to cancel both mine and my wife's card. Probably won't get it back before we fly (ironically).”

Gemma Theobald tweeted: “My bank… are experiencing extremely high call volumes due to this breach! Couldn't do anything other than cancel my card… not how I wanted to spend my Thursday evening.”

The company could potentially face fines from the Information Commissioner's Office, which is looking into the breach.

Rachel Aldighieri, managing director of the Direct Marketing Association, said: “British Airways has a duty to ensure their customer data is always secure. They need to show that they have done everything possible to ensure such a breach won't happen again.

“The risks go far beyond the fines regulators can issue – albeit that these could be hefty under the new [EU data protection] GDPR regime.”

The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Centre also confirmed they were assessing the incident.

Shares in BA owner IAG fell by 2.5% in early trade on Friday.

‘Flesh wound'
This is not the first customer relations problem to affect the airline in recent times.

In July, BA apologised after IT issues caused dozens of flights in and out of Heathrow Airport to be cancelled.

The month before, more than 2,000 BA passengers had their tickets cancelled because the prices were too cheap.

And in May 2017, serious problems with BA's IT systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted, after all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled.

“It does not indicate that the information systems are the most robust in the airline industry,” Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent, told the BBC.

However, he does not think that BA will be affected in the long term by the breach.

“The airline has immense strength. Notably it's holding a majority of slots at Heathrow, and an enviable safety record, so while this is embarrassing and will potentially cost tens of millions of pounds to resolve, it's more like another flesh wound for BA, rather than anything serious.”

 

 

Burberry to reuse, repair and recycle unsaleable products after green criticism

Wikimedia/Ciegorctamoa

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur 6th, Aug, 2018) London, Uk – –

Company will reuse, repair or recycle unsaleable products and end use of real fur

Burberry is to end its practice of burning unsold clothes, bags and perfume and will also stop using real fur after criticism from environmental campaigners.

The British fashion house destroyed unsold products worth £28.6m last year to protect its brand, taking the value of items destroyed over the past five years to more than £90m. It has previously defended its practice by saying that the energy generated from burning its goods was captured.

However, the company now says it will reuse, repair, donate or recycle unsaleable products. It will also end the use of real fur and says the debut collection from its new chief creative officer, Riccardo Tisci, will not feature any fur. Existing fur products will be phased out.

xxxxxxx
Burberry’s chief executive, Marco Gobbetti, said: “Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible. This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products.”

It is a common practice among fashion firms to destroy unsold items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply.

Earlier this year it emerged that the Swiss watchmaker Richemont, which owns the Cartier and Montblanc brands, had destroyed nearly €500m of its designer timepieces over the past two years to avoid them being sold at knockdown prices.

However, Burberry shareholders have questioned why the unsold products were not offered to the company’s private investors. Greenpeace said the practice of burning unsold goods showed “no respect for its own products and the hard work and natural resources that are used to make them”.

Burberry reiterated that it takes its environmental obligations seriously and in May joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative to prevent waste in the industry.

By Julia Kollewe

 

 

TSB boss Paul Pester to get bonus despite resigning over IT chaos

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Tue, 4th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

TSB’s outgoing boss Paul Pester is still in line for payments and bonuses of nearly £1.7m, despite standing down today following criticism of his handling of a bungled IT switch earlier in the year that left thousands of customers unable to access their accounts for days.

Mr Pester, who was singled out for harshly worded criticism by MPs on the Treasury select committee, will leave with immediate effect.

He will get a £1.2m severance payment and a bonus of up to £480,000 that was determined prior to TSB's takeover by Spanish bank Sabadell in 2015. Other variable compensation will be frozen subject to investigations.

TSB said Mr Pester would be paid “in line with the bank’s remuneration policy and the terms of his contract”, with any bonus dependent on the “outcome of performance conditions as well as ongoing regulatory and independent investigations”.

The outgoing boss has already given up a bonus worth £2m that was directly related to the delivery of the IT project – a move Mr Meddings said was “wholly appropriate” earlier this year.

The news follows a second outage over the weekend that again left some customers struggling to use the bank’s online services.

 

 

Profile | Who is Paul Pester?

CREDIT: PA
Ex-TSB boss Paul Pester was once hailed as the “luckiest man in banking” after he narrowly avoided taking the top job at the Co-operative Bank, shortly before it found a black hole in its accounts.

But he’s probably not feeling so fortuitous now, after a bungled switchover of TSB's IT systems in April left some customers unable to access their accounts. The bank is now being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is shelling out millions for compensation payouts. Pester has now stood down from the job after seven years.

A doctor of theoretical physics and regular triathlete, Pester spent his early working life in consulting before taking the reins at Virgin Money, at the time a provider of savings and investment plans, in 1999.

He has since worked at Santander and run the comparison site Moneyfacts, but it’s Lloyds Banking Group that has loomed over the most dramatic moments of his career.

Having previously run what was then Lloyds TSB’s consumer arm, Pester returned to his old employer in 2010, not long after it was nearly sunk by its decision to buy HBOS during the financial crisis.

There he was put in charge of Project Verde, Lloyd's plan to sell off 636 branches in order to comply with European state aid rules that kicked in after it was bailed out by the British government.

The plan had originally been to sell the branches to the Co-op Bank, with Pester becoming head of the combined group. But in February 2013 the mutual pulled out, forcing Lloyds to float TSB on the stock market instead.

Pester pitched it as an opportunity to build a bank without the scandalous baggage that has bogged down the industry’s big players, with a focus on “local banking” and transparency. He remained in charge when TSB was taken private by Spanish lender Sabadell in 2015.

In 2017 he said the switch from Lloyds’ IT systems would be a moment of “liberation” for TSB as it stepped out from the shadow of its former owner.

But now the keen surfer has found himself upended in choppy waters.

Richard Meddings, TSB’s chairman, will take on executive responsibilities until a successor is appointed.

Mr Meddings said: “Although there is more to do to achieve full stability for customers, the bank’s IT systems and services are much improved since the IT migration. Paul and the board have therefore agreed that this is the right time to appoint a new CEO for TSB.”

In June the Treasury committee said it had “lost confidence” in Mr Pester over his handling of the IT outage and called upon TSB’s board to consider his position.

He had led the bank since 2011 and oversaw its spin out from Lloyds Banking Group in 2013.

 

 

Despite the problems, Mr Pester insisted on Tuesday that the bank had “achieved real success in creating a bank which is truly consumer-focused, attracting customers from the UK’s established banks, and growing TSB’s balance sheet from c.£18bn to around £31bn today”.

TSB faces an investigation and possible fine over the outage from City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority and has also hired law firm Slaughter & May for its own internal probe into what went wrong.

It is recruiting hundreds of additional staff to tackle a backlog of complaints, with more than 1,300 customers having become victims of fraud.

TSB said in its interim results earlier this year that the fiasco had cost it £176m in just over three months.

By Jack Torrance

 

 

London’s Crossrail rail link December opening delayed by nearly a year

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Fri, 31st Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The opening of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, London’s new Crossrail train line, has been delayed by about nine months because the 15 billion pound scheme requires more time for testing to be completed, it said.

When fully open, the Elizabeth line, as it is officially known, will connect destinations such as Heathrow Airport in west London to areas such as the Canary Wharf financial district in the east.

It is desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding and speed up journeys between key transport hubs in Britain’s capital city. The central section was meant to open in December this year but it has now been delayed until the autumn, Crossrail said.

“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software,” Crossrail said in a statement.

“Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”

More than 200 million passengers are expected to use the Elizabeth line every year once it is operational.

Transport for London said it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

“The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance,” said Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line Managing Director.

By Costas Pitas

 

 

Saudi Aramco hopes of a trillion-dollar stock market listing in London shelved

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Thur, 23 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans for a stock market listing of its state-owned oil colossus, Aramco, in a setback for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push for reform.

The group of bankers assembled for what would have been the biggest ever float has been disbanded without fanfare. The budget for financial advisers, which included JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and HSBC, who were called in to assist with the deal has not be renewed since June, Reuters reported.

The decision raises questions for City authorities who relaxed Britain’s listing rules in an attempt to attract Aramco to the London market in competition with New York and Hong Kong.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) created a new category for sovereign-controlled companies under its “premium” umbrella, despite opposition from major business groups and investors. The Institute of Directors said it was “deeply disappointed” by the move which it claimed marked a “reduction in standards” for corporate governance.

The UK Government also offered $2bn loan to try and secure the deal. 
 Saudi Arabia announced plans to float around 5pc of Aramco in 2016 worth as much as $100bn, as the centrepiece of the young Crown Prince’s attempts to liberalise the Kingdom and build economic ties with Western nations.

At the time, it was predicted to a listing would value Aramco at as more than $2 trillion, although the figure has since been disputed by analysts as too high.

The Crown Prince embarked on a tour of potential listing venues as governments and financial authorities rolled out the red carpet.

President Trump tweeted last November that he “would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange”. As recently as March the Saudi energy minister said that London remained in contention and Aramco’s annual report released this month said preparations for the “landmark event” were continuing.
 However a Saudi source familiar with the plans said: “The decision to call off the IPO was taken some time ago, but no-one can disclose this, so statements are gradually going that way – first delay then calling off.”

 

 

A senior financial advisor, said: “The message we have been given is that the IPO has been called off for the foreseeable future”.

The Crown Prince has pursued a range of investment plans as part of a so-called Vision 2030, a bid to turn the country into a global investment powerhouse and reduce its dependence on demand for oil. The expected proceeds of an Aramco float were viewed as key pillar of plan.

Aramco is now focused on the purchase of “strategic stake” in petrochemicals maker Saudi Basic Industries Corp from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF.

It has held talks with the entrepreneur Elon Musk over a potential $82bn buyout of the electric carmaker Tesla, but doubts have mounted in recent days. PIF is said to be considering a smaller investment of just $1bn in Lucid Motors, a Tesla rival set up by former Tesla engineers.

The Crown Prince’s attempt to build international links suffered another blow this month when a diplomatic row with Canada spilled over into the financial markets. Canadian assets were sold off by Saudi-backed funds following criticism of the treatment of human rights activists in the Kingdom.

Some analysts believe the sell-off has damaged the Kingdom’s standing as a potential investment hub.

 

 

Mulberry shares fall 30% on £3m House of Fraser hit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 20th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Shares in luxury handbag maker Mulberry plunged 30% after it said it was setting aside £3m to cover the cost of House of Fraser's troubles.

The company also warned full-year profits could be “materially reduced” if current tough UK trading continued into the second half of the year.

Mulberry operates 21 House of Fraser concessions, employing 88 people.

It was owed about £2.4m when the department store collapsed and fell into administration.

House of Fraser was then bought by Sports Direct, but its owner, Mike Ashley, has said he will not pay creditors for debts incurred before the takeover.

Mr Ashley says he intends to turn it into the “Harrods of the High Street”, but it is not clear how many of the stores he will keep on.

‘Challenging' trading
IMulberry said: “Since the group reported in June 2018, the UK market has continued to remain challenging and sales in House of Fraser stores have been particularly affected.

“If these sales trends in the UK continue into the key trading period of the second half of the financial year, the group's profit for the whole year will be materially reduced.”

Shares later recovered some ground to be about 23% lower at 440p, valuing the company at £283m.

House of Fraser owes big brands millions
Mike Ashley vows to keep most HoF open
Six reasons behind the High Street crisis
Mulberry, whose handbags cost around £1,000, makes more than 70% of its revenue from the UK.

However, it said trading in the rest of the world continued to develop “broadly in line with expectations” and it had signed a deal this month to set up Mulberry Korea.

The company said it was in a strong cash position and continued to follow its strategy to develop Mulberry into a global luxury brand.

Rebecca O'Keeffe, from Interactive Investor, pointed out that Mulberry's shares have lost half their value this year: “There is no doubt that House of Fraser has compounded their problems, but the underlying UK issues are deep-rooted as they struggle against lower footfall and fewer tourists.

“The company is trying to shift its focus internationally and that is helping to mitigate falls in UK demand, but the sustained problems in the UK can't be ignored.”

 

How door knocking changed this young man’s life from east London to the City

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Sat, 11 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Reggie Nelson was fed up with the world around him after his dad died. An inspirational chat led to Reggie deciding to take a risk knocking on the doors of the wealthy to find out how they amassed their wealth. One day a door opened.

This is his story.

Produced and Filmed by Cebo Luthuli

 

House of Fraser plan to close 31 of its 59 shops in January

Flickr/Alex Liivet

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 6th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

 

House of Fraser has settled a legal row with a group of landlords removing one hurdle to a potential rescue deal.

The deal means the department store chain can go ahead with its plan to close 31 of its 59 shops in January.

The landlords had argued slashing rents on remaining stores was unfair to them, putting the rescue plan in jeopardy.

However, the deal will not be enough to safeguard House of Fraser's future, with it now urgently seeking fresh investment in order to survive.

House of Fraser said it was now “focused on concluding discussions with interested investors” and the out-of-court settlement with the landlords had removed “any risk to those discussions”.

Potential suitors for the chain include Philip Day, owner of Edinburgh Woollen Mills, and whose retail empire includes Peacocks, Jane Norman, Austin Reed and Jaeger.

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, who already owns an 11% stake in House of Fraser, also approached the chain in July over a potential investment deal.

Mr Ashley is understood to have not communicated with House of Fraser's financial advisers' Rothschilds since then, and The Sunday Times has suggested he is unlikely to proceed with a rescue deal due to concerns over the chain's pension funds.

However, industry insiders say House of Fraser's two defined-benefit pension funds are fully funded.

Other names in the frame as possible saviours include investment funds Alteri, an offshoot of US hedge fund Apollo, and Hilco, both of which specialise in buying up troubled firms and turning their performance around.

The chain's future has been thrown into doubt after Hong Kong-listed C.banner, owner of Hamleys, pulled out of plans to take control and invest £70m in the retailer.

‘Matter of weeks'
Richard Lim, boss of independent research consultancy Retail Economics, says it is still “hard to know with any certainty just what will happen next at House of Fraser.”

“But it is in desperate need of a rescue package. Without any external funding it is inevitable it will fall into administration.

“Funding will have to be in place within a matter of weeks, rather than any longer period, if House of Fraser is to have a fighting chance to ensure its future.”

The retailer employs 17,500 people – 6,000 direct and 11,500 concession staff.

House of Fraser is using company voluntary arrangements (CVAs), a form of insolvency proceedings, to overhaul its business.

CVAs are being increasingly used by struggling retailers as a way to close stores, but landlords argue that they are being abused as a quick way to cut rents.

Mark Fry of Begbies Traynor and Charlotte Coates of JLL, who advised the group of House of Fraser landlords throughout the CVA process and subsequent legal challenge, said they were pleased with the settlement.

“The retail CVA process in the UK has become increasingly misused and prejudiced against landlords and needs correcting.

“CVAs were designed as a means to rescue a business, not simply a tool to shed undesirable leases for the benefit of equity shareholders,” they added in a statement.

House of Fraser is one of a number of retailers struggling amid falling consumer confidence, rising overheads, the weaker pound and the growth of online shopping.

Electronics chain Maplin and toy chain Toys R Us both collapsed into administration earlier this year.

Other High Street chains such as Mothercare and Carpetright have been forced to close stores in order to survive.

 

 

The Selfridges “Billionaire’s Soft Serve” Ice Cream With Edible Diamonds selling for $130

 

Selfridges department store in London is selling a luxury ice cream for £99 which contains 24-carat gold leaf. The ice cream is called “Billionaire's Soft Serve” and it weighs 350 grams. Here's a run down of what you get for your money.

 

Theresa May warned lack of Brexit clarity causing businesses to lose patience

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 3rd July 2018) London, Uk – –

A leading business lobby group appeals for government in-fighting over Brexit to stop and focus instead on the national interest.

Theresa May is being warned that businesses are running out of patience on the lack of Brexit clarity, more than two years after the vote to leave the EU.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged politicians to cast aside “squabbling” and work in the national economic interest to remove uncertainty over tax, tariffs, customs and regulation.

The lobby group intervened in the debate as the PM prepares to host a key cabinet Brexit meeting at Chequers on Friday at which key negotiating positions are expected to be agreed.

The BCC's frustration echoes that expressed by Airbus and BMW last week – companies which then faced criticism for speaking out from ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox.

Boris Johnson reportedly said “f*** business” in response.

:: Johnson defends Rees-Mogg as Brexit in-fighting intensifies

Sky News reported on Monday how the government had since moved to smooth relations with business through an invitation for top companies to hold talks with the Brexit Secretary David Davis.

BCC director-general, Adam Marshall, warned that a lack of decisions had resulted in a significant slowdown in business investment.

He said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient.

“We have supported the Government's drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy.

:: MPs request Bank and Treasury Brexit analysis

“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK's exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.

“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.

“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.

“It's time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first.”

The BCC argued that firms had clarity on only two of 23 key Brexit questions it had compiled.

The government said it was confident of getting a deal to ensure trade would remain “as free and frictionless as
possible”.

A spokesperson added: “Ministers continue to work closely with business to understand their concerns and by successfully negotiating the implementation period with the EU until December 2020, companies can carry on trading with confidence on the same terms as they do now”.

By James Sillars

 

 

Take a look Inside London’s New £15bn Elizabeth Line Upgrade

 

Business Insider UK got an inside look at the progress works of London's new Elizabeth Line. The entire upgrade costs £14.8 billion and has taken nine years to build. We visited Farringdon—one of 41 new stations for the new service—to see what to expect once the line officially opens in Dec 2018.

 

Heathrow expansion vote by MPs to take place today without Boris Johnson

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 25 June 2018) London, Uk – –

The foreign secretary, who is abroad, once threatened to lie down in front of the bulldozers if a third runway was approved.

MPs will decide later whether to expand Heathrow airport in a crunch vote which looks set to expose divisions in both Labour and Tory ranks.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was “the biggest transport decision in a generation” as he called for cross-party support to approve a third runway.

The spotlight will be on the whereabouts of Boris Johnson, who once threatened to lie down in front of the bulldozers if a third runway got the go-ahead at the west London airport.

The foreign secretary is set to miss the vote because he is abroad, but the government has so far declined to say where he will be on security grounds.

Senior Tory backbencher Sarah Wollaston called on Mr Johnson to take the “principled decision” and resign in order to vote against expanding Heathrow.

She said the prime minister's decision to allow Mr Johnson – who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London – to avoid a three-line whip in support of the Heathrow plan by going abroad “won't wash”.

“I think this would be an opportunity for a colleague like Boris Johnson to actually put his money where his mouth is,” Dr Wollaston said.

Greg Hands, who resigned as international trade minister in opposition to the third runway, appeared to mock Mr Johnson's absence on the eve of the vote.

Mr Hands tweeted on Sunday: “Great to arrive back in the UK at Luton Airport in time for the match today and to vote against #Heathrow expansion tomorrow. I wouldn't want to be abroad for either of those. #commitments.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admitted to Sky News on Monday he “didn't know where” Mr Johnson was.

He said: “The prime minister has been very clear that there are parliamentary colleagues who have longstanding views about this, perhaps for constituency reasons who need to take their own decisions about how they approach it.

“We all fought a general election on the manifesto of expanding Heathrow Airport.

“But equally, where there are people who have got particularly constituency issues, we've left them the freedom to carry on expressing the views they've always had.”

Theresa May confirmed last week that Mr Johnson would miss the vote on Heathrow, describing him as “the living embodiment of global Britain” abroad.

The Conservative row came as more than 40 Labour MPs said they would go against party policy and support the government's decision.

The group whose constituencies span the country put their names to a letter to colleagues in the party urging them to support a project they say could create 180,000 jobs across the UK.

Labour is officially opposed to the expansion but Jeremy Corbyn has allowed MPs a free vote on a measure that is supported by trade unions.

Mr Grayling – who will appear on Sky News this morning – said that “thousands of new jobs and the country's ability to compete on an international stage and win new global trade” were at stake.

He said: “I hope colleagues from across the House will now put aside party and political differences to take a decision in the long-term national interest.”

Officials say the expansion of Heathrow would create 114,000 extra jobs in the area around the airport by 2030, with an extra 16 million long-haul seats by 2040.

It would also represent the first new full-length runway in the south east since the Second World War, the Department for Transport said.

But opponents have attacked the scheme on environmental, noise and financial grounds grounds, with Friends of the Earth saying it was “morally reprehensible” and would see the enlarged Heathrow emitting as much carbon as the whole of Portugal.

 

Philip Hammond gives Bank of England £500bn in preparation for Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Fri 22 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Bank will have extra £500bn to provide to economy as Britain prepares for Brexit

The Bank of England will be allowed to provide more than £500bn in lending to the economy without seeking the Treasury’s permission, in a move that reinforces the strength of the UK financial system as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

Announcing the plan at the annual Mansion House dinner for bankers in the City of London on Thursday, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, said the changes would help to improve the resilience of the central bank. It would also help with its “ability to meet its monetary and financial policy objectives in the future”, he said.

Hammond said the government would give the Bank £1.2bn, a sum that would underwrite the £500bn lending pot, but the move would not impact public borrowing because the money would remain in the public sector. The half a trillion pound fund could be accessed by commercial banks for funding, including during credit crunch-style financial crises.

The move also gives Threadneedle Street greater autonomy in lowering interest rates to zero and providing more money to commercial banks during times of stress, without requiring Treasury permission. Despite its independence from the Treasury, the Bank has needed to approach the government in order to expand its support to the economy – including when it announced an emergency funding scheme for banks in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Speaking alongside the chancellor at his penultimate Mansion House dinner before stepping down next year, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said the additional capital would significantly increase the amount of money the central bank could lend without seeking financial backing from the Treasury. Although at first it will amount to more than half a trillion pounds, it could rise to over three-quarters of a trillion pounds.

He said the changes could also help the government to strike new deals with emerging markets to facilitate the growth of the UK financial sector, which could increase from 10 times the size of the British economy at present to 15 times by 2030.

“We now have a balance sheet fit for a new world order with greater reliance on markets in a wider range of reserve currencies,” he said.

As part of the changes, the Bank of England will see the emergency funding programme launched straight after the Brexit vote, known as the term funding scheme – which provides banks with cheap finance during times of stress – become part of the Bank of England’s balance sheet rather than the Treasury’s.

By Richard Partington

 

 

Sotheby’s own in-house fraud-busting expert: The world’s top art forgery detective

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Sat, 16 June 2018) London, Uk – –

Forgeries have got so good – and so costly – that Sotheby’s has brought in its own in-house fraud-busting expert.

The unravelling of a string of shocking old master forgeries began in the winter of 2015, when French police appeared at a gallery in Aix-en-Provence and seized a painting from display. Venus, by the German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder, to describe the work more fully: oil on oak, 38cm by 25cm, and dated to 1531. Purchased in 2013 by the Prince of Liechtenstein for about £6m, Venus was the inescapable star of the exhibition of works from his collection; she glowed on the cover of the catalogue. But an anonymous tip to the police suggested she was, in fact, a modern fake – so they scooped her up and took her away.

The painting had been placed in the market by Giuliano Ruffini, a French collector, and its seizure hoisted the first flag of concern about a wave of impeccable fakes. Ruffini has sold at least 25 works, their sale values totalling about £179m, and doubts now shadow every one of these paintings. The authenticity of four, in particular, including the Cranach, has been contested; the art historian Bendor Grosvenor said they may turn out to be “the best old master fakes the world has ever seen.” Ruffini, who remains the subject of a French police investigation, has denied presenting these paintings as old masters at all. To the Art Newspaper, he protested: “I am a collector, not an expert.”

 

 

The quality of these paintings – their faithful duplicity – jolted the market. The sums of money at stake in art, never paltry to begin with, have grown monstrous. Thirty years ago, the highest auction price for a painting was $10.4m, paid by the J Paul Getty Museum for Andrea Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi in 1985. In contrast, while the $450m paid for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in 2017 counts as an outlier, abstract expressionists and impressionists frequently come, in auctions or private deals, with nine-figure price tags.

In lockstep, the incentive to be a proficient forger has soared; a single, expertly executed old master knockoff can finance a long, comfortable retirement. The technologies available to abet the aspiring forger have also improved. Naturally, then, the frauds are getting better, touching off a crisis of authentication for the institutions of the art world: the museums and galleries and auction houses and experts who are expected to know the real thing from its imitation.

What was most unnerving about the alleged fakes sold by Ruffini was how many people they fooled. The National Gallery in London displayed a small oil painting thought to be by the 16th-century artist Orazio Gentileschi – a battle-weary David, painted on an electric-blue slice of lapis lazuli; the work is now suspect. A portrait of a nobleman against a muddy background was sold by Sotheby’s in 2011, to a private collector, as a Frans Hals; the buyer paid £8.5m. Sotheby’s also sold an oil named Saint Jerome, attributed to the 16th-century artist Parmigianino, in a 2012 auction, for $842,500. With care, the catalogue only ventured that the work was from the “circle of” Parmigianino– an idiom to convey that it was painted by an artist influenced by, and perhaps a pupil of, Parmigianino. But the entry also cited several experts who believed it was by Parmigianino himself.

The works were full of striking, scrupulous detail. On Jerome’s arm, for example, dozens of faint horizontal cracks have appeared; every so often, a clean, vertical split intersects them. In French canvases from the 18th century, cracks in paint tend to develop like spider webs; in Flemish panels, like tree bark. In Italian paintings of the Renaissance, the patterns resemble rows of untidy brickwork. On the Saint Jerome, the cracks match perfectly. Prof David Ekserdjian, one of the few art historians who doubted that the painting was a Parmigianino, said he just didn’t feel the prickle of recognition that scholars claim as their gift: the intimacy with an artist that they liken to our ability to spot a friend in a crowd. “But I have to be frank, I didn’t look at it and say: ‘Oh, that’s a forgery.’”

When Sotheby’s sells an artwork, it offers a five-year guarantee of refund if the object proves to be a counterfeit – “a modern forgery intended to deceive”, as its terms specify. In 2016, after uncertainty crackled over the Hals and the Parmigianino, the auction-house sent them to Orion Analytical, a conservation science lab in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Orion was run, and staffed almost solely by, James Martin, who has loaned his forensic skills to the FBI for many art forgery investigations. Within days, Martin had an answer for Sotheby’s: both the Hals and the Parmigianino were fakes.

The “Hals” contained synthetic pigments that the artist, in the 17th century, could not have used. In Saint Jerome, similarly, Martin found phthalocyanine green, a pigment first synthesised four centuries after Parmigianino died. It showed up consistently across 21 paint samples from various parts of the painting – “a bit like taking the pulse of a corpse 21 times,” Martin told the New York Times last year. Sotheby’s refunded both buyers, and filed suits against the sellers, demanding they return their proceeds from the sales.

In December 2016, in a signal of how attribution scandals have spooked the market, Sotheby’s took the unprecedented step of buying Orion Analytical, becoming the first auctioneer to have an in-house conservation and analysis unit. The company had seen enough disputes over attribution to mar its bottom line, its CEO, Tad Smith, said: “If you looked at earnings reports from a year or two ago, you’d see little blips here and there. These were expenses coming from settlements – not a slew, the number was small and statistically insignificant, but they’re expensive.” The cost of insurance that covers such settlements was also rising. With Martin in the building, “the pictures and other objects moving through Sotheby’s now have a much higher chance of being checked”, Smith said. Last year, Martin analysed more than $100m worth of artworks before they went under the hammer or into private sales. Sotheby’s employs him, in part, as a conservator, so he ministers to the health of the paintings and sculptures that pass through. But over the past two decades, Martin has also become the art world’s foremost forensic art detective. He has worked so many forgery cases with such success that he also serves Sotheby’s as a line of fortification against the swells of duff art lapping into the market.

The first major painting sold by Sotheby’s was also a Hals – a real one: Man in Black, a half-length portrait of a hatted gent. Until 1913, Sotheby’s had dealt in books for a century or thereabouts; art made up only a wan side business. In that year, though, a Sotheby’s partner found a Hals consigned to the firm, and rather than forwarding it to Christie’s, as was often the practice, decided to auction it. After a spirited contest of bids, Man in Black sold for £9,000 – a 26% rate of return per annum since Christie’s had last auctioned the work, in 1885, for around £5. It was the first signal, for Sotheby’s, that there was profit to be mined from paintings. Last year, it sold $5.5bn worth of art, jewellery and real estate.

For Sotheby’s, the question of authenticity is not merely, or even primarily, academic. There is more at stake than a satisfying answer to the fundamental conundrum of whether authenticity matters at all – a debate that has been fought and refought in the history of western art. “If a fake is so expert that even after the most thorough and trustworthy examination its authenticity is still open to doubt,” the critic Aline Saarinen once wondered, “is it or is it not as satisfactory a work of art as if it were unequivocally genuine?” Typically, this debate comes to rest at the same place every time. Of course authenticity matters; to study a false Rembrandt as a true one would be to hobble our understanding of Rembrandt as an artist, and of the evolution of art. Now, however, the question’s philosophical whimsy has been replaced by financial urgency. At a time when the art market is synonymous with art itself, a lack of regard for attribution would derail a trade that traffics in the scarcity of authentic Rembrandts.

Leaving straight forgeries aside, any discussion about the “authenticity” of an artwork opens suddenly, like a trapdoor, into the murk of semantics. On the sliding scale of attribution that art historians use – painted by; hand of; studio of; circle of; style of; copy of – each step takes the artist further from the painting. These variations, often subtle, are compounded by the unease about overpainting; Salvator Mundi had been worked over so many times and so heavily, critics argued, that it was less by Da Vinci than by his restorers. Deliberate fakes, misattributions and poor restorations all encroach into the realm of the authentic. In two decades at the Met in New York, Thomas Hoving, the museum’s director until 1977, must have examined at least 50,000 objects, he wrote in his book False Impressions. “I almost believe that there are as many bogus works as genuine ones.”

Like criminals of every stripe, modern forgers have kept easy pace with the techniques that attempt to trap them. The mismatch between the purported age of a painting and the true age of its ingredients is the workhorse of Martin’s technique. So forgers have grown more rigorous in their harvesting of materials, taking the trouble, for instance, to source wooden panels from furniture they know is dateable to the year of the fake they are creating. (The trick isn’t wholly new; Terenzio da Urbino, a 17th-century conman, scrabbled around for filthy old canvases and frames, cleaned them up, and turned them into “Raphaels”.) Forgers also test their own fakes to ensure they’ll pass. Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German artist who served three years in prison for forging paintings worth $45m, surveyed the chemical elements in his works by running them under X-ray fluorescence guns – the same handheld devices, resembling Star Trek phasers, that many art fairs now train upon their exhibits.

Georgina Adam, who wrote Dark Side of the Boom, a book about the art market’s excesses, told me that many forgers are sensibly choosing to falsify 20th-century painters, who used paints and canvases that can still be obtained, and whose abstractions are easier to imitate. “The technical skill needed to forge a Leonardo is colossal, but with someone like Modigliani, it isn’t,” she said. “Now, scholars will say it’s easy to distinguish, but the fact is that it’s just not that easy at all.” In January, in a celebrated Modigliani exhibition in Genoa, 20 out of 21 paintings were revealed to be counterfeits.

As the tide of money in the market has risen, making decisions about authenticity has turned into a fraught venture. Collectors, realising how much they stand to lose, are now happy to take scholars and connoisseurs – traditionally the final authorities on the authenticity of a work – to court for their mistakes. Realising that their reputations, as well as their bank balances, may wilt under the heat,these experts have begun to subtract themselves from the game entirely.

The estates of several 20th-century artists had once taken on the duty of resolving doubts over attribution, setting up authentication committees, consisting of experts or the artist’s former colleagues or friends – people expected to know the work best. In 2007, a collector named Joe Simon-Whelan sued the Andy Warhol estate’s authentication committee, claiming it had twice rejected a Warhol silkscreen he owned because it wanted to maintain scarcity in the Warhol market. Four years later, after spending $7m in legal fees, the estate dissolved the committee. The authentication boards of other modern artists – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder – have followed. Individual connoisseurs – as the art world calls its experts – won’t always challenge popular identifications, wrote the critic Jerry Saltz in a scorching essay on the vertiginous price of Salvator Mundi. They are reluctant to “rock the already splintering institutional boat. As in the wider world, where people sit by for fear of losing position, it’s no wonder that many old master experts are keeping quiet, not saying much of anything.”

The collapse of these committees feels like a victory of the market over the academy, like a blow to the very cause of trustworthy authentication. (In New York, a small band of lawyers is lobbying for legislation that will protect scholars from being sued merely for expressing their opinion.) In this void of opinion, Martin’s abilities – premised not on the mysterious instincts of connoisseurship, but on the verifiable results of the scientific process – have an even higher valence.

 

 

Martin, a tall man with lumber-beam shoulders, has a voice that never surpasses a murmur. He is a consummate nerd; find someone who looks at you the way Martin looks at his Fourier-transform infrared microscope. He trained as a conservator of paintings, but now he assays them: picks out their chemical constituents, inspects pigments and binders, peers under their washes of colour. From a painting’s materials, he can extract the vital detail of when it could, or could not, have been created.

The field of scientific art conservation is not a crowded one; Martin, who set up the first for-profit art lab in the US, has been consulted in nearly every major fraud case in the past 25 years, often working alongside the FBI or other investigators. When he is described as the premier forensic detective working in art today, the accolade comes not only from people such as John Cahill, a New York lawyer who has managed dozens of art transactions, and who called Martin “hands-down the best in the business,” but also from those on the other side of the fence, so to speak. Beltracchi, the German forger, told me that, after his arrest, he had seen an assortment of technical studies collected by the police and the prosecution. He remembered Martin’s well. “His reports contained the most accurate results. His reports were factually neutral and without unrealistic guesses.” By folding Martin into its staff, Sotheby’s has given itself a muscular chance to stamp out problems of attribution before they flare into spectacular, expensive affairs. But it’s hard not to feel, at the same time, that it has cornered a precious resource, at a moment when the art world needs him most.

Martin spent much of last year setting up a new lab in what used to be a photo studio on the fifth floor of the Sotheby’s headquarters in Manhattan. Soon, he will also have a London facility, in the building where the Beatles once recorded A Taste of Honey for the BBC. The New York lab, one large room, is as white and aseptic as a dentist’s clinic. Many of the cabinets are still empty, and the desk surfaces often bear nothing apart from one red pack of Martin’s Dentyne Fire gum. Outside the lab, above the lead-lined double doors, is a warning light; if it’s on, so to is the giant x-ray fluorescence machine, and no one is allowed in.

One Friday in mid-February, the room held only two items of art. A carved wooden chair sat on a counter; on a stand was a painting that, for reasons of confidentiality, may be described here only as “a late-19th century American work”. When a painting checks into the lab, it is first submitted to a visual examination in bright, white light; then the lamp is moved to one side, so that the light rakes over the surface at an angle, showing up restored or altered areas. The canvas in Martin’s lab was at the next stage; it had been photographed under ultraviolet and infrared, and then under x-rays to discover some of the painting’s chemical elements.

On a computer, one of Martin’s two colleagues cycled through the images. Under infrared, the painting’s browns and yellows and greens turned into shades of grey, but no spectral underdrawings peered back out. (Not that underdrawings would have suggested anything about authenticity one way or another; they’d merely have been a further nugget of information to consider.) Mapped for lead by the x-ray fluorescence unit, the painting looked faded and streaked with dark rust; the streaks betrayed where restorers had perhaps applied touchups with modern, lead-free paint. Mapped for calcium, the painting showed yellow-green splashes where conservators had made repairs with a calcium carbonate filler.

Not every object needs to move beyond these non-invasive phases. (At Orion, Martin was once able to unmask a fake Modigliani after seeing, under infrared, a faint grid, which had been drawn by a forger who wanted to guide his work.) If Martin has to disturb the painting, he will place it under a stereo microscope and, squinting through the two eyepieces, pick out a grain of paint with a scalpel. He demonstrated with a sample of phthalocyanine blue, a synthetic pigment he picked out of a box that held paint cakes of different colours. Working with the same steady, cautious manner in which he speaks, he teased out a particle smaller than the width of a human hair, flattened it gently, then nudged it on to a slim, small rectangle of metal, where it was held in place between two tiny diamonds.

“You don’t drink a lot of coffee before you do this,” he said, grimacing.

The metal plate then goes into the Fourier-transform infrared microscope, like a slide. The spectrometer pumps infrared light through the flecks of pigment; a computer analyses the light’s behavior and returns a tidy spectrum graph. Martin has looked at so many of these spectra that he recognises on sight the patterns thrown up by different pigments, but even if he didn’t, the computer could rifle through databases of the spectrum patterns of other known chemicals, find the nearest match, and tell Martin what, in this case, he already knew: that his sample was phthalocyanine blue.

By a system of triage – sorting, for instance, for artists with a high incidence of being faked in the past, or for works accompanied by scientific analysis reports that are suspiciously long – only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of objects passing through Sotheby’s is diverted to the lab. Martin thinks of them as patients showing symptoms. Sometimes, like a doctor doing general checkups, he will tour the galleries at Sotheby’s just before a sale, reading every work with a handheld infrared camera. In the past year, his lab has stopped several lots from going to market, preventing possible disputes after the sale. In one case, a painting valued at $7m was removed from sale after the lab found that it had been completely and irretrievably overpainted by a restorer. “An appraiser would’ve said it’s worthless,” Martin said. “So it wasn’t sold.”

The arduous process of Martin’s work divorces art from its aesthetic. It reduces compositions of great prestige or high beauty to their very particles; it frees Martin up to think of art as pure matter. In this way, he comes closer to the artist than anyone has before, often becoming only the second person to think as intensely about the materiality of the object, about the chemical nature of its pigments or the physical properties of its canvas. The art he analyses derives its worth from unique, flashing inspiration. His own talent, if anything, has more in common with the forger. It lies in his capacity to be unflashy but diligent – to perform a step time after time without a slackening of attention, to never leave a molecule unturned, to never conclude more about a work than what it tells him about itself.

When Martin turned 13, his father gifted him a microscope, a chemistry kit, and art lessons – a splendid piece of foreshadowing. He used them all, but he was particularly attracted to art. The family lived in Baltimore, and whenever they visited Washington DC, Martin spent his time at the National Museum of Natural History, drawing the dioramas, while the others wandered the capital. His father worked in army intelligence. “As a child, I’m not sure I understood what he did. I do remember being in airports and trying to guess who was a spy,” Martin said. He devoured detective stories and loves them still, particularly Patricia Cornwell’s novels about Kay Scarpetta, the forensic pathologist. “We both examine patients that cannot speak their past,” he said.

In a universe a twist away from ours, Martin might have become a forger himself. Late in his teens, he joined an art school where students were taught how to grind their own pigments and stretch their own canvases. For practice, he set up an easel in the Baltimore Museum of Art and copied the works he liked; he grew so accomplished that once, as he was leaving with his copy of William Merritt Chase’s Broken Jug, the museum director spotted him and asked if he was returning the painting to storage.

“I was very good technically,” Martin said, “but like most art forgers, I didn’t have my own creative way of doing things.” He thought he’d become an illustrator of medical textbooks, but then heard about a conservation programme at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The portfolio he submitted included his copy of the Chase, as well as of other painters – all at such a high level of craft, said Richard Wolbers, who taught him at Winterthur, “that we were blown away”. He was such a good copyist, in fact, that he was almost rejected. “Later, I heard that the committee worried that if they trained me to be a conservator and taught me all the science, I’d be a natural forger.”

After Winterthur, Martin was hired by the Clark Art Institute, a museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to conserve paintings. A couple of years later, he set up the museum’s first conservation lab, filled with equipment that he bought or begged from chemistry departments in nearby universities. At the time, in 1990, the apparatus of analysis – the microscopes, the spectroscopes, the infrared cameras – was bulky, expensive and difficult to operate. Few museums had their own labs, Martin said. “The Guggenheim, the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA [Museum of Modern Art], the museums in San Francisco – none of them had the facilities.”

 

 

In getting to know a painting, conservators in these museums relied first on the tactility of their craft – “listening to the sound of the swab on the canvas”, Martin said, or “feeling the pull of the swab in the varnish”. Most conservation departments owned microscopes, some perhaps even x-ray machines. But if they needed some serious technology – Fourier-transform infrared microscopes, say, or scanning electron microscopes – they could turn only to the lab in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or to those in universities. Even then, an expert was still needed to interpret the data. “Small museums really didn’t have any place to go. Some people took paintings to the vet to get them x-rayed.”

Martin’s lab began by assisting conservators who had no equipment of their own. “If someone was trying to get a varnish off a painting and didn’t want to damage it by using a solvent that was too strong, they’d send me a sample,” he said. “I’d tell them: ‘It’s polyurethane. You’re not going to get it off.’ Or: ‘It’s shellac. You need to use alcohol.’” A conservator wondering if the strange sky in a landscape was overpaint – paint applied by later restorers – could mail Martin a tiny cross-section tweezed out of the work, so that he could examine it under a microscope. “We’d see the layers in the cross-section: varnish, varnish, varnish, then blue sky, then more varnish, then more sky. So we’d establish that the topmost layer of blue was overpaint.”

In its materials, an artwork holds its biography, so inevitably, Martin became an arbiter of authenticity. Nearly all of the privately owned art labs in Europe and the US have been founded in the past decade – not coincidentally, around the time that the world’s multi-millionaires realised how hollow their lives had been without art. But in the 1990s, at Clark, and then again at Orion, which he founded in 2000, Martin was often the sole resource for collectors and merchants.

Some of his stories from these years have the baroque pulpiness of Elmore Leonard plots. Martin narrates these with care; he is alive to the sensational aspects of his work, but by default, he wears an air of studious detachment. There were the two questionable gentlemen from Tel Aviv, who slipped a pair of paintings out of architects’ tubes, shook them open as if they were rugs, and asked him to confirm that they were Modiglianis. (They weren’t.) There was the client who sent Martin to test a painting at an auction house, claiming he wished to bid on it, but then also had Martin stop by a warehouse to assess “a horrible copy” of the same painting. (Martin now thinks the client wanted to know how close the fake was to the genuine work.) There were the two ferocious dogs chained near the front door of a house in Los Angeles, guarding the stolen Chinese sculptures held within. There was the collector who offered to fly Martin to an undisclosed location, have him picked up by a security detail, and bring him in to examine an old Mexican stele, a stone carving supposedly worth $50m. The night before his flight, Martin was unable to sleep, so he Googled the collector and found that he had recently been released from federal prison after serving time on weapons charges.

Next morning, Martin called the collector and turned down the case.

“Oh,” the collector said. “Did you read about the murders?”

“No,” Martin said. “What murders?” The collector, it turned out, had once been implicated in the killings of two people over a matter of Mexican steles. Martin never got on that plane.

The FBI first came to Martin in 1994. A suspicious number of works ascribed to the 19th-century artist William Aiken Walker, who often painted black sharecroppers in the American south, were emerging in the market. “They’d sell at really small country auctions for $5,000 or $10,000 – so low that nobody would pay for analysis,” Martin said. From the paintings, Martin sampled a yellow pigment called PY3, which had been manufactured in Germany and was not available to American artists until the late 1940s, decades after Walker died. Walker also used lead white paint, Martin found; the forger used zinc white. A former vitamin salesman named Charles Heller was eventually indicted for a spree of counterfeiting, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served one year in prison.

With even a little study, a con artist would know not to use zinc white; some forgers go on to become diligent researchers, accessing technical journals and case studies to learn what experts search for. Martin recalled a painting once referred to him, around 3.5 sq metres in size and dated to 1932. In a first round of study, he discovered nothing amiss. But the work’s provenance – its documented history of ownership – was shaky, so he ran a second pass under a microscope. For most of a day, he scanned the painting in dime-sized increments, until his eyes dried up. Was anything embedded in the paint: dust, or hair, or an insect wing? Did the dirt look as if it had been smeared on deliberately? Finally, embedded in a speckle of blue, he found a slim fibre; with a scalpel, he snipped it off and subjected it to infrared spectroscopy. The fibre turned out to be polypropylene. Perhaps someone had worn a polar fleece while painting the forgery?

 

 

For a while, Martin cited this example in a two-day course he taught. Last year, though, he read a translation of Faussaire (or Forger), a French novel written in 2015 and containing a wealth of sound wisdom for forgers. “If you want to get hold of antique lead,” one character advises another, for instance, “then you can just pick up bits of it from the old buildings in Rome.” The same character warns of the dangers from “microparticles from your clothes … You must always work in an old smock. Never nylon or a modern apron.” Martin is convinced the detail came from his anecdote; it was one reason he decided to stop teaching his course altogether.

As a crime, art forgery can seem trifling – less a sinister outrage than a half-complete Robin Hood jape that merely robs the rich. After Beltracchi’s arrest in 2010, the Frankfurter Allgemeine called art forgery “the most moral way to embezzle €16m”; Der Spiegel noted that, unlike crooked bankers, Beltracchi hadn’t swindled the common man. But the crime can have real victims, and Martin has met so many of them that he has developed a gentle bedside manner to break bad news. He has seen people who used the money set aside for their children’s education to buy a painting, only to find it to be fake. “So we aren’t just talking rich people. In some situations, it’s a person’s whole life.”

The inflation of the art market, and its attendant litigiousness, imposes fierce pressures upon anyone called to judge the authenticity of an artwork. Martin’s harshest experience of this came during the bitter legal battle over the fate of the Knoedler gallery. The Knoedler, once New York’s oldest gallery, closed in 2011, days after Martin issued a report concluding that a Jackson Pollock it had sold for $17m was fake.

The bogus Pollock was only the inauguration of a scandal. Over 15 years, Knoedler had sourced and sold 40 paintings ascribed to a range of leading modern artists: Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Motherwell, among others, earning roughly $80m in the process. When the ambiguity of the works’ provenance raised needles of suspicion, 10 buyers sued Knoedler and its director, Ann Freedman; all but one of these lawsuits have been settled out of court. In 2013, investigators learned that the forgeries had been painted by a Chinese immigrant, who was by then 73 years old, in his garage in Queens, and placed with Knoedler by an art dealer who pleaded guilty. Knoedler’s executives claimed they had no knowledge of the fraud, and argued that scholars had verified the works before sale.

In at least four of the lawsuits, which carried on for years, the plaintiffs hired Martin to test the paintings they had purchased. He found them all to be forgeries. A purported Rothko from 1956, which sold for $8.3m, used a ground layer of white paint between the canvas and the oils; through that decade, though, Rothko had used a transparent ground layer. In an apparent Pollock, the artist seemed to have misspelled his own signature as “Pollok”. Further, in 16 Knoedler paintings he analysed, Martin found the same ground layer of white paint and other anachronistic pigments repeating themselves across the works of several artists, as if Motherwell, De Kooning and Rothko had all travelled forward in time, met in a bar, and swapped tubes of paint.

Eventually, Martin was proved right; when the FBI raided the Queens garage, it even found the tubs of white that had coated the canvas in the fake Rothko. But, until then, the trials were a torrid experience. Knoedler recruited experts to attack Martin in court. “They went after him with a vengeance, saying he’d soiled the evidence, accidentally or on purpose,” said the lawyer John Cahill, who represented some of Martin’s clients. Knoedler’s attorneys served six subpoenas on Martin, to extract more than 8,000 documents and emails related to the case. Instead of being an expert witness, he was forced to defend himself – the care and soundness of his methods, his very character – in court.

When Martin talks about the Knoedler trials, even the memory of the ordeal draws a look of horror on his face. “He’s a real boy scout, and his integrity means a lot to him, so he suffered,” Cahill said. It was an attempted impeachment of Martin’s whole career. “His entire power relies on being objective, on not being part of the party,” said Narayan Khandekar, who runs Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. “He comes under a lot of pressure, because people have a lot of money at stake on the outcome of his analyses. But he’s been very, very brave to stand up and stay stolidly on track with what he does.”

Martin had always loved science for its ability to guide him in pursuit of truth, and he felt a deep distress when his objective facts were countered with dirty tricks and personal vilification. In 2016, after his clients settled with Knoedler, Martin found it difficult to return to work. He wanted to never have to provide expert testimony again, and to go away to paint for a while; he’d already primed a set of boards.

“It was surreal, what happened to me,” he said. “No scientist should have to go to through this.” When, later that year, negotiations began for Sotheby’s to buy Orion, Martin was ready to be cocooned within a larger institution. He’d rather probe works before they hit the market, he decided, than go through the acrimonious aftermath of a sale even once more. Above his desk in Sotheby’s, Martin keeps pinned a pair of sketches of himself from his time in the Knoedler courtroom, as if to remind himself of what he has gratefully left behind.

In conversation, Martin uses many homespun metaphors, but his favourite is that of the three-legged stool. Deciding the authorship of artworks, he says, relies on connoisseurship, technical analysis and provenance. He values the opinions of connoisseurs, considers them complementary to his own skills; his tests can definitively reveal if a painting is not by Da Vinci or Modigliani, but they are unable to affirm authorship, except in rare cases.

Science has a habit, though, of showing up the sagacity of scholars. In a 1932 trial in Berlin – the first in which a forensic exam was used to scrutinise art – two connoisseurs squabbled about the authenticity of a set of 33 canvases, all purportedly by Vincent van Gogh, all sold by an art dealer named Otto Wacker. It took a chemist, Martin de Wild, to trace resins in the paint that Van Gogh had never used, and to prove the paintings fake. Since then, the science has improved, even as human judgment has remained the same, vulnerable to the potential thrill of discovering new work, and to market pressures. During the Knoedler trial, Cahill remembered, one expert admitted that he couldn’t tell one Rothko canvas from another, or indeed whether a Rothko had been hung upside-down or right side up.

 

In any case, however fond he is of the three-legged stool, Martin may have to think soon of a different item of furniture. The humanities are in decline everywhere; in England, the last art history A-level was cut in 2016. The populace of connoisseurs is thinning out. “In British art now, for a major artist like George Stubbs, there’s no recognised figure that we can all go to and say: ‘Is this by George Stubbs or not?’ Because various specialists have died recently, and there’s no one to replace them,” Bendor Grosvenor, the art historian, said. Meanwhile, researchers at Rutgers University have developed an AI system that, in tests, detected forged paintings with 100% accuracy by scanning and comparing individual brushstrokes. One leg is growing longer, another growing shorter, the stool becoming decidedly imbalanced. And so, if the art market wants to beat back the threats posed by sophisticated forgeries – if it wants to preserve its financial vigour, rooted as it is so absolutely in the notion of authenticity – it will have to turn more and more to the resources of science.

As a thought experiment, it is possible to envision the immaculate forgery – the one that defeats scientist and connoisseur alike. Our villain is a talented copyist, well practised in the style and the themes of his chosen artist. He is also a resourceful procurer of materials, able to rustle up every kind of age-appropriate canvas and frame, pigment and binder. He fits his forgery neatly into a chain of provenance – giving it the title of a now-lost work, or providing false documents to claim that it had been part of a well known private collection.

In theory, if each of these steps is perfectly performed, there should be no way to expose the painting as fake. It will be a work of art in every way save one. But the world of today, the world in which the forgery is being created, is likely to fix itself in some form within the painting – as radioactive dust, perhaps, or as cat hair, or a stray polypropylene fibre. When that happens, only the scientist can hope to nab it.

 

 

By Samanth Subramanian