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Nick Corbishley

Articles by Nick Corbishley

Scandal-Splattered UK Outsourcing Giant, Serco, Sets Sights on the Ultimate Gravy Train: U.S. Defense Contracting

12 days ago

The company has been repeatedly caught falsifying records, at times on a gargantuan scale. Now it is seeking opportunities in an industry where money routinely disappears in the trillions. What could possibly go wrong?
UK outsourcing giant Serco has a long history of failing to deliver. But every time it does, it has a knack of picking up even more lucrative projects once the dust has settled from the ensuing scandal. It has been repeatedly accused — and occasionally found guilty — of falsifying records on a huge scale. Yet it keeps winning government contracts, including for some of the most sensitive public services, such as maintaining the UK’s air defence radar and ballistic warning system.
Since going public in 1988, Serco has grown into a sprawling behemoth. Its tentacles reach

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Italy’s Newly Unelected Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, Has Urgent Unfinished Business With the World’s Oldest Bank

19 days ago

In his former role as governor of the Bank of Italy, Draghi was partly responsible for Monte dei Paschi’s di Siena’s decline. Now he must reverse it.  
Mario Draghi set a new precedent this week, becoming the first former ECB Chairman to head up a national government. And he did it without winning a single popular vote. The long-serving central banker and one-time managing director of Goldman Sachs International was handpicked by Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, to lead a so-called “government of experts”. Italy’s main political parties were by and large thrilled with the choice. So, too, unsurprisingly, were the markets. 
Unfinished Business with a Very Old Bank
Close to the top of Draghi’s agenda is urgent unfinished business with Italy’s third largest lender, Monte dei Pachi di

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How the Catalonia Question Caused Blushes for Brussels in Moscow

26 days ago

In a heated face-off Russia reminded the EU that when it comes to imprisoning politicians, it too has form. In Catalonia tensions are coming back to the boil as new elections loom. 
During a visit last week to Moscow Josep Borrell, the EU Minister for Foreign Affairs, received a lesson on the dangers of throwing stones in glass houses. The ostensible purpose behind the visit was to get EU-Russia relations back on track, after years of ratcheting tensions. Borrell also hoped to exert diplomatic pressure on Moscow over the recent imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. It was Borrell’s first visit to Moscow and the first of any EU diplomat since 2017. And by all measures it was a resounding failure, and in part due to recent events in Catalonia.

On Sunday, Borrell wrote on his EU

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Oxygen Becomes a Scarce Resource in Latin America’s Two Largest Economies

February 2, 2021

In the case of Mexico, criminal gangs are taking full advantage of the medical oxygen shortage, with deadly consequences.
[Warning to readers: the first two paragraphs of this post include spoilers for one of the greatest movies of all time, The Third Man, the screenplay for which was written by Graham Greene. If you’ve never seen it before, you might want to skip to the third paragraph] 
In Graham Greene’s classic The Third Man the antagonist Harry Lime makes a killing — literally — in post-WW2 Vienna by stealing penicillin from military hospitals, diluting it, and selling it on the black market, resulting in the preventable deaths of countless people. That doesn’t seem to trouble Lime’s conscience. During the famous Ferris Wheel scene Lime (played by Orson Welles) is asked by his friend

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Why Is Everyone Talking About Squatters’ Rights in Covid-Ravaged Spain?

January 26, 2021

Squatters versus landlords: the battle lines are drawn as this once-in-a-lifetime crisis threatens to create a whole new generation of olvidados. 
Spain’s center-left government last week unveiled a controversial draft law that has incensed right-wing media pundits and political parties. The proposed law seeks to halt the eviction of squatters from the properties they have occupied until May 9, when Spain’s State of Alarm is scheduled to end. Most of the properties that will be affected belong to banks or other large institutional landlords.
The proposed change in law has added fuel to a national debate that has been raging since early summer. Government sources say the draft law is needed to protect squatters who are in socially vulnerable situations. They include victims of gender

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Workers’ Wages: The Next Frontier in the Financialization of Just About Everything

January 5, 2021

As the virus crisis bites deeper and deeper into workers’ wages and household finances, big money is pouring into workplace finance initiatives.  
The virus crisis is opening up a rich vein of opportunities for some well-placed financial intermediaries. Salary Finance, one of the UK’s leading workplace lenders, enables cash-strapped workers at its client companies to receive advances on their wages as well as other financial products, including low-interest loans that are deducted directly from workers’ pay checks — a mechanism that sharply reduces default rates, since it’s much more difficult for borrowers to avoid paying their debt if it is extracted directly from their salary.
The company has secured funding from two FIRE-sector heavyweights, Legal & General and Experian, the latter of

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Wall Street Mega-Landlord Blackstone Prepares to Reap the Spoils of Another Crisis

December 29, 2020

Blackstone was a big winner of the last crisis. Now, it hopes to repeat the feat, albeit using a somewhat different playbook. 
Back in 2008, Blackstone emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the subprime crisis, becoming a trailblazer in financializing rents. As that crisis went global, so too did Blackstone’s property empire. By the time the dust had settled, it was the biggest commercial real estate company  on the planet, according to Fortune magazine. .
Now, Blackstone wants to repeat the feat, albeit using a somewhat different playbook. At the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference, held on December 9, Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, gave a few hints about how it plans to do just that. Asked if he thought large firms such as Blackstone would once more gain more

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Big Banks Grow Bigger and Smaller Banks Disappear, As Mergers Return to Crisis-Hit Eurozone

December 2, 2020

A fresh wave of bank failures and mergers are set to trigger a new round of consolidation of the Eurozone’s banking system.
The ECB has a dream: to unleash a whirlwind of consolidation across the Eurozone’s banking system, out of which will arise a new breed of giant trans-European bank. The operations of these new mega-lenders will straddle the continent, thus helping to finally convert the Eurozone into a genuine single financial market. Their gargantuan size will allow them to finally compete with their mega-bank rivals from the U.S. and China. At least that’s the theory. As an added bonus, these mega-bank deals can serve as handy cover for stealth recapitalisations of failed or failing banks. 
This dream is not new, of course. One of the crowning goals of Europe’s half-baked Banking

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