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Nick Corbishley

Articles by Nick Corbishley

Europe’s Eminence Grise, BlackRock, Is Helping to Write Europe’s Sustainable Banking Rules. What Could Go Wrong?

2 days ago

Despite facing accusations of rampant greenwashing, BlackRock is once again in the driving seat of public policy in Europe. But its potential conflicts of interest are at least finally attracting a little attention.   
When things get serious in Europe and new financial rules, regulations or bailouts are needed, the first phone number to call is invariably that of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. That is exactly what the European Commission did when it needed to create new environmental standards for Euro-Area banks: it called BlackRock’s Financial Markets Advisory (FMA) unit. Which means that at the same time that BlackRock is launching some of the world’s biggest environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing funds for its clients — many of the world’s passive

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7 Reasons Why a Vaccine Passport (Pass, Certificate or Whatever They Want to Call It) Should Give Us Pause for Thought

9 days ago

As the use of vaccine passports snowballs around the world, concerns about their potential reach and implications are growing.
Vaccine passports (or passes or certificates) are being rushed through around the world, including in places where most people have not even been able to get a vaccine yet. They are being touted as a way of jump-starting the global economy by providing a means for people to prove their vaccinated status, allowing them to travel, shop, go to the gym, attend sporting and cultural events and conduct other indoor activities. Countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore have already introduced vaccine passports in the last couple of months.
Of course, the use of the word “passport” is deceptive. “Passport” implies a document endorsed by a state that establishes

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Fallout from Greensill Collapse Splatters British Government, As Taxpayers Face Big Losses

16 days ago

Downing Street’s dodgy dealings with Citigroup and Greensill show just how far the British government is willing to go to line the pockets of banks and other financial firms while bleeding taxpayers dry. 
The collapse of UK-based supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital continues to reverberate. In Germany the private banking association has paid out around €2.7 billion to more than 20,500 Greensill Bank customers as part of its deposit guarantee scheme after the bank collapsed in early March. But the deposits of institutional investors such as other financial institutions, investment firms, and local authorities are not covered. Fifty municipalities are believed to be nursing losses of at least €500 million.
Greensill’s biggest source of funds, Credit Suisse, has seen its share price

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It’s Time To Talk About Ivermectin

23 days ago

I’d like to start this article with a couple of disclaimers and a caveat. First of all, I am not a medical doctor. This article is not intended as medical advice. It’s a layman’s account of how an extremely cheap, safe and widely available off-patent medicine called ivermectin appears to be saving the lives of countless Covid-19 patients across Latin America and beyond. Yet hardly anybody is talking about it. 
Here’s the caveat: The first section of the article, which was completed on Friday, is about Mexico City’s recent deployment of ivermectin in its fight against Covid-19. On Saturday, Mexico’s Ministry of Health jacked up its total excess death count due to Covid (for the whole country) by 60%, from 182,000 to 294,000. However, most of these deaths took place before Mexico City began

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The Ultimate Grenfell Betrayal: UK Government Leaves Victims of Cladding Crisis Holding the Bill

March 23, 2021

The costs fall on leaseholders, who are least able to pay and not remotely to blame for the crisis while the government protects builders, developers and cladding manufacturers.  
On Monday evening, the House of Commons had a golden opportunity to make the lives of millions of lower income people materially better. All they had to do was pass a proposed amendment to the Fire Safety Bill that sought to ban leaseholders* from bearing the costs of cladding remediation. Those costs could rise as high as £15-20 billion in the coming years. The government’s bill placed the responsibility for removing cladding on leaseholders, but peers in the House of Lords proposed a plan that would force the government to pay the initial costs before recouping them from developers, construction firms and

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

February 23, 2021

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

February 16, 2021

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

February 9, 2021

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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