Category Archives: Free markets and their discontents

Burger King the Latest to Jump on the Corporate Tax Inversion Bandwagon

A number of corporations have engaged in corporate tax “inversions” this year, which typically involves a large U.S. company merging with a smaller counterpart in a lower-tax country abroad, then moving the corporate billing address to the lower-tax country to reduce the overall tax burden. The actual headquarters and the executives go nowhere, but the nominal address changes so the company can avoid U.S. tax rates. A number of corporations in the pharmaceutical space have pulled this off in 2014, but it took the drugstore giant Walgreen to flirt with the idea (through a merger with the Swiss company Alliance Boots) for the non-financial press and the public to really catch on. Outcry actually stopped Walgreen from going through with the inversion; they merged with Alliance Boots, but kept their headquarters in the U.S. Clearly, it was easier to rally public scrutiny to a consumer-facing brand attempting to skip out on America while still using the public resources afforded any company selling their wares here.

Now, the same coalition that stopped the Walgreen inversion will get another chance with Burger King:

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:

Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.

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Ilargi: Say Bye to the Bubble

Yves here. Only with the fullness of time will we know whether Ilargi’s “the end is nigh” headline will have coincided with the crack that signaled the sell-by date of the officialdom-induced post crisis rally. But Ilargi makes more interesting points than simply, as many done, point out that the bubble party has to end and the unwind is not likely to be pretty.

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The Forgotten Financial Panic of 1914, and the Eternal Recurrence of Short-Term Thinking

This week marks the 100th anniversary of a nearly forgotten yet critical moment in global finance. As the looming outbreak of World War I appeared more and more imminent when Austria made an ultimatum to Serbia in the last week of July 1914, the resulting fear in global markets set off a massive financial panic. Investors, fearing unpaid debts, pulled out of stocks and bonds in a scramble for cash, which at this point in history meant gold. The London Stock Exchange reacted by closing on July 31 and staying closed for five straight months. The U.S. stock exchange, which witnessed a mass dumping of securities by European investors in exchange for gold to finance the war, would also close on the same day, for about four months. Britain declared war while on a bank holiday. Over 50 countries experienced some form of asset depletion or bank run. Here’s an incredible statistic: “For six weeks during August and early September every stock exchange in the world was closed, with the exception of New Zealand, Tokyo and the Denver Colorado Mining Exchange.”

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Germany Bucking Toxic, Nation-State Eroding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

We’ve inveighed against the dangers of two Orwellianlly-branded “trade” deals, the TransPacific Partnership and its ugly twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Both negotiations have been shrouded in a deeply troubling level of secrecy, with their draft terms being given classified status and Congressmen kept largely in the dark as to their content (summaries provided by the US Trade Representative aren’t remotely adequate, since as in all contracts, much hinges on exact language).

The business press in the US has tended to amplify Administration messaging, that both deals are moving forward. In fact, as we’ve covered in some detail, the TransPacific Partnership is in quite a lot of trouble, and as we’ll discuss below, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is also going pear shaped.

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Bill Black: Two EU Finance Ministers Throw Their Bosses and Nations Under the Bus

The finance ministers of Italy and Serbia have just publicly thrown their heads of state and their nations under the bus.  In a testament to the crippling effect of the belief that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity, these finance ministers have insisted on bleeding economies that are in desperate need of fiscal stimulus.  Their pursuit of economic malpractice is so determined that they eagerly sought out opportunities to embarrass the democratically elected head of state in Serbia when he dared to support competent economic policies.

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Ignacio Portes: Paul Singer v. Argentina – Where Did All That Debt Come From?

With Argentina’s payment to the holders of its restructured debt on June 30th in limbo at the Bank of New York Mellon, blocked by Federal Judge Thomas Griesa, and the 30 day grace period to official default ticking away, financial pundits have taken a keen interest in the biggest debt struggle in memory.

Some have been very critical of both the judge’s interpretation of the pari passu clause that created this mess and, more importantly, of his damaging precedent. But no one seems able to resist adding digs at Argentina, even when generally supporting its position in the litigation.

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Bill Black: Merkel’s Pyrrhic Victory over Cameron

The old line that one should be very careful about what one wishes for – for you may receive it applies to Germany’s installation of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EU Commission. Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel has just crushed her UK counterpart (David Cameron) by orchestrating a nearly unanimous vote among EU nations to appoint (not, really, “elect”) Juncker as head of the EU Commission (not, really, “Parliament”).

But Merkel has two self-created strategic problems with regard to the EU that threaten the EU and Germany’s dominance over the EU.

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China Attacks Oz Banks for Laundering Flight Capital

Yves here. China is cracking down on flight capital, starting with Australian banks. As the most casual readers of the business press know, the international wealthy, particularly Russians and Chinese, have been using residential real estate in “world cities” as their favorite lockbox. As we’ve written, it’s stunning to see how much real estate has been hoarded in London. Mayfair was depopulated during the petrodollar recycling of the 1970s; now much of Belgravia, Chelsea near Sloan Square, and Kensington are visibly underpopulated. Vancouver has been bid to the sky by Chinese flight capital. New York is a big destination for Russian and Chinese investors, and Chinese money has been pouring into Australian real estate.

The Chinese move may be an admission of stress on the financial system.

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How Mandatory Arbitration Cheats Consumers

A few weeks ago, the topic of arbitration clauses became a contretemps when General Mills tried the remarkably cheeky stunt of trying to assert that consumers who had downloaded coupons or simply liked the company on Facebook had given up their right to sue if they were harmed by using its products and could seek remedy only through “informal negotiation via email” or arbitration. The firestorm of criticism forced the food giant to back down.

But consumers and other customers, like small businesses, are increasingly being denied access to courts though the use of mandated “pre-dispute” arbitration clauses and these are often paired with class action waivers.

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