December 14, 2016 nº 1,822 - Vol. 13

"Journalism: Lick, lob, and lynch."

Jean-François Kahn

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  • Top News

Brazil Senate approves 20-year austerity plan

The Brazilian Senate has approved a controversial amendment to the constitution capping public spending for the next 20 years. The project, known in Brazil as PEC 55, freezes expenditure in the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of power, allowing them to grow only by the rate of inflation in the previous year. The government argues it is necessary to boost growth and investments, and contain the country's growing public deficit. The approval of the austerity measure is an important victory for President Michel Temer. He took office earlier this year promising to lead the country out of its worst recession in many decades. Protests against the measure turned violent in the capital Brasilia and at least a dozen states in the country. The opposition says the measures will mainly hit areas such as health and education, which are already underfunded. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets during the Senate session to protest against the austerity plan. After the vote, many demonstrations descended into violence. To pass the constitutional amendment, the government needed the votes of 49 senators - three-fifths of the Senate. The measure was approved by a narrower margin than the government expected, passing by 53 to 19 votes.

Brazil's big companies hinder its struggle to recover

As Brazil claws its way out of a brutal recession, it is bearing an extra burden: its biggest companies. The country's best-known corporate names, including Petrobras, Vale SA and Odebrecht SA, thrived during Brazil's economic rise, delivering sizzling growth, investment and employment. Now, many of those businesses are struggling, tainted by corruption, mired in debt, fending off bankruptcy, or sometimes all three. The scandals transcend borders and industries, and include privately held, state-controlled and publicly listed companies. What they have in common is the damage they have collectively inflicted on Brazil and its global reputation. "Segments of the corporate sector are seen as radioactive."

UN rights chief calls for end to systematic killing of civilians in Aleppo

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Tuesday accused Syrian pro-government forces of going door to door and systematically killing civilians in at least four neighborhoods. The killings have reportedly resulted in at least the deaths of 82 civilians, including 13 children. The situation on the ground is causing residents to take to social media to explain what is happening and give goodbyes to friends and loved ones. The commissioner pleaded with the international community to assist in stopping the killing of civilians.


What is driving deals in Brazil's insurance sector? Attorneys Marcello Vieira de Mello, partner at GVM - Guimarães & Vieira de Mello Advogados, and Karel Suarez, of Diaz, Reus & Targ, LLP, answer that question in an interview for the Financial Services Advisor, on the "The Dialogue" website. (Click here)

  • Crumbs

1 - Uber accused of letting staff spy on celebs and exes - click here.

2 - EU Fines Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo Over Battery Cartel - click here.

3 - UniCredit to raise $13.8 billion in Italy's biggest share issue - click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

China launches WTO challenge over dumping fines

China has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation over the way the US and Europe use anti-dumping rules against it. Countries that sell exports below their cost of production - usually to get market share - have to pay duties as punishment. But Beijing says its rates should now be reduced because China has been a WTO member for 15 years. The US has signaled there would be no change in its approach. And the European Commission said China's legal challenge was a "regret" given a proposal to change the way it calculated the duties on China was awaiting approval from the EU's 28 members. Authorities in Washington and Brussels are keen to preserve tough rules prevent cheap Chinese products flooding their markets. (Click here)


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  • Brief News

Big banks fight to block crisis-era lawsuits from continuing

Big banks are fighting tens of billions of dollars of potential legal costs linked to at least a dozen pending lawsuits arising from the financial crisis. Now they want the Supreme Court to weigh in, arguing that regulators took too long to file their claims. A handful of banks, including Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, have asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that said the regulators filed their claims on time despite a Depression-era securities law that gave them only a three-year window. The Justice Department is pushing back. In a brief submitted last week, it says the banks’ argument lacks merit and asked the court not to take up the case.

Trump's wealthy cabinet picks to undergo financial scrutiny he didn't face

The first step to office will be a grilling on potential business conflicts of interest and, for some, tax returns, courtesy of Senate sleuths.

A potential hitch in Zuckerberg's stock plan for Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg wants to give away nearly all his stake in Facebook, and yet still keep control of the company he helped found. What’s a tech billionaire to do? The neat solution to this problem — creating a new class of shares — is par for the course for Silicon Valley, but often gives other shareholders short shrift. Now details that have recently emerged in litigation challenging Facebook’s stock plan indicate a more troubling disregard for shareholders. At face value it appears that everyone is being treated equally, but the deal really benefits Mr. Zuckerberg. With a dividend of over 900 million Class C shares, he can now sell his Class C shares and not reduce his voting control. The net effect of the transaction is that Mr. Zuckerberg's Class B shares will account for only 5 percent of Facebook's equity but will have voting control over Facebook. It ensures that Mr. Zuckerberg will have lifetime control over Facebook.

Amnesty: Qatar labor reforms fall short

Qatar's new labor reforms, which take effect Tuesday, fail to provide adequate protections for migrant workers, Amnesty International said in a report released Monday. The country replaced it previous 2009 sponsorship law with Law No. 21 of 2015. The report claims the new labor laws barely address labor exploitation because they still allow for employers to confiscate employees' passports or travel documents, effectively trapping them within the country. Additionally AI accused the new labor laws of criminalizing labor exploitation in word only by allowing the abusive practices to continue. At great concern is the use of for migrant workers who assist with the expansion for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

Florida court says iPhone passcode must be revealed

A court in Florida has said a suspected voyeur can be made to reveal his iPhone passcode to investigators. The defendant was arrested after a woman out shopping saw a man crouch down and aim what she believed was a smartphone under her skirt. Previously, a judge said the defendant could not be made to reveal the code, citing constitutional protections. That decision has now been reversed by the Florida Court of Appeal's Second District. The trial court had decided that Mr Stahl could be protected by the Fifth Amendment, which is designed to prevent self-incrimination. However, Judge Anthony Black's formal opinion to the court quashed the decision. Judge Black referred to a famous Supreme Court case, Doe v US 1988, in which Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that a defendant could be made to surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents but they could not "be compelled to reveal the combination to his wall safe". "We question whether identifying the key which will open the strongbox - such that the key is surrendered - is, in fact, distinct from telling an officer the combination," wrote Judge Black. "More importantly, we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances."

Supreme Court declines to review NFL concussion settlement

The US Supreme Court denied review of two class action lawsuit settlements Monday related to concussion injuries suffered by players in the National Football League. The $1 billion settlement between the NFL and more than 20,000 retired players has been challenged by some of those players in two different suits, Armstrong vs. National Football League and Gilchrist vs. National Football League. In their decision to let the settlement between the NFL and the retired players stand, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrote, "It is the nature of a settlement that some will be dissatisfied with the result."

Polish leader marks crackdown with plans to curb opposition

Thirty-five years to the day after a bloody communist crackdown on pro-democracy activists, Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski brushed off concerns that he's curbing freedoms and vowed to pursue laws to make the opposition "more orderly."

Asahi to buy beer brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev for $7.8 billion

Asahi Group, the Japanese beer giant, said on Tuesday that it would pay $7.8 billion to buy a group of Central and Eastern European beer brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev, in the latest brand shuffle for the rapidly consolidating brewing business. Anheuser-Busch InBev, based in Belgium, is selling the brands, including the Pilsner Urquell group, to allay the concerns of European competition regulators after it completed its merger with SABMiller in a deal valued at more than $100 billion. Shareholders approved the SABMiller deal in September, nearly a year after it was announced, creating an industry giant that would account for about 30 percent of global beer sales. Anheuser-Busch InBev then entered into a number of agreements to sell a variety of assets from the combined company to win over regulators. (Click here)

RICO charge in pharmaceutical case may signal tougher tactics

The Justice Department's use of an anti-racketeering law in a health care fraud case might portend more aggressive crackdowns on executives.

With pot law, Mass. enters legal gray zone

Awkward situation was set up intentionally by the authors of the law, who say it was essential to end prohibition of the drug as soon as possible and give regulators enough time to set up proper oversight for the nascent industry.


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