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Found 19 results

  1. Emerging markets debt is so hot, some investors can’t get enough Dion Rabouin 6 Min Read NEW YORK (Reuters) - In their hunt for yield, some investors have been venturing into offerings as exotic as Tajikistan’s sovereign bond or Iraq’s first sovereign debt sale without U.S. backing in more than a decade only to find out that even those are pricey and hard to get. Even as emerging markets bonds lost some ground in recent weeks in the secondary market, primary offers from Panamanian bank Multibank Inc MULTB.UL, the Bahamas, and a 30-year Nigerian bond have been well oversubscribed, following a trend of lower sovereign and corporate yields. The sellers’ market is good news for emerging market borrowers, giving them access to funds at rates once afforded only to “investment grade” issuers. But it could lead to mispricing of riskier assets and threaten valuations in the long-term by encouraging borrowers to cut coupons on future issues. Right now it is forcing some funds to scale back.Samy Muaddi, a portfolio manager of T Rowe Price’s Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund, said he has reduced his purchases of initial bond offerings as 2017 has progressed. “We have been more selective in our new issue participation rate for single B credit including Latin American airlines and Chinese real estate,” he said. Fund managers prefer new issues, particularly on corporate debt or debt issued by countries without a solid repayment history, because they typically sell at a discount to the secondary market. That has not been the case recently, Muaddi said, noting that the percentage of new issues in his fund has dropped from about 20 percent of purchases to 12-15 percent. Asset managers of dedicated emerging markets funds say the mispricing largely has been caused by “tourist” dollars rushing in from passive funds and non-specialized money managers, such as hedge funds or high-yield funds, chasing higher returns. “It’s frustrating for me as an investor,” said Josephine Shea, portfolio manager at Standish Mellon Asset Management Company LLC. “There seems to be quite a bit of indiscriminate buying without looking into underlying fundamentals.” The difference between emerging market bonds yields .JPMEPR and yields for U.S. Treasuries has widened over the past couple months, most recently touching 339 basis points as the U.S. dollar strengthened and local factors weighed on countries in Latin America and the Middle East. However, that number is 35 basis points tighter than the 16-year historical average and comes after spreads compressed to their tightest in three years in mid-October. BELOW FAIR VALUE Shea said that recently bond deals in India and elsewhere in Asia have been 10 times oversubscribed and that the firm has had to drop out of corporate and even frontier market sovereign bond issues because the final interest rates have fallen well below the firm’s assessment of fair value. In previous years, Shea said, bonds would typically be two to four times oversubscribed. Even when they do participate in offerings, some managers say they get less than they want because of high demand. Increasing supply would ease the crunch, but investors say the amounts are already significant for some issuers. For example, Tajikistan sold $500 million in bonds, which is a lot considering the central Asian nation’s annual economic output is about $7 billion. Jim Barrineau, head of emerging markets debt at Schroders, said he has been buying “smaller, less well-known” names and boosting emerging market corporate debt, eschewing stalwarts like Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Among his additions are international telecoms company Millicom International Cellular SA (MICsdb.ST) and mobile provider Digicel Group LTD DCEL.N, which focus on emerging economies. While portfolio managers talk of “overcrowding,” many still plan to boost their emerging market debt holdings, expecting inflows to keep recovering after worries about the global effects of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy tightening kept investment subdued between 2013 and 2016. This year, emerging market portfolio debt inflows are seen more than doubling to $242 billion from $102 billion in 2016, data from the Institute for International Finance shows. (Graphic: “Any time you have a market that has had the type of performance that EM debt has had over last 18 months there’s going to be some trepidation, but it’s important to look at fundamentals,” said Arif Joshi, emerging markets debt portfolio manager at Lazard Asset Management. Joshi noted accelerating growth, narrowing current account deficits and a shift to sounder economic policies in several emerging economies. Similarly, Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Investment Management, said he saw the recent pullback as part of a seasonal pattern and was using it to boost his positions. “EM is still very, very attractive,” Dehn said. “Our plan is to buy more.” Such optimism has prompted some managers, including T Rowe’s Muaddi and Paul McNamara, investment director at GAM, to direct funds to some less volatile and more liquid emerging market issuers. “The sheer enthusiasm with which people are throwing money at EM,” said McNamara, “makes us cautious.”
  2. World News | Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:59pm IST U.S. offers $3 million reward for man it gave anti-terror training Arshad Mohammed | WASHINGTON The United States on Tuesday offered a reward of up to $3 million for information about a former Tajik special operations colonel whom it trained in counter-terrorism before he joined the Islamic State militant group. The U.S. State Department announced the reward for Gulmurod Khalimov in a statement that made no mention of his training, which included attending five U.S.-funded courses in the United States and Tajikistan between 2003 and 2014, said a U.S. State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The statement described Khalimov as "a key leader" of the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIL and ISIS, that has seized parts of Syria and Iran and staged or inspired attacks around the world. "Khalimov is a former Tajik special operations colonel, police commander, and military sniper. He was the commander of a police special operations unit in the Ministry of Interior of Tajikistan. He is now an ISIL member and recruiter," it said. "In May 2015, he announced in a 10-minute propaganda video that he fights for ISIL and has called publicly for violent acts against the United States, Russia, and Tajikistan," it added. The State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program, which has also targeted Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, offered up to $3 million for information leading to Khalimov's location, arrest or conviction. The State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity suggested that Khalimov was regarded as a special threat because of his counter-terrorism training, which included "crisis response, hostage negotiation and tactical leadership." "We consider Gulmurod Khalimov to be a threat to national security and the U.S. Department of State due to his prior counter-terrorism experience and training," the official said. The official declined to say exactly how many courses Khalimov attended in the United States and where they took place or to shed further light on his evolution from a counter-terrorism commander to an Islamic State leader. The training was provided under the State Department's anti-terrorism assistance program, the official said. (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by James Dalgleish)
  3. Iraq sells $1.3 billion in local bonds to plug public deficit May 10 Iraq's central bank on Tuesday said it started selling local bonds worth 1.5 trillion Iraqi dinars ($1.29 billion), as part of an effort to plug a government deficit caused by tumbling oil prices and the costs of fighting an Islamic State insurgency. It is the first local bonds sale to the public since 2003, when Saddam Hussein was overthrown. Iraq already issues Treasury bills to domestic banks and has international bonds outstanding. The two-year bonds are sold at an 8-percent annual discount rate, the Central Bank said in a statement. "Purchase applications from banks and citizens can be presented at the central bank directly," it said. The bonds are sold on behalf on the Finance Ministry and come to maturity on March 14, 2018. The issue is the first tranche of a 5 trillion-dinar bond plan announced by the finance ministry in January. Iraq already issues Treasury bills to domestic banks and has international bonds outstanding. The central bank in March announced the local bonds will be sold between March 15 and April 15 to the public and to local lenders.
  4. Exclusive: Murdered Iraq Trade Ministry official was about to expose corruption - officials BAGHDAD | By Ahmed Rasheed An Iraqi Trade Ministry media adviser killed last month by a bomb attached to his car had been about to hand over files accusing the ministry of corruption to the country's Integrity Commission, officials in the ministry's legal department told Reuters. Baghdad's Central Investigative Court for Terrorism and Organised Crime said in a statement that four Trade Ministry security guards confessed to blowing up Trade Minister Milas Mohammed Abdul Kareem's media adviser, Nadhim Naeem. A spokesman for that court said the men, arrested for killing several trade ministry employees including Naeem, were part of Abdul Kareem's protection unit. They are awaiting trial on charges of terrorism and premeditated murder, he said. Abdul Kareem was not immediately available for comment, and neither were his bodyguards. There is no evidence implicating Abdul Kareem in the killing and he was cleared in an investigation ordered by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. ADVERTISING Despite absolving Abdul Kareem of murder, Iraq issued an arrest warrant for the minister and his brother on Oct. 18 after a corruption investigation into bribes, illegal benefits, and the misuse of his position. Abdul Kareem issued a statement on the Trade Ministry website saying the warrants were not based on solid evidence of wrongdoing related to ministry contracts. Abadi has promised to tackle corruption in a political system which doles out positions along ethnic and sectarian lines, creating powerful patronage networks. Abdul Kareem is among the most senior officials to face judicial action since Abadi announced his crackdown in August after nationwide protests erupted over corruption, poor electricity and water services and unemployment. TEST OF ABADI'S RESOLVE His first big test could be the corruption allegations and murder case hanging over one of Iraq's most critical ministries, responsible for purchasing billions of dollars worth of commodities used in a nationwide ration program. Iraq is one of the world's biggest importers of wheat and rice. Several Trade Ministry officials have faced corruption allegations in the past. Two officials in the Trade Ministry's legal department said Naeem had spoken out to them and other colleagues in the ministry about corruption and his intention to hand over files to the Integrity Commission, Iraq's highest state-run corruption watchdog. "He said he will not stay silent about corruption in the ministry. He crossed a red line and spoke out against corruption in the ministry," one of the officials told Reuters. The other Trade Ministry legal department official said Naeem had put himself in danger. "He repeated so many times that he will never hesitate to reach the Integrity Commission to inform about corruption cases in the ministry. We knew he became inside the circle of danger. His end was tragic," he told Reuters. According to police and ministry officials, CCTV footage showed some of the minister's bodyguards attaching a bomb to the car used by Naeem. "A network of four security employees from the Trade Ministry protection were arrested for carrying out terrorist actions. The group confessed to carrying out a number of assassinations against employees in the Ministry," according to a statement by the Baghdad criminal court. "The confessions were supported by video footage showing the assassination of the media man Nadhim Naeem who was working in the same ministry. The assassination was carried out by a bomb attached to his vehicle," the statement added. WHITE LAND CRUISER The footage, carried on YouTube and seen by Reuters, shows a white Toyota Land Cruiser, the kind of vehicle often used by senior ministry officials and their guards, pulling up to Naeem's car in the ministry outdoor parking lot. Two men are seen standing beside the car and moving around. Naeem then drives away and is later blown up. Reuters could not verify the identity of the men in the video or if they actually had made confessions. Although Abdul Kareem was not implicated in the murder, officials said the murder case triggered a wider investigation by the courts into corruption related to the purchase of commodities and construction equipment that resulted in arrest warrants for Abdul Kareem and his brother. A court also summoned Abdul Kareem and eight other ministry officials, including the head of the grain board responsible for procuring Iraq’s grain internationally and from local farmers. They were questioned over alleged illicit gains made from the purchase of a Uruguayan rice shipment which was seized because it was unfit for human consumption, according to Baghdad's Integrity Investigation court. The Trade Ministry official, who is close to Abdul Kareem, said he should not be blamed for the corrupted rice shipment because the problem was due to poor storage facilities. "This does not merit an arrest warrant for someone as senior as the minister, especially because the contract was legal and based on global prices," he said. Asked about charges against Abdul Kareem's bodyguards, he said "justice should take its course".
  5. Commodities | Wed Sep 9, 2015 12:28pm BST Iraq to use bond proceeds for infrastructure, salaries - prospectusDUBAI, SEPT 9 Iraq will use the proceeds of an international bond issue to fund salaries as well as infrastructure projects in the oil and gas, electricity and transportation sectors, according to a prospectus seen by Reuters on Wednesday. Baghdad wants to raise up to $6 billion in a series of U.S. dollar bond sales, though the first issue is expected to be small. The government will start a week-long roadshow on Thursday in Europe and the United States. (Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Writing byStephen Kalin; Editing by Toby Chopra)
  6. World | Sun Aug 9, 2015 7:33am EDTRelated: WORLD, IRAQ Iraq's Abadi proposes clear-out of top government postsBAGHDAD | BY AHMED RASHEED Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 21, 2015. REUTERS/KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/POOL Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi won the support of his cabinet on Sunday to eliminate a layer of senior government positions, part of a push to reduce corruption and save money in the face of mounting unrest. After weeks of protests demanding better government and a call by leading Shi'ite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for tougher action, Abadi proposed cancelling Iraq's multiple vice president and deputy prime minister positions, currently shared out along sectarian lines. Iraq has three vice presidents, two Shi'ites and a Sunni, and three deputy prime ministers, a Shi'ite, a Sunni and a Kurd. Critics say the set-up say hands high office to unqualified candidates and encourages corruption. Mounting public anger at the state of politics, expressed in protests in Baghdad and several southern cities, risks hampering Abadi's efforts to rally support for the fight to push Islamic State militants from territory in the north and west. One of the vice presidents, Nuri al-Maliki, who stepped down as prime minister last August after eight years of what critics said was ethnically divisive rule, backed the proposal. "I renew my position in support of reforms required by the political process and guided by the supreme religious authority (Sistani) to the prime minister," tweeted Maliki, who remains a potent force in politics, with a network of loyal commanders in the armed forces and Shi'ite militias. Another vice president, Osama al-Nujaifi, also expressed support. As well as removing the senior posts, Abadi called for an end to sectarian and party quotas for government positions, the reopening of corruption investigations and the reassignment of officials' security details to the ministries of defense and interior. The proposals nees parliamentary approval. Abadi, a moderate Shi'ite Islamist who has sought reconciliation between Sunnis and Shi'ites, has struggled to build broad political support for meaningful reform. Political analyst Ahmed Younis said corruption, economic pressures and the battle against Islamic State had "pushed Abadi with the country to the edge of the cliff". "Sistani's call for Abadi to take bold decisions was the perfect support at the perfect time. It gave Abadi leverage and granted him immunity against any possible opposition", he said. In his sermon on Friday, Sistani urged Abadi to "strike with an iron fist" against corruption and make appointments based on ability rather than party or sectarian affiliation. The reclusive octogenarian enjoys almost mythological stature among millions of Shi'ite followers and wields authority few Iraqi politicians would openly challenge. "With the green light from (Sistani), Abadi is now stronger than ever and will push ahead with radical changes without any hesitation," said parliamentary legal panel chief Mahmoud al-Hassan.
  7. National Bank of Kuwait sets IPTs for benchmark dollar Tier 1 bond DUBAI, March 31 (Reuters) - National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) , the Gulf state's largest lender, has set initial price thoughts for a benchmark U.S. dollar perpetual Tier 1 bond issue, which could price as early as Wednesday, a document from lead arrangers showed. Initial price thoughts were set in the high 5 percent area. The bond will be issued through a special purpose vehicle, NBK Tier I Financing Ltd, and be guaranteed by NBK, which is rated A-plus by Standard and Poor's and Aa3 by Moody's. HSBC and Standard Chartered were the joint global coordinators for the investor roadshow, which ended on Tuesday. Citigroup, HSBC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, NBK Capital and Standard Chartered are joint lead managers. (Reporting by Archana Narayanan; Editing by Andrew Torchia)
  8. One-third of Republicans: Obama's threat to America more than Putin Posted 30/03/2015 12:08 PM One-third of Republicans believe that the US President Barack Obama represents an imminent threat to the United States, is more than the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Poll for "Reuters Ipsos" online this month and polled 2809 Americans to arrange a rate of one to five, what is considered the biggest threat posed by countries, organizations and individuals in the United States, so that it gives the one who poses no threat and five who represents an imminent threat. The result of the poll showed that 34% of Republicans rated Obama as representing an imminent threat ahead of Putin (25%), who was accused of aggression against Ukraine and the lion (23%), which Western governments say he used chlorine gas and explosive barrels against his own people. Said Barry Jlasnr sociologist and author of "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things," that, given the level of polarization in American politics these results were not surprising. The survey was conducted in the period between 16 and 24 March / March poll included the views of the democratically in 1083 and 1059 Republican. He said 27 percent of Republicans polled Democratic Party and imminent threat to the United States, while 22 percent said Democrats Republican Party and imminent threat. And the people who were polled feel especially concerned about the threats related to possible terrorist attacks. He said 58% of respondents state regulation of an imminent threat against 43% of al-Qaeda. He said that 34% of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is an imminent threat, compared to 27% of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He said 39% of respondents believe that cyber attacks represent an imminent threat, while one-third of the participants said that the drug trade represents an imminent threat. He expressed concern Aldemaqratinon more than Republicans about climate change. He said 33% of Democrats that global warming represents an imminent threat, while 27% of Republicans said that climate change is not a threat at all. Source - Reuters
  9. Iraq's Kurdistan region receives dues budget long-awaited Baghdad Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:09 pm GMT BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Kurdistan region received in the semi-autonomous northern Iraq, $ 420 million of the budget dues of Baghdad on Thursday, a long-awaited payments would bilateral agreement for the export of oil to the track. He said Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told Reuters, stressing payments "mean that the parties are committed to the deal." Baghdad had cut the budget for the Kurds payments in January of 2014 because of the region's oil policies. He returned the budget to pay dues in December after Kurds agreed to export an average of 550 thousand barrels per day of crude from the port of Ceyhan through the government of the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO). The agreement replaces a tribute as a breakthrough will help Iraq to increase its oil exports at a time when the country's revenues are under pressure as a result of the decline in world oil prices and the cost of financing the war against international Islamic organization in the north and west fighters. And received the Kurds, except to obtain 17 per cent of the national budget for this year, amounting to $ 105 billion, which means that, on average, pay a billion dollars a month, but payment was delayed in February, which is the smartest tensions amid the difficulties encountered by the two sides in accordance with what he said Zebari. Central government and the private face severe cash-flow problems under the Dat falling oil prices and the war being waged on the organization of the Islamic state in parts of northern and western Iraq. The Kurds have sought hard to reach the goal of exporting 550 thousand barrels per day from their fields and national fields in Kirkuk, which are now responsible for the export of them. Zebari said: "There are now different expectations from both sides." He added by saying that oil exports from the north now increasingly steadily and reached more than 300 thousand barrels per day. He said that the two sides will achieve Ohdavhmha special payments budget and exports of oil by the end of the year, although numbers may vary from month to month. He said that Baghdad is expected to provide a further boost from the budget dues to the Kurds at the end of the month of March. He said, "Both sides Eoffaan their promises." The latest batch of budget dues may negotiate Zebari and Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nuri Shaways -oheme Krdian- and Oil Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. (Preparation Mohammed Abdel Aal Arab Bulletin) Zebari: We recognized the province $ 420 million from its budget dues Thu, March 19 / March 2015 23:22 [Follow-where] Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari received the Kurdistan region on Thursday the amount of $ 420 million from the financial budget of the federal government dues payments, a long-awaited agreement will re-export of oil to the track. Zebari said in a press statement that "the payments means that the parties are committed to the oil agreement." After Baghdad reduced budget payments to the Kurds in 2014 because of the region's oil policies of the parties reach agreement last January. Nevertheless delayed monthly budget for Kurdistan in February payments, which led to an increase in tension somewhat. The delivery of the region's share of the budget days from the projected visit of the Kurdistan Regional Government to Baghdad to discuss before the completion of the implementation of the agreement Alinvt.anthy
  10. Although this is a news article it probably should go here to the lopster tank. Not trying to upset anyone by posting this, but I do know some here want to see all sides to this venture. Kurdistan oil deal with Baghdad unravels as tensions rise Iraq, March 14, 2015 A four-month-old oil deal between Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region is close to unraveling after payments from Baghdad dried up, prompting Erbil to threaten to sue buyers and ramp up independent oil exports. The dispute highlights fundamental differences between the two sides over who controls oil resources and revenues and will reinforce the views of many Iraqi watchers that Kurdistan would seek bigger if not full independence from Baghdad one day. Baghdad cut budget payments to the Kurds in January 2014 as punishment for their attempts to export oil independently, plunging the semi-autonomous region into economic crisis and forcing it to seek loans at home and abroad. Under a new deal, the Kurds committed to export an average of 550,000 barrels per day in 2015, in exchange for Baghdad resuming budget payments of over $1 billion a month to Kurdistan in 2015. The agreement was hailed as a breakthrough that would help Iraq increase oil exports at a time when revenues are strained by low global prices and the cost of financing a war against Islamic State insurgents in the north and west. But so far this year, Baghdad has paid only a fraction of the money, arguing that the oil handed over to SOMO does not match the expected volumes. For its part, Kurdistan insists it has supplied almost 97 percent of the agreed volumes and is working to raise volumes further despite receiving no payments. Sources in Erbil are saying they will use all possible means to recoup the money. “We are not being treated as part of the country but as a commercial oil producer,” said a high-level Kurdish oil source. “In case we don’t get the payments, we will have to go after the buyers because this crude still belongs to us.” In the past few months, SOMO sold Kurdish crude to buyers including Turkey’s Tupras, Swiss-based trader Litasco, Spain’s Repsol, Italy’s Eni and BP. Last year, SOMO threatened to sue direct buyers of Kurdish oil and has successfully stopped some sales. The Kurd’s latest threat to do the same may pose legal challenges for companies who have bought oil through SOMO because the deal between Baghdad and Erbil was preliminary and did not give clarity over who owns the oil. According to shipping documents seen by Reuters, oil transferred to SOMO still belongs to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Another potential legal pitfall is that oil sold by SOMO from the Turkish port of Ceyhan is being marketed as Kirkuk under the name of the same field in northern Iraq. However, only a third of oil in the pipeline is Kirkuk while the rest is different grades from other KRG new fields. The preliminary deal in December also did not address debts owed to listed oil companies like Genel which helped Kurdistan develop its fields. Baghdad sees those contracts as illegal even though SOMO is currently selling crude from those deposits to buyers in Europe and beyond. PUNISHMENT Tensions spilled into the open this week at a forum in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniyah, where Iraq oil minister Adel Abdel Mehdi said Kurdistan had handed only some of the oil it pumped to Ceyhan over to SOMO and was exporting the rest independently. Kurdish minister Ashti Hawrami said the region was committed to the deal, but since Baghdad was not sending enough money, the heavily indebted region was forced to sell some oil to repay creditors. “Can somebody please explain to me why we are still being punished?” Hawrami asked. “If we continue receiving this little, what will happen to this relationship?” Both tried to end on a conciliatory note saying they would make the deal work. Kurdistan has seen an inflow of over a million refugees from Iraq and Syria and had to raise billions of dollars via loans and oil export pre-payment deals with oil firms, trading houses, banks and Turkey to cover its budget shortfalls. If the oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil collapses, the chances are high the KRG, which under the December deal currently sells 80,000-100,000 bpd independently from SOMO, will be moving back to ramping up independent sales. “After April, the KRG would be technically able to export 825,000 bpd via its own pipeline system,” a source in the KRG said. “We would be able to fully cover our budget needs with those exports by tightening our spending and providing our fighting forces their salaries on time.” (ekurd)
  11. This is two days old but I dont remember seeing it posted. Sorry Mods if it has posted By Ahmed Rasheed BAGHDAD Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:08pm EDT (Reuters) - Oil companies have proposed millions of dollars of cuts in development spending in Iraq, a senior oil ministry official said, after Baghdad told them low oil prices and its fight against Islamic State had made payments difficult. In a series of letters sent to companies such as Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil since January, seen by Reuters, the oil ministry set out the need for change in response to "the rapid drastic decrease in crude oil prices". The slump in crude prices to below $60 a barrel from $115 in June has slashed government revenues in Iraq, OPEC's second biggest exporter, just as it faces economic crisis triggered by Islamic State's seizure of north and western provinces and surging expenditure to fund a military counter-offensive. In view of the fact that a significant proportion of development costs are passed on to Iraq, the oil ministry called on firms to revise their oilfield development plans by considering postponing new projects and delaying already committed projects as long as no additional costs were incurred. They should cut development budgets "by a certain percentage" and request subcontractors to reduce costs in order to match "the new oil prices world," the ministry said. Those cuts should be made against a backdrop of maintaining or even increasing current oil production levels, the February letter added, requesting a response by the end of that month. Most companies have replied, a senior oil ministry official said, with the largest offered cut in spending coming from Shell, which proposed slashing investment spending this year by more than a third to $1.5 billion from $2.4 billion. BP proposed a cut to $3.25 billion from $3.50 billion, Lukoil to $2.1 billion from $2.3 billion, while Exxon Mobil said it planned to maintain development spending at $1.8 billion and Eni had yet to reply, he said. "No direct meetings have been held with any of the foreign companies. We are now only testing waters with them via correspondence," said the official, who declined to be named because of the confidential nature of the correspondence. A BP spokesman said the company held regular, confidential discussions with Baghdad about the development of the Rumaila field, which was operating normally. A spokesman for Lukoil said the firm had received a letter from Iraq asking to postpone all new developments or reduce works in 2015, adding: “We are studying it.” The West Qurna project was developing on schedule and unchanged so far. Exxon, the lead contractor to rehabilitate West Qurna, declined to comment. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson said last week it was talking with Baghdad on restructuring oil agreements to help the government meet its near term cash needs. Eni and Shell were not immediately available for comment. SHARING RISKS International firms operate in Iraq's southern oilfields under service contracts, currently based on a fixed dollar fee for additional volumes produced - a formula which has seen Baghdad's bills ballooning just as its oil revenues collapse. "The oil ministry has irreversibly taken the decision to amend its service contracts with foreign firms, due to the cash crisis brought by oil prices drop," the ministry official said. "We have to acknowledge that current contracts were hastily drafted and short-sighted in failing to take into consideration the impact of a potential oil price crash." A letter sent to oil firms last month asked them to propose amendments to their contracts "based on the linkage between oil prices and cost recovery and due remuneration as a sliding scale", so that both sides "take the risk and enjoy the reward". The proposed amendment did not mean Baghdad was planning a formal move to production sharing contracts, but finding a middle ground between that and the current arrangements. "We should fix these flaws to save our economy from collapsing," the official said. A source at one of the oil majors said such discussions were not unusual: “For the past five years we had cost inflation in the industry as oil prices rose. Now we have cost deflation as prices fall. We renegotiate contracts with service and engineering companies all over the world to achieve lower costs without impacting production.” Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi said 10 days ago that Iraq was renegotiating the contracts with a view to restoring Iraq's state share to around 20 to 25 percent, after it was reduced in recent amendments to around 5 percent. He said that under current contract terms, Iraq's payments due to international companies in 2015 would reach $18 billion. It has already accumulated debts from last year and 2013. The government says it has started work on issuing a Treasury bond, and may resort to seeking forward payment for exports to address its growing debts to the firms, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said. For now, sources say, Iraq is not providing the service companies with the repayment volumes they are due and is instead sometimes assigning more cargoes to companies who purchase its crude for cash under term contracts in monthly export schedules.
  12. Reported atrocities by Iraqi forces could risk aid under U.S. law WASHINGTON Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:08pm EDT WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Reported atrocities by Iraqi soldiers could risk some U.S. aid under a law forbidding assistance to those responsible for human rights abuses if they are confirmed, a key senator cautioned on Wednesday. ABC News reported that some U.S.-trained units are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the Islamic State, citing an unnamed Pentagon official. ABC said the investigation, conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with allegations of war crimes based partly on videos and photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners and displaying severed heads. Senator Patrick Leahy, the author of the law, said foreign security forces are not eligible for U.S. aid if there is credible evidence that they have committed crimes such as torture, rape or executions of prisoners, if they are not being appropriately punished. "If their (ABC's) information is accurate, the burden is on the Iraqi Government to punish those involved and on the Departments of State and Defense to insist that they do so and to offer support in investigating and punishing those involved as the law calls for," Leahy said in a statement. "Otherwise the Iraqi units involved should be deemed ineligible for U.S. aid," he said. A U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: "We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specifics." The official was unaware of the specific instances cited in the ABC report, however. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Phil Stewart; editing by Andrew Hay)
  13. Iraq, Kurdish region implement deal on oil exports, salaries BAGHDAD Wed Nov 19, 2014 7:57am EST 1 OF 3. Iraq's Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari speaks during a news conference in Baghdad November 19, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/AHMED SAAD (Reuters) - The government of Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region have begun implementing a deal under which Baghdad resumes funding Kurdish civil servant salaries in return for a share of Kurdish oil exports, Iraq's finance minister said on Wednesday. The accord aims to reduce friction between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities as they face a common threat from Islamic State insurgents who have seized large parts of the north and west of the country. Under the agreement reached last week, Kurdish authorities committed to pump 150,000 barrels per day of oil - around half their overall shipments - to Iraqi government export tanks in the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Baghdad agreed to pay $500 million towards Kurdish salaries. Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said that the Kurdish Regional Government began pumping oil to State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) tanks at Ceyhan on Tuesday and the $500 million was transferred on Wednesday. "This payment will be followed by other payments," Zebari, who is a Kurd, told a news conference in Baghdad. Baghdad cut the Kurds' share of the budget to punish them for exporting oil without its consent. The region was plunged into financial crisis, but has continued pumping oil through its independent pipeline to Turkey, and exports recently increased to around 300,000 bpd. Iraqi leaders are under pressure to bury differences in order to counter Islamic State militants who control substantial parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. In July, then-foreign minister Zebari said the Kurdish political bloc withdrew from the national government in protest against then-prime minister Nuri al-Maliki's accusation that Kurds were harboring Islamist insurgents in their capital. The Kurds later rejoined the administration. But tensions persist even after Maliki's replacement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also a Shi'ite Muslim but seen as more moderate and capable of cooperating with Sunni Muslims and Kurds. There are about 5 million Kurds in majority Arab Iraq, which has a population of more than 30 million. Most live in the north, where they run their own affairs, but remain reliant on Baghdad for a share of the national budget. (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
  14. Maliki warns against interference in forming of new Iraq government BAGHDAD Wed Aug 6, 2014 6:56am EDT Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during a news conference after a meeting with speaker of parliament Salim al-Jabouri in Baghdad July 26, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/STRINGER/FILES (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is under mounting pressure to give up his bid for a third term in office, said on Wednesday that any unconstitutional attempt to form a new government would open "the gates of hell" in the country. In his weekly address to the nation, Maliki also said he rejected any outside interference in the process, an apparent reference to regional power broker Tehran, which Iranian officials have said believes Maliki can no longer hold his country together.
  15. Maliki and the arduous task of winning a third term as prime minister of Iraq Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:28 pm GMT End of Parker and Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Nuri al-Maliki lifted his arm, waving to the pioneers of a Baghdad restaurant where the food he ate in 2008 was the gesture confirmation of his reputation as the man who restored a measure of the manifestations of the normal life of the city, which is about the destruction of the civil war. Now re-Maliki appearing among the people so he went wandering in the streets of the city to prove that he fully aware of their problems, which induce voters to vote for him to win a third term as prime minister of Iraq when casting their ballots in the elections on Wednesday. Maliki and louder rumbling in the office to register cars during the tour, which broadcast TV and proceedings last month, he says, people who were standing waiting outside under the sun, although suffering from "sitting behind his desk and cooling on the head relieved and the citizen is the one who suffers." However, the rise in violence to its highest level since Maliki challenged the armed militias in 2008 weakens this message. Maliki still tops ‭ ‭ ‬ ‬ race but tread lightly around him and his opponents may be able to defeat if they can overcome great obstacles. Slowly approaching the attack began a year ago, Sunni insurgents inspired by al-Qaeda from the Iraqi capital as the Shi'ite militias, often operating in the ranks of the security forces carried out reprisals against Sunni residential communities which weakens the position of the Maliki government. In March alone fell 180 dead and 477 wounded among civilians in Baghdad alone among the more than 2,000 people dead across Iraq since the beginning of the year. Typically, shows al-Maliki in meetings and behind the curtain closed and security is his usual revenge on the perpetrators of the bombings that have become familiar, hinting again in the lives of Iraqis and criticism of his political opponents, who say they are determined to harm it. Over the past eight years has focused Maliki's power in his hand Vchgl himself and the defense and interior ministries and security in addition to the prime minister and give him an advantage electoral An example of this attack, which began on Sunni insurgents in the past year. But that created him enemies among the leaders of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike, and opponents say they are willing to renounce sectarian differences in order to remove him from the prime minister. * Better than others Maliki portrays himself as a man who prevents the Sunni extremists in Iraq's Anbar province in Syria from harm and that their co-religionists in stark contrast to his non-sectarian in the previous elections in March 2010, before a year and half of the U.S. troop withdrawal. And disappeared for a long time the language of the pledge of national unity, which was spoken in the past. In a speech this month, al-Maliki accused his political opponents to undermine the ongoing battle in Anbar, which led to a deadlock in the position of the two sides for months. It is estimated by some in the Iraqi security services to more than a thousand soldiers from the Shiites were killed and thousands of others fled from serving in the military with mounting complaints of uniformed soldiers Shiites that their leadership did not provide them with equipment and training necessary to achieve victory. Maliki said: "With great regret, at a time when our military is facing these killers and criminals, stabbed in the back by politicians, is accused in the faith." Perhaps he wants the Iraqis, including the Shiite majority leader last, but many can not imagine an alternative to the owners and say it better. Maliki's aides say that the war on the organization of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Anbar province west of Baghdad, going in his favor. He said one of his advisers "before the events of Anbar was Shiite citizens are unhappy with public services and Maliki was seen as a weak .. but then after the events of Anbar became a people view him as a man of strong and he is right to use force against these people .. and that there is a sectarian flavor in it." He warned of a tribal leader from the north of Baghdad last week that his successor will have to rebuild the military command relied on al-Maliki at a time when state regulation of Islamic fighters in Iraq and the Levant at a distance of 26 kilometers from Baghdad and became they could get access to the Shi'ite neighborhoods. According to the mass of the Iraqi citizen that combines two of his former opponents are ISCI and the Sadrist movement led by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said that if al-Maliki remained prime minister has torn Iraq. He hopes the two can lead to fragmentation of the vote gave them a chance to win. One of the most important bloc candidates citizen is Bayan Jabr, a former interior minister who says the year he was allowed to manage militias, death squads under the guise of police in 2005. Jabr denies the charge. He says that Jabr al-Maliki mismanaged the war and that his moment of glory after putting an end to the civil war in 2008 has ended a long time ago. Jabor said to Reuters: "We are now in 2014, and can not refer to eight years back and I think that the future of Iraq if this remains the current performance ... Siczy Iraq be divided." * "Luckiest" Also, the opponents of Maliki and Sunni Kurds have their grievances him eight years ago. Understanding criticize him not to involve them in power with him in his second term after the agreement on assuming responsibility for the organs of defense, interior and intelligence. There was also anger at the prosecution Sunni Vice President and Minister of Finance and his escape from Iraq since U.S. troops left at the end of 2011. He joined most of his opponents in the no-confidence vote in 2012, but the move failed. But they gathered once again driven by resentment of the man who was chosen in 2006 as a compromise candidate weak Everyone was believed to be flexible. There are indications that the popularity of the Shiite al-Maliki, a protection Thtre began in the south, where Shiites account for the majority of the population. The crowd of protesters chanted slogans accusing Maliki of lying in Nasiriyah because of a promise to build more housing units. One of the most disturbing factors to the Prime Minister that senior Shiite clerics began to oppose it. Said Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi, one of the four largest Shiite religious leaders over the weekend that his followers not to vote for the owners because of the war effort failed in Anbar and corruption charges that draws many of his administration. And is looking forward to follow the views of millions of senior clerics, but the influence of al-Najafi is the least among the ayatollahs. So far, al-Maliki bucking all expectations, to the extent that some Iraqi politicians described him as Ofer men fortunate. Maliki has adopted in his quest to hold on to power as a quantum well known in the chaotic country. In the current election did not show neither the U.S. nor Iran agreeing to al-Maliki or refusing him. And cares about all of Washington and Tehran stability is expected to endorse the candidate who feels that he can ensure the return to calm the situation quickly. Maliki adviser predicted an increase share of the Prime Minister of the seats in parliament to 90 seats out of 70 seats were advisers expect an attack by al-Anbar. Late last year, observers say that ordinary Iraqis are becoming aware of the shortcomings of the campaign Anbar. But in the absence of reliable opinion polls, remains a mystery voting trends. A Western diplomat said that the significant increase appeared to be in support of the Shiites to the owners by the battle in Anbar may not continue. The diplomat said, "With the passage of time if this does not resolve the conflict or not achieved tangible progress there is a risk that the public is losing patience with the Shiites and begin to look at the other leaders of the Shiites." If the back of the leader of another such support enjoyed by the source of the seriousness of the al-Maliki prepared to meet him has tested opponents in very difficult situations. He described his adviser to attack the city of Fallujah in Anbar, which lies under the control of insurgents as another paper could play in his quest for survival. Even Maliki's opponents concede that their differences could undermine their position with a different Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis on key positions. The government consists of a set of arrangements and take the head of state, which is approved by a majority of two-thirds of the members of Parliament appoint the prime minister to form a government. Kurds and served as president since 2005 and is looking forward now to the year this position, which may contribute to the complex negotiating process may take a long time, which would be in favor of al-Maliki. The lawyer said Prince Kanani MP from the Sadrist bloc, "The next government will either quickly or that formed it would take more than a year .. and it would be dangerous." "And if it continues this government as a government emergency (due to fighting), people will push the masses to accept al-Maliki. And perhaps abandon Maliki's allies in the coalition of state law, if he felt that it may not be able to get a majority. Perhaps nominated his national security adviser Falah al-Fayyad or former chief of staff Tariq Najim or MP Haider Abadi. It is the candidates of the mass of citizens also former Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite. But these candidates may be reluctant if the agreement to form a government with the Sunnis and Kurds will break Shi'ite solidarity. For the owners leave the office would mean the end of a long way in the political life since his years in exile in Iran and Syria. Having lost 67 of his relatives because Saddam Hussein was dreaming after al-Maliki in 2003 to work in the orchards. But he found himself in Baghdad, and now has become the face of what may prove to be the final chapter in his story. But he is not ready to go. (Munir Bawīti preparation for the Arab Bulletin - Edit Ola Shawky) © Thomson Reuters 2014 All rights reserved.
  16. Time to end al Qaeda presence in Falluja: Iraq's Maliki BY AHMED RASHEED BAGHDAD Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:11pm EST Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with Reuters in Baghdad January 12, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/THAIER AL-SUDANI (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday it was time to clear al Qaeda-linked militants out of the rebel-held city of Falluja, but set no deadline for any military assault. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda offshoot also on the frontlines of Syria's civil war, overran Falluja with help from other Sunni Muslim groups on January 1. Iraqi troops and security forces have set up a loose cordon around the city, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad, and have clashed sporadically with insurgents inside, but Maliki has said community leaders and tribesmen should force ISIL to withdraw, in order to spare Falluja more bloodshed and destruction. "The time has come to settle this issue and end the presence of this gang in this city and save its people from their evil," Maliki said in his weekly televised address to the nation. Three hours later, helicopter gunships bombarded eastern and northern districts of Falluja, residents said. It was not clear if that was the prelude to wider military action. Helicopters have been in action before on the outskirts of the city. On Tuesday, Iraqi air force strikes killed more than 50 militants of various Arab nationalities and destroyed large amounts of ammunition in the western province of Anbar, a Defense Ministry statement said. It did not say exactly where the raids on "gatherings of terrorist groups" took place. Maliki again urged the people of Falluja to "to take crucial positions on the presence of those dirty people without losses and without sacrifices," but set no precise time limit. "Those criminals are seeking to ignite sectarian strife and to end up with the division of Iraq," Maliki said. Maliki faces a parliamentary poll on April 30 with violence in Iraq at its worst since Sunni-Shi'ite killings peaked in 2006-2007. His critics say his policies have fuelled grievances among minority Sunnis, driving some into the arms of ISIL, which has also exploited the war in Syria to make a comeback in Iraq. ISIL militants, who are greatly outnumbered by armed tribesmen in Falluja, have kept a generally low profile, telling mosque congregations repeatedly that their mission is to protect the population, not to impose their harsh version of sharia law. LAWLESS CITY However, ISIL circulated leaflets last week announcing the formation of a "Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice", which recalled memories of the Islamic courts that meted out rough justice in Falluja when it was controlled by a hardline Islamist council in 2005 to 2006. While people in Falluja are hostile to Maliki's Shi'ite-led government, many fear a full-scale army attack that would echo two fierce U.S. assaults on insurgents there in 2004. Tens of thousands of people have fled the city, U.N. officials say. Efforts to negotiate a solution have so far failed. Tribal chiefs and clerics met on Sunday to pick a new mayor and police chief, but ISIL rejected the outcome because it had not been represented in the talks, participants in the meeting said. ISIL militants have brought more fighters and weapons into Falluja in the last three weeks, and other armed groups have proliferated in the security vacuum. Residents said they could not tell the allegiance of the roaming gunmen. Two days ago, armed men abducted a former Falluja police chief in the city's southern outskirts. Relatives and tribal leaders said they were seeking his release by paying a ransom. "The situation in Falluja is critical and getting out of control," said one tribal leader. "Everyone is carrying guns and it would only take a spark to ignite a war in the city." (Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Alister Doyle) Maliki calls for the people of Fallujah Thau to start a military campaign and wide- JANUARY 22, 2014 BAGHDAD - Eastern January 22: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the people of the city of Fallujah to Althau to start a military campaign and extensive cleared of armed groups which they are located Maliki said that the time has come to resolve the issue and end the presence of gangs
  17. WM/Reuters Busted In Latest Market Rigging And Collusion Scandal: Foreign Exchange Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/11/2013 19:41 -040 First it was the conspiracy theory that Li(e)bor traders were manipulating the entire rates market which a year ago became conspiracy fact. Then it was commodities with an emphasis on the energy market (but not gold - gold is never, ever manipulated) with even such luminaries as JPMorgan's Blythe Masters, subsequently implicated. And moments ago, via Bloomberg, to absolutely nobody's surprise, we learn that that final market which so far had not been exposed as the "wild west" of manipulators, the FX market, is part of the conspiracy "fact" too. According to Bloomberg, "employees have been front-running client orders and rigging WM/Reuters rates by pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set, said the current and former traders, who requested anonymity because the practice is controversial. Dealers colluded with counterparts to boost chances of moving the rates, said two of the people, who worked in the industry for a total of more than 20 years." The specifics should be well-known to those who have followed all other "fixing" scandals to date, because for the most part they are identical, just cover a different asset class: The behavior occurred daily in the spot foreign-exchange market and has been going on for at least a decade, affecting the value of funds and derivatives, the two traders said. The Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s markets supervisor, is considering opening a probe into potential manipulation of the rates, according to a person briefed on the matter. “The FX market is like the Wild West,” said James McGeehan, who spent 12 years at banks before co-founding Framingham, Massachusetts-based FX Transparency LLC, which advises companies on foreign-exchange trading, in 2009. “It’s buyer beware.” The $4.7-trillion-a-day currency market, the biggest in the financial system, is one of the least regulated. Now we know why, and it's not only because this is the primary venue where the central banks of the world try to outsmart and outtrade each other in the New Normal. How is WM/Reuters implicated? The WM/Reuters rates are used by fund managers to compute the day-to-day value of their holdings and by index providers such as FTSE Group and MSCI Inc. that track stocks and bonds in multiple countries. While the rates aren’t followed by most investors, even small movements can affect the value of what Morningstar Inc. (MORN) estimates is $3.6 trillion in funds including pension and savings accounts that track global indexes. One of Europe’s largest money managers has complained about possible manipulation to British regulators within the past 12 months, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked that neither he nor the firm be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The WM/Reuters rates data are collected and distributed by World Markets Co., a unit of Boston-based State Street Corp., and Thomson Reuters Corp. Reading through the article one can't help but feel a modest smugness by Bloomberg which in the past month had been repeatedly slighted by Reuters due to the infamous Bloomberg "surveillance" scandal, which promptly faded following the news that the government was doing just that to, well, everyone. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, competes with New York-based Thomson Reuters in providing news and information, as well as currency-trading systems and pricing data. Bloomberg LP also distributes the WM/Reuters rates on Bloomberg terminals. As for the details, think Libor setting and fixing. Only in FX: Introduced in 1994, the WM/Reuters rates provide standardized benchmarks allowing fund managers to value holdings and assess performance. The rates also are used in forwards and other contracts that require an exchange rate at settlement. “The price mechanism is the anchor of our entire economic system,” said Tom Kirchmaier, a fellow in the financial-markets group at the London School of Economics. “Any rigging of the price mechanism leads to a misallocation of capital and is extremely costly to society.” The rates are published hourly for 160 currencies and half-hourly for 21 of them. For the 21 -- major currencies from the British pound to the South African rand -- the benchmarks are the median of all trades in a minute-long period starting 30 seconds before the beginning of each half-hour. If there aren’t enough transactions between a pair of currencies during the reference period, the rate is based on the median of traders’ orders, which are offers to sell or bids to buy. Rates for the other, less-widely traded currencies are calculated using quotes during a two-minute window. And since it is a very rapid and largely liquid market, everyone waits until the last minute: As market-makers, banks execute orders to buy and sell for clients as well as trade on their own accounts. Companies and asset managers typically ask banks to buy or sell currencies at a specified WM/Reuters fix later in the day, most commonly the 4 p.m. London close. That arrangement is open to abuse, as it gives traders a window in which they can adjust their own positions and try to move the benchmark to boost their profit, three of the dealers said. Customers often wait until the hour before the 4 p.m. close to place large orders to minimize the opportunity for banks to trade against them, one investor and a trader said. Index funds, which track baskets of securities from around the world each day, are particularly vulnerable because they need to place hundreds of foreign-exchange trades with banks using WM/Reuters rates, according to two money managers. The funds buy securities to match their holdings to the indexes they are required to track. The issue is most acute at the end of the month, when index-tracker funds invest new money from clients. Specifically, the "manipulated" trades occur using such tried and true methods as banging the close. End result: massive profits on a daily basis for dealers. By concentrating orders in the moments before and during the 60-second window, traders can push the rate up or down, a process known as “banging the close,” four dealers said. Three said that when they received a large order they would adjust their own positions knowing that their client’s trade could move the market. If they didn’t do so, they said, they risked losing money for their banks. One trader with more than a decade of experience said that if he received an order at 3:30 p.m. to sell 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in exchange for Swiss francs at the 4 p.m. fix, he would have two objectives: to sell his own euros at the highest price and also to move the rate lower so that at 4 p.m. he could buy the currency from his client at a lower price. He would profit from the difference between the reference rate and the higher price at which he sold his own euros, he said. A move in the benchmark of 2 basis points, or 0.02 percent, would be worth 200,000 francs ($216,000), he said. It's a small, manipulative club, and you're not in it. Also, the club meets every day for about 60 seconds and then promptly disperses. To maximize profit, dealers would buy or sell client orders in installments during the 60-second window to exert the most pressure possible on the published rate, three traders said. Because the benchmark is based on the median of transactions during the period, placing a number of smaller trades could have a greater impact than one big deal, one dealer said. Traders would share details of orders with brokers and counterparts at banks through instant messages to align their strategies, two of them said. They also would seek to glean information about impending trades to improve their chances of getting the desired move in the benchmark, they said. The tactic is most effective with less-widely traded currencies, the traders said. It could still backfire if another dealer with a larger position bets in the other direction or if market-moving news breaks during the 60-second window, one of them said So there you have it - the next Li(e)bor scandal: Bloomberg News contacted foreign-exchange traders and investors after some market participants expressed concern that the WM/Reuters rates were vulnerable to manipulation. The traders and investors said they expected their market would be the next to be scrutinized. And the punchline: it is all self-policed. Brilliant - a bunch of sociopaths promising to do the "right thing" While U.K. regulators require dealers to act with integrity and avoid conflicts, there are no specific rules or agencies governing spot foreign-exchange trading in Britain or the U.S. That may make it harder to bring prosecutions for market abuse, according to Srivastava, the Baker & McKenzie partner. Spot foreign-exchange transactions aren’t considered financial instruments in the same way as stocks and bonds. They fall outside the European Union’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, or Mifid, which requires dealers to take all reasonable steps to ensure the best possible results for their clients. They’re also exempt from the Dodd-Frank Act, which seeks to regulate over-the-counter derivatives in the U.S. “Just because Mifid doesn’t apply, the spot FX market shouldn’t be a free-for-all for banks,” said Ash Saluja, a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna LLP in London. “Whenever you have a client relationship, there is a duty there.” Sixteen of the largest banks, including Barclays, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Deutsche Bank (DBK), signed a voluntary code of conduct for foreign-exchange and money-market dealers in 2001 that was later included as an annex to guidelines issued by the Bank of England in November 2011. The BOE’s Non-Investment Products Code, which some banks use in contracts with clients, states “caution should be taken so that customers’ interests are not exploited when financial intermediaries trade for their own accounts.” It also says that “manipulative practices by banks with each other or with clients constitute unacceptable trading behavior.” “The thing about the code is it is a voluntary code,” the lawyer said. “It may be that compliance with that has almost been seen as optional.” Wait, you mean bankers signed a voluntary code of conduct promising not to steal and cheat their clients and... proceeded to steal and cheat? Unpossible: bankers would never do that. But since the FX market is indeed huge, and since this is like the Office Space strategy of taking tiny bits of "other people's money", even as everyone in the circle was making illegal profits, and since everyone's interests were aligned, here once again we get the perfect example of what everyone previously said could not happen: a massive manipulative conspiracy which is "impossible" as someone is always expected to talk. Guess what - they never talk if they have enough incentives not to. But the real bottom line is if any idiot is still wondering why there will never be a great rotation out of bonds into stocks, FX, commodities, or whatever, it is because by now everyone knows that the market is one giant rigged and manipulated casino. And it is much more enjoyable to blow your money away in Vegas that alongside the E*trade baby.
  18. Thanks WS for article. Treasury Removes Sanctions on Iraqi Bank 5/17/2013 Action Follows a Verified Change of Behavior from the Elaf Islamic Bank WASHINGTON – The Department of the Treasury today lifted sanctions against the Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq following the bank’s significant and demonstrated change in behavior. On July 31, 2012 the Treasury Department imposed sanctions under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), against Elaf Islamic Bank, a privately-owned Iraqi financial institution, for knowingly facilitating significant transactions and providing significant financial services for the U.S. and EU-designated Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI). Following the CISADA finding, Elaf immediately engaged the Treasury Department and began an intensive course of action to stop the conduct that led to the CISADA sanction, including freezing EDBI accounts at Elaf and reducing its overall exposure to the Iranian financial sector. Following today’s action U.S. financial institutions are once again permitted to open or maintain correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts in the United States for Elaf Islamic Bank. “Today we welcome Elaf Islamic Bank back into the U.S. financial system, and we urge other designated individuals and entities around the world to follow its positive example. As today’s delisting demonstrates, our sanctions are flexible and can be lifted if the conduct that led to the sanction terminates,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “As we increase our sanctions against Iran, we will continue to target any financial institution that works with designated Iranian banks or attempts to assist Iran in evading sanctions.” Sanctions may be, and regularly are, lifted when circumstances warrant, which includes ceasing the sanctionable activity. Any sanctioned party may petition OFAC for sanctions to be lifted. In general, demonstrating changes in circumstances or behavior are essential to the lifting of sanctions. Treasury will continue to use all tools at its disposal to target entities or individuals engaging in sanctionable activity related to Iran. CISADA was signed into law by President Obama in July 2010. Among other things, CISADA provides the Secretary of the Treasury with the authority to impose strict conditions on, or prohibit the opening or maintaining of, correspondent accounts or payable-through accounts in the United States for foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate a significant transaction or provide significant financial services for a person whose property and interests in property are blocked under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act in connection with Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or delivery systems for WMD, or for Iran’s support for international terrorism. U.S. lifts sanctions on Iraq bank that had links to Iran An Iranian flag flutters in front of the head office of the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) in Tehran November 9, 2008 WASHINGTON | Fri May 17, 2013 2:03pm EDT (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it had allowed an Iraqi bank to again conduct business with the U.S. financial system after the bank showed it was no longer helping Iran evade financial sanctions. Iraq's Elaf Islamic Bank BELF.ISX was first blacklisted by the United States last year for knowingly doing business with the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), an Iranian state bank the United States accuses of being a "proliferator" of weapons of mass destruction. Getting sanctioned by the United States forces foreign banks to make a choice: cut ties to blacklisted Iranian institutions or be cut off from the United States. Washington has imposed a series of financial and trade sanctions against Iran to pressure it to curb its nuclear program, which the United States suspects is aimed at developing atom bombs. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes. The U.S. Treasury Department said the Elaf Islamic Bank had to complete several steps to regain its access to the U.S. financial system, including freezing the accounts of EDBI and reducing its business with the Iranian financial sector. "Today we welcome Elaf Islamic Bank back into the U.S. financial system, and we urge other designated individuals and entities around the world to follow its positive example," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement. "As today's de-listing demonstrates, our sanctions are flexible and can be lifted if the conduct that led to the sanction terminates," he said. A 2010 act allows the United States to sanction foreign banks that do business with Iranian banks, companies or people that are banned from the U.S. financial system. This is the first time the United States has lifted sanctions under that law. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Eric Beech)
  19. Exclusive: U.S. plans to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances Link: By Emily Flitter and Stella Dawson and Mark Hosenball NEW YORK/WASHINGTON | Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:51pm EDT NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters. The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates. Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN. The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes. The planning document, dated March 4, shows that the proposal is still in its early stages of development, and it is not known when implementation might begin. Financial institutions file more than 15 million "suspicious activity reports" every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000, as well as suspected incidents of money laundering, loan fraud, computer hacking or counterfeiting. "For these reports to be of value in detecting money laundering, they must be accessible to law enforcement, counter-terrorism agencies, financial regulators, and the intelligence community," said the Treasury planning document. A Treasury spokesperson said U.S. law permits FinCEN to share information with intelligence agencies to help detect and thwart threats to national security, provided they adhere to safeguards outlined in the Bank Secrecy Act. "Law enforcement and intelligence community members with access to this information are bound by these safeguards," the spokesperson said in a statement. Some privacy watchdogs expressed concern about the plan when Reuters outlined it to them. A move like the FinCEN proposal "raises concerns as to whether people could find their information in a file as a potential terrorist suspect without having the appropriate predicate for that and find themselves potentially falsely accused," said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for the Rule of Law Program at the Constitution Project, a non-profit watchdog group. Despite these concerns, legal experts emphasize that this sharing of data is permissible under U.S. law. Specifically, banks' suspicious activity reporting requirements are dictated by a combination of the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA PATRIOT Act, which offer some privacy safeguards. National security experts also maintain that a robust system for sharing criminal, financial and intelligence data among agencies will improve their ability to identify those who plan attacks on the United States. "It's a war on money, war on corruption, on politically exposed persons, anti-money laundering, organized crime," said Amit Kumar, who advised the United Nations on Taliban sanctions and is a fellow at the Democratic think tank Center for National Policy. SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY The Treasury document outlines a proposal to link the FinCEN database with a computer network used by U.S. defense and law enforcement agencies to share classified information called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. The plan calls for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence - set up after 9/11 to foster greater collaboration among intelligence agencies - to work with Treasury. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. More than 25,000 financial firms - including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies - routinely file "suspicious activity reports" to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies. Stephen Vladeck, a professor at American University's Washington College of Law, said privacy advocates have already been pushing back against the increased data-sharing activities between government agencies that followed the September 11 attacks. "One of the real pushes from the civil liberties community has been to move away from collection restrictions on the front end and put more limits on what the government can do once it has the information," he said. Michael German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that U.S. officials had floated a similar scheme to pool such data a decade ago, but that funding for the plan was later withdrawn by Congress. He said one of the problematic aspects of the plan is that there is "wiggle room" on how the information will be used. In the past, the National CounterTerrorism Center, which is supposed to ensure that critical threat information is shared among various agencies, was obliged to "promptly identify and purge any innocent U.S. person information." But the guidelines were subsequently loosened so that "not only can they keep the data for a number of years, but they can continue to use it," German said. Once spy agencies get such data, German said, "it's in a black hole. Time and again, we have evidence, unfortunately well after the fact, that somebody's civil rights have been violated, that the intelligence community simply ignores the rules."
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