Monthly Archives: February 2015


Repairing Credit


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BBB warns of bogus computer tech support firms

Despite a series of recent law enforcement actions against bogus computer tech support firms, the Consumer Fraud Task Force is warning that the scams are continuing to victimize residents of Missouri, Illinois and the nation.

The Task Force suggests that consumers exercise extreme caution when contacted by callers who claim they can repair home or business computers remotely for an advance fee. The Task Force also suggests that consumers searching the Internet for computer repair companies make sure they are contacting a reputable business.

In many cases, the scammers use the name of a legitimate, well-known company like Microsoft to trick consumers into paying them money and giving up control of their computers. Consumers often report that the scammers install viruses or malware on their computers, or continue to take money from their accounts even after an initial payment.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that while exact numbers are unknown, it appears that the numbers of complaints involving tech support scams have more than doubled in the past year.

In recent months, several consumers have contacted Better Business Bureau (BBB) about the scheme.

A couple from St. Louis said they lost $395 to thieves who called and promised to fix their computer, but instead disabled it and then demanded a second $395 payment.

A consumer from High Ridge said she paid $669 to what she later learned was a bogus tech support company.

Several people who said they were called and told their computers had been compromised or were malfunctioning did not own computers.

The FTC has been involved in several recent law enforcement actions against phony tech support businesses.

In November, the FTC and law enforcement in Florida obtained a federal court order temporarily shutting down a massive tech support scam that allegedly bilked $120 million from consumers.

A month earlier, a federal court shut down a New York-based business the FTC said made $2.5 million selling bogus computer services to consumers. The FTC claimed that scammers cold-called consumers masquerading as representatives of Microsoft or Facebook.

The Task Force offers the following advice for avoiding tech support scams:

o Never give control of your computer to anyone who phones you unexpectedly or who you do not know.

o Know who you are calling or emailing. Understand that tech support scammers can have their contact information listed on the Internet. Many pay to have their information higher in Internet search results. Never wire cash or provide credit card or banking information to anyone you do not know.

o Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a call. Phone numbers can be spoofed.

o If you feel you have been scammed, contact the FTC, your states attorney general and BBB.

The Task Force is a coalition of local, state and federal government agencies and nonprofit business and consumer groups in Missouri and Illinois that work together to protect consumer and donor rights and guard against fraud.

The group has tackled predatory payday loan offers, tax scams, timeshare reselling fraud, credit repair and foreclosure scams, bogus sweepstakes, Internet sweetheart scams, home remodeling, air duct cleaning schemes and a variety of other issues.




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Youngest-ever finance director at 23 retires from Eustis at 60

EUSTIS Jim Myers will be in and out of the office mostly out.

Myers, who officially retires March 2 as finance director of Eustis, started packing up his office about the second week of January. Hes been with the city since October 1974 when he came on as the citys first administrative accountant.

After 40 years, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to do that. Ive got boxes in my garage now, he said. It doesnt seem like its been over 40 years, but sometimes it does. Its been an enjoyable experience.


Pay Day Loans


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Murphy in bid to put zero-hours contracts on agenda

Mr Miliband has repeatedly said he will clamp down on zero-hours contracts if he becomes Prime Minister and Mr Murphy said he would ensure they are binned once and for all if Labour formed the next Westminster Government.

There are 84,000 proud Scots who are too often forced into zero hour contracts, he said. Too many are left worried about whether they will have enough work and wages to be able to put food on the table from one week to the next. Many are blocked from getting credit they can afford and turn to extortionate pay day loans. Its no way to treat people who want to work hard and get on in life.

When working families prosper Scotland prospers, when people have decent pay and conditions they spend more and Scotlands economy grows. Thats the way to build a fairer Scotland.

A spokesman for Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that despite Mr Blairs pledge at his Brighton conference speech in 1995, use of zero-hours contracts had increased under his premiership. He also pointed to reports that Labour-run councils and MPs were employing workers with no guarantees of work.

He added: By contrast, there are no people on zero hours contracts within the direct employment of the Scottish Government. Banning the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts would require the Scottish Parliament to have powers over employment law, which is currently reserved to Westminster and which Labour refused to consider devolving as part of the Smith Commission process.

The Scottish Government is doing what it can within the powers available to it to tackle the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts, which will include issuing statutory guidance under the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 on how workforce-related matters should be considered when assessing the suitability of a company to bid for public contracts.




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Greek finance minister says willing to sign different finance deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Monday he had been prepared to agree to a deal with creditors that would have given Athens four to six months additional credit in return for putting major new budget policies on hold.

He said the European Commission had put such a suggestion to him before Mondays meeting of euro zone finance ministers but that it had been superseded by a different draft proposal – from Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem – that he could not sign because it obliged Athens to extend its current bailout package.

Dijsselbloems proposal was highly problematic, he said.

We were offering to refrain effectively from implementing our own program for a period of six months and all we were getting back was a nebulous promise of some flexibility that was never specified, Varoufakis told reporters.

Under those circumstances it proved impossible for the Greek government, despite our infinite good will, to sign the offered communique. And so the discussions continue.

A Commission official said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici had contributed ideas in discussions with Varoufakis but that only the Eurogroup proposal was the object of negotiations.

Varoufakis said he remained ready to sign a proposal based on Moscovicis ideas.

I was prepared to sign it this morning, this afternoon, I would sign it at midnight, tomorrow at 9 in the morning. I would even consider signing some (other) version of it because the point here is not to allow an impasse.

While many of the other finance ministers present at the talks expressed disappointment and worry over their failure, Varoufakis said negotiations in the room were conducted in a collegial spirit.

Their purpose, he said, was to establish an interim programme over the next four to six months in order to reach a meaningful, sustainable new long-term contract between Greece and Europe and with the IMF.

He said he was optimistic a deal would be struck within the next 48 hours.

Europe will do the usual trick. It will pull a good agreement, an honorable agreement, out of what seems to be an impasse, he said.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Ingrid Melander and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Paul Taylor)




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COLUMN-Finance, or why we can’t have nice things: James Saft

(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are
his own)

By James Saft

n>Feb 17 (Reuters) – It is more than a coincidence: the growth
of finance really is holding the rest of the economy back.

Even worse, according to a new paper from the Bank for
International Settlements (,
this likely happens in part because we have too many clever
bankers who would be producing more of value as aerospace
designers or drug researchers.

Good thing then, that we have complex mortgage products to
divert us while we are suffering from uncured diseases and not
riding in faster, cheaper and quieter jets.

Over the past 35 years or so there has been a clear
correlation between the growth of finance, as a share of the
economy, and weaker growth in productivity, the measure of how
much we create given the resources we put in. While the study
looks at data from 15 advanced economies, the US experience is
a good illustration. Profits from the financial sector now run
at about 20 percent of the whole, about double the level from
World War II to the 1970s. By one measure, productivity since
1970 has grown at less than half the 1945-1969 rate, implying a
massive shortfall in growth.

That growth in finance has been a drag on productivity,
according to the study, while also distorting how resources are
invested and what comes out the other end.

Where skilled labor works in finance, the financial sector
grows more quickly at the expense of the real economy. We go on
to show that consistent with this theory, financial growth
disproportionately harms financially dependent and RD-intensive
industries, Stephen Cecchetti of Brandeis University and Enisse
Kharroubi of the BIS write.

Amazing, if not surprising, then, is the way in which the
finance industry has attracted and maintained subsidies. Finance
benefits massively from the tax-deductibility of debt and
through direct and indirect means because of government support
in times of stress.

Maintaining these and other subsidies through lobbying and
other kinds of suasion is certainly part of how the scads of
clever people drawn into the financial industry are deployed.

At the center of the problem seems to be the way in which an
overdeveloped financial sector seems to distort the allocation
of resources.


In part this is because finance, by its nature, will tend to
favor projects with lots of collateral to claim back if things
go wrong but with lower prospective results if successful. Real
estate development is a good example. Real estate features land
and houses to be pledged against loans, making it appear a safer
bet than backing the Apple or Tesla of tomorrow. Housing, and
other low-productivity sectors, usually win out, according to
the study.

This may help to explain why construction-driven booms, like
the sub-prime bubble, are often associated with rapid growth in
finance. Taking talent into account can magnify the effect, with
bankers getting better at making loans and reclaiming collateral
but entrepreneurs having less incentive to swing for the fences
and hire the best.

Better, in other words, if you are an entrepreneur to gamble
with borrowed money while hiring brick-layers than employing
Harvard-trained physicists in an aerospace project. That
physicist, as we saw in the last boom, becomes a financial
engineer instead.

The implication to this pattern, as it is played out across
an economy over a long period, is that more and more resources
are dedicated to lower-yield projects and fewer to higher-payoff

The study estimates that a sector with a high research and
development requirement with the bad luck to be in a country
whose financial system is growing rapidly will grow 1.9 to 2.9
percentage points a year slower than one with low RD needs in a
country with a slow-growing financial sector.

And this is all before we consider the ways in which the
finance sector is gamed by its workers to their own advantage.
Medical research and aerospace offer far fewer ways for workers
to exploit their own greater understanding of the field than
that of their bosses. Bankers and fund managers are forever
claiming to have come up with superior products and strategies
which only blow up some time later, often after the designer has
pocketed a fortune and left the building.

Observing this state of play, even demonstrating that it is
happening, is not enough.

The real struggle has to come in designing regulation that,
gently but firmly, shrinks the financial sector, preferably

There was a time, from the imposition of Glass-Steagall
banking legislation in 1933 to the 1970s, when banking was
boring and its practitioners a bit dull.

Our wealth, health and wellbeing may depend on driving the
brilliant out of banking.
(At the time of publication James Saft did not own any direct
investments in securities mentioned in this article. He may be
an owner indirectly as an investor in a fund. You can email him
at and find more columns at

(Editing by James Dalgleish)




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UT finance chief Kevin Hegarty stepping down, taking post at University of …

Kevin Hegarty, UTs vice president and chief financial officer, will step down from his position to become executive vice president and CFO at the University
of Michigan.

Mary Knight, associate vice president for finance, will serve as interim CFO until Hegartys positionis filled.

Hegarty will make the transition from Texas to Michigan during this semester, pending approval from Michigans Board of Regents. His last day working on campus will be Feb. 26.

Since 2001, Hegarty has overseen finance, budget, real estate, information technology, open records, payroll and purchasing at UT.

Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, spoke about Hegarty in a speech to Michigans Board of Regents.

Mr. Hegarty is strongly committed to the role of public universities and brings a valuable combination of private sector and public higher educationexperience to the appointment, Schlissel said. I am confident he will serve our university well in meeting the challenges ahead.

President William Powers Jr. said Hegarty has been a valuable resource to the University with regards to improvements in efficiency.

Few people in our Universitys history have served the campus with as much dedication and honor as Kevin, Powers said. He will be sorely missed and will always be a great friend. Kevins love for the Longhorns is exceeded only by his accomplishments improving the university, making us one of the most productive and efficient campuses in the nation and leading us through very challenging budget years.

Hegarty has contributed to large-scale projects at UT, such as information technology, finance and procurement services and Shared Services, a plan to centralize the Universitys human resources.

If you look at any of the main initiatives that have happened at the University things as big as the creation of the Dell Medical School Kevin and his expertise [have] really been central to that, UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. This is a big loss for the university, but we wish Kevin well.

Susswein said the search for Hegartys replacement will not begin until after the next UT president is in office.

Knight, who worked with Hegarty for the duration of his 13 years at UT, said she will continue to expand Shared Services whileserving as interim CFO.

Well continue to move forward with the Shared Services Initiative, Knight said. Its currently in a pilot phase, so it has a relatively small impact on the campus as a whole.

Knight commended Hegarty for his ability to work closely with faculty and administrators on campus.

Hes got fabulous working relationships with the deans and the vice presidents and really has the attitude of lsquo;we are here to help with the academic and research mission, and we want to do our jobs well so that the mission of the University can be accomplished, Knight said.


Credit Ratings


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A Fresh Approach to Credit Ratings


Over the past few years there have been discussions amongst the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries to open up their own rating agency that will compete with the big three credit rating agencies – that is, Standard and Poors (Samp;P), Moodys and the Fitch Group. Samp;P and Moodys are based in the US.

Since the 2008 global crisis the big three credit rating agencies have been under tight scrutiny, following risky mortgage-related securities that contributed to the collapse of the US housing market.

The crisis began when thousands of US homeowners stopped paying interest on their mortgages. The crisis spread because thousands of bankers and fund managers had imprudently backed those mortgages. They did this partly through their own lack of foresight and diligence, but also because of the ratings agencies failure to warn them of the risks involved.

As a result both banks and funds lost a great deal of money. In the run up to 2008, a staggering proportion of mortgage-based debts were rated AAA, when in fact they were essentially junk. Ratings given by rating agencies start from AAA (the highest rating), then comes AA1 and so on down the scale to C. Anything below BBB is known as junk.

This blog forms part of a special series of student articles on global governance.

Due to the financial crisis, the big three rating agencies are being criticised for their perceived lack of awareness of the risks which led to the crisis, and for the dominance they have on the market.

The credit rating agencies rate the creditworthiness of companies and currencies, and through this they give investors an idea which investments are safest to make.

Credit rating agencies are important and they have a major impact on todays financial markets, since rating actions impact on borrowers, issuers and governments: for example, sovereign ratings play a crucial role for the rated country, and a downgrade can have the immediate effect of making a countrys borrowing more expensive.

Although the BRICS have yet to open their own agency, in 2012 five international rating agencies across Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America entered into a joint venture to create a new global rating agency, ARC Ratings, which is meant to cater to the new multi-polar world in direct competition with US-centric agencies.

Three of these rating agencies are from the BRICS bloc – Brazils SR Rating, CARE Rating of India and GCR of South Africa. They are partnering with CPR of Portugal and MARC of Malaysia. ARC Ratings will be challenging the dominance of the worlds big three, which at present account for over 95% share of the global ratings market.

Representing four continents, ARC aims to rebuild and enhance reliability and transparency in the international credit rating industry which has suffered an immense loss of credibility in the wake of the financial crisis.

A rating from credit rating agencies is important for African companies as this helps to boost investors confidence across all assets and further helps with the development of Africas capital market.




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BRIEF-Alliance Pharma says finance director Richard Wright to leave

n>Feb 17 (Reuters) – Alliance Pharma Plc

* Richard Wright has informed board of his intention to
leave company, after nearly eight years as finance director

* Richard will remain in his role until May 31 2015.

Source text for Eikon:
Further company coverage:




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Pay Day Loans


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Financial knowledge gives young people a fighting chance

Jonathan Neubers Feb. 12 Guest Opinion on high school students needing a course in personal finance is right on the mark. My high school did have such a course called Consumer Economics. We had insurance agents visit to explain the various types of policies, bankers visit to explain the types of bank accounts, etc. We were given hypothetical circumstances showing what kind of salary someone was making and whether they were married and had children. Then we had to come up with a budget for that family to live within. Since most parents arent inclined to share their budget with their children, this is an invaluable learning tool.

Talking about how credit card debt can bury you, and the recent allure of pay-day loans, can give students a fighting chance with some basic financial knowledge to face the future.