Archive for May 17th, 2010

EU approves hedge fund transparency law

| 17/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): A panel of European Union lawmakers approved a proposal to force hedge fund managers outside the EU to agree to transparency standards in exchange for a so-called passport to market to investors in the 27-nation bloc. The European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee voted for the measure today (Monday 17 May) in Strasbourg, France, as part of a package of tougher rules for hedge-fund and private- equity managers. The full EU Parliament is due to give its verdict on the draft legislation, which the US has opposed, in July. “It’s very important,” Jean-Paul Gauzes, the French lawmaker who sponsored the bill in the parliament, said in an interview.

“We have to bring order.” The overall law, which would also see investment managers subject to restrictions on bonuses and how much debt they can use, was passed with 33 votes in favour, 11 against and three abstentions. It was opposed by UK conservative members of the committee.

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Pension dodgers face fines

| 17/05/2010 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Private sector employers that do not meet their obligations under the national pension law to pay their employee pension contributions will now face on the spot fines. The goal is to avoid the need for protracted and lengthy court proceedings to impose sanctions on non-compliant employers but to enable the pension board to impose immediate financial penalties on those that don’t pay. Speaking to CNS from the Cayman Brac on Friday Minister Rolston Anglin said that fine systems had proved to be the best way of improving compliance and reducing bureaucracy.

The Cayman Islands has a significant problem with delinquency and non-payment of pension contributions by private sector employers but very few have been prosecuted. The Office of the Complaints Commissioner recently revealed that more than 600 employers in Cayman are failing to meet their obligations under the law and her office was undertaking an investigation as a result of the numerous complaints made by disgruntled employees.
The private pension system in Cayman obligates all employers to provide pension schemes for staff and make a combined contribution of 10% of earnings 5 from the employee and 5 by the employer. However, some employers have failed to make any contributions fro years, despite taking the 5% from their employees.
Rolston Anglin who is Minister for Education, Training and Labour who has responsibility for pensions has proposed amending the current pension’s law and regulations to introduce administrative fines which will remove the need for a courtroom prosecution in order to bring sanctions against employer who are breaking the law.
The idea of administrative fines was raised in the Mercer report and has been advanced by several boards to deal with what are straight forward infractions.
“We expect that this will lead to more compliance with the pension requirement,” Anglin told CNS and explained that it would not impact the recent pension’s holiday which he introduced in order to give both employers and employees a temporary break from payments for up to two years.
The minister explained that as the ‘holiday’ will only be offered to employers who are either already fully compliant with the law or who have established with their pension providers a payment plan to make them compliant this potential reprieve for employers will continue unaffected.
The goal he said was to streamline the bureaucracy and make it easier to impose a direct sanction on people that were not paying.
The premier confirmed on Thursday that Cabinet has authorized the drafting of legislation that will allow the fines to be introduced as well as other changes to the law regarding pension plan registration fees. He said the fees relating to the industry had not been increased for more than ten years and revenue currently generated doesn’t cover the regulation of plans or of the system and government is bearing the greater part of the financial burden to regulate the private sector’s pension plans.

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Obama leads charge for global press freedom

| 17/05/2010 | 18 Comments

(CNS): President Barack Obama has signed a law intended to protect free press around the world. Underthe Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act, the State Department will identify countries where press freedom is being violated. Pearl, for whom the law has been named, was a Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded by militants in Pakistan in 2002. Obama said the law would be a signal to governments around the world that their actions, including treatment of the media, are being watched. Speaking at the ceremony, the president said that naming the law after Pearl served as a reminder that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.

“What this act does is it sends a strong message from the United States government and from the State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press,” the president said according to televised news reports from the US. “It also looks at countries that are — governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression, singles them out, and subjects them to the gaze of world opinion in ways that I think are extraordinarily important.”
Obama said it was about sending a message that governments around the world can’t just operate against the press with impunity. Joining the president in the Oval Office for the bill signing were the chief sponsors of the bill — Senator Chris Dodd and Rep. Adam Schiff, as well as Pearl’s widow, Mariane and Pearl’s parents and son.

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Quick response from Port Authority

| 17/05/2010 | 22 Comments

(CNS): While government entities have 30 calendar days to respond to FOI requests, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands responded to a request about the salary of the Port Director, (not the Chair of the PA Board Stefan Baraud who is a volunteer)  in just five days. The director earns between $15,000 and $17,000 per month (or $180,000 to $204,000 per year), according to the response. However, the information officer declined to specify the exact amount or details of the contract under the exemption in the FOI Law: ‘Records likely to endanger health and safety’, explaining that threats had been made to the port director’s life and that releasing this information might further provoke harassment.

FOI response


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Mickey gets the straight dope

| 17/05/2010 | 6 Comments

(CNS): Police burned 14534.528399 lbs of marijuana between January 2005 and October 2009, according to a response to a freedom of information request made to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. The request was made by Mickey Mouse, an international household name and long time employee of the Disney Corporation who was publicly scolded by Premier McKeeva Bush at the televised press briefing last week for making FOI requests in the Cayman Islands. Mouse told CNS, "Although thereis information contained in the response from the Information Manager, I did not get copies of the records containing this information, which is what I requested and what the law provides for."

The ageing cartoon character also said he planned to make many more requests.

FOI Response

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New minister marks day against homophobia

| 17/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(Pink News): New Foreign Office minister for Europe David Lidington has released a message to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Mr Lidington, a Conservative MP, said the Foreign Office was "committed to promoting British values" abroad, including LGBT rights. His message said: "The UK has a long and proud history of defending the basic rights and freedoms of the oppressed and vulnerable. "We are committed to promoting British values overseas and to placing human rights at the heart of foreign policy. "Everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled."

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Street fight ends in stabbing

| 17/05/2010 | 74 Comments

(CNS): According to eyewitness reports, the holiday weekend has been marred by a major street fight that broke out in the early hours of this morning (Monday 17 May), which resulted in a serious stabbing and landed one man in hospital. Police have confirmed that one man has been arrested and another taken to hospital following the incident, which was reported to them around 4:10am. The police said the fight took place in the area near the Marquis Plaza off the West Bay Road but they did not have full details of how the fight had erupted. Eye witnesses told CNS that the police were called to the incident and were already at the scene observing the disturbance when the man was stabbed in the neck.

The victim is now said to be in a serious condition at the George Town Hospital and people at the scene said they were surprised that the situation was allowed to escalate, given the fact that the police had been called and officers from the Uniform Support Group were present when the victim was stabbed in the middle of what is being described as a street fight.  
CNS understands that there were a number of fights which had occurred inside some of the clubs in the area but had had all spilled on to the street and then up to the area around the Marquis, where the victim was eventually stabbed.
This is the third time in the last week that victims have received stab wounds to the neck. A 26-year-old man was charged with attempted murder following an incident last Sunday when a woman was airlifted to Jamaica after she was stabbed in the neck at her home in George Town.
On Saturday, 8 May, a 29-year-old man was hospitalized after receiving neck wounds from a broken bottle outside LI nightclub.

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EU goes after Credit default traders

| 17/05/2010 | 0 Comments

(Bloomberg): Sovereign credit-default swap transactions face mandatory disclosure rules the European Union’s financial services commissioner said Monday Michel Barnier said he would deal with the sovereign CDS market “very severely.” Credit-rating companies should also be subject to tougher transparency rules when rating a country’s ability to pay back its debt, he said. “These people don’t like being out in the light of day,” Barnier said of sovereign CDS traders at a press conference in Brussels. “We’ll flood them with light.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy have called for curbs on speculating with sovereign credit-default swaps, which many blame for exacerbating Greece’s fiscal woes.

They have also called for a review of European Union rules regulating credit-ratings companies.

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Liberal Democrat gets OTs

| 17/05/2010 | 44 Comments

(CNS): The man who will now make the decision on any further borrowing requests from the Cayman Islands Government is a member of the Liberal Democrat arm of the UK’s new coalition government. Jeremy Browne MP has been appointed Minister of State with responsibility for South East Asia/Far East, Caribbean, Central/South America, Australasia and Pacific, Overseas Territories, human rights, consular, public diplomacy and the Olympics. The Liberal Democrat party has made no secret of its dislike for tax havens and members have been outspoken advocates on the need to close tax loopholes that allows big business to put money at arms length of the UK exchequer.

According to details on the Foreign Office website Browne joins three other junior minsters in the FCO, David Lidington, Alistair Burt and Henry Bellingham who will serve with William Hague the new Foreign Secretary. Browne is the only Lib-Dem to get a post in the FCO and as a son of a diplomat he already has some knowledge of its functions.
During the election campaign the Liberal democrats said they could boost budget by more than £12bn by tackling tax concessions and loopholes. Nick Clegg the Leader of the party promised an assault on what he called Britain’s sophisticated tax avoidance systems. The Lib-Dems said that some of the biggest tax avoidance schemes were operated by the banks which had shifted billions of pounds in artificial transactions via tax haven entities.
According to the agreement signed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats which forms the basis of the coalition the Tories are on board with the Lib-Dem position on tax avoidance. “The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals,” the agreement document  states.
The two political parties have also agreed that a banking levy will be introduced, as well as “detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector.”
Browne is unlikely to offer a different position on borrowing by the OT’s than that of his predecessor Chris Bryant and will also be keen to see Cayman reduce its dependency on financial services for its revenue and introduce new sustainable revenue sources. Given the enormity of the UK’s own debt it will be extremely reluctant to take on further liabilities from dependent territories.


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Bermudan press hits back at clamp down

| 17/05/2010 | 3 Comments

(The Royal Gazette): Global press freedom organisations have denounced plans for a state-controlled council to oversee the media in Bermuda — while local journalists are calling for a rethink of the idea. Premier Ewart Brown tabled a bill in the House of Assembly on May 7 which purports to be for the creation of an "independent media council" but which would consist of a majority of members appointed on his recommendation. The Royal Gazette sent copies of the proposed legislation — which could be debated and passed by MPs as soon as Friday — to overseas media bodies, as well as politicians, journalists and others on the Island.

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