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EU investigating German watchdog over Wirecard collapse – Reuters

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BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union is investigating Germany’s financial regulator over the collapse of payments company Wirecard in a rare move that heaps embarrassment on Berlin days before it is due to take over the EU’s rotating presidency.

Mastercard and Visa credit cards are seen in front of displayed Wirecard logo in this illustration picture taken June 26, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Wirecard’s implosion on Thursday, owing creditors almost $4 billion, is shaping up to be one of Germany’s biggest corporate scandals, and regulator BaFin has come under fire at home and abroad for not spotting problems sooner.

The European Commission has asked the EU’s markets watchdog to assess if BaFin’s responses to allegations of improprieties at Wirecard, which stretch back years, were adequate to protect investor confidence in EU markets, according to a letter from the Commission to the EU watchdog.

News of the letter, seen by Reuters, came as the Philippines justice minister said Wirecard’s former operations chief, under suspicion in Germany over the accounting scandal, was in the Philippines this week, but had left for China.

Separately, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Japanese investor SoftBank was planning to sue Wirecard’s long-time auditor EY over the scandal. EY declined to comment and SoftBank had no immediate comment.

Wirecard, which disclosed a $2.1 billion hole in its books, is the first member of the DAX stock index to go bust, barely two years after winning a spot among Germany’s top 30 listed companies.

EY said the hole in the company’s books was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.

Auditors KPMG said in a review published in April it was unable to verify 1 billion euros in cash balances, questioned Wirecard’s acquisition accounting and said it could not trace hundreds of millions of euros in cash advances to merchants.

In its letter to the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European Commission asked ESMA to undertake a “fact-finding analysis” into BaFin’s response to the allegations and report back no later than July 15.

It also asked ESMA to assess if there was any evidence of “administrative or legal obstacles” that hampered the enforcement of reporting requirements.

Germany will take the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1.

Allegations of financial impropriety have swirled around Wirecard for years and its implosion has triggered calls for an overhaul of corporate supervision. BaFin boss Felix Hufeld has described the scandal as a “total disaster”.

BaFin could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

ESMA confirmed it had been asked to look at how BaFin enforced the EU’s transparency directive, which covers financial reporting requirements for listed companies.

EU financial services chief Valdis Dombrovskis could use the findings from ESMA’s analysis to order a formal “breach of union law” investigation, requiring BaFin to provide information to ESMA.

If a breach is found, BaFin could be ordered by Brussels to make changes to its practices, an embarrassing situation for a national regulator.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Separately, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Friday it had imposed a number of requirements on Wirecard, including that it must not dispose of any assets or funds, and not carry out any regulated activities.

Wirecard, which is authorised by the FCA to issue e-money and provide payment services, must also say on its website that it is no longer permitted to conduct any regulated activity.

Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila and Thomas Seythal in Berlin; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter

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Canada’s economy creates almost 1 million jobs in June – Canada Immigration News

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Canada immigration levels May 2020 Express EntryLifting coronavirus-related lockdown restrictions around the country has sparked the beginning of Canada’s economic recovery.

Many Canadians and permanent residents returned to work for their previous employers while others started new jobs.

Between February and April, a total of 3 million people lost their jobs due to the lockdown, and another 2.5 million were absent from work due to coronavirus-related reasons, according to a Statistics Canada report published on Friday.

May saw a slow start of economic recovery as 290,000 people returned to work. Building on this, the month of June helped alleviate low unemployment rates across the country as employment increased by a record 953,000 people.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

These last two months saw the labour market recover by a staggering 40%. Over 1.24 million people gained employment, after 3 million people lost their jobs earlier in the year.

Canada’s overall unemployment rate dropped from 13.7% in May to 12.3% in June.

In addition, the report says that labour force participation rate has increased substantially over the last two months up to 63.8% in June. In comparison, it was 65.5% in February, before coronavirus-related restrictions.

The labour force participation rate is the percentage of the population, aged 15 or older, who are part of the labour force.

This suggests that many people are now more optimistic about the potential of finding a job. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)’s requirement to actively search for work may be another factor. The CESB was introduced to alleviate financial struggles of students who may have been affected by the coronavirus-related restrictions

Moreover, the number of people who work less than half of their usual hours also decreased in June to 26.9% down from 34.3%.

The rise of employment across all provinces is largely aligned with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Employment in Ontario increased by 378,000 (or 5.9%), Quebec by 248,000 (or 6.5%) and British Columbia by 118,000 (or 5.4%).

As Canada begins reopening its economy, many Canadians and permanent residents have returned to work or have begun looking for work.

In addition, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has returned to normal in terms of Express Entry draws. The latest draw held was an all-program draw. This means that candidates for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) were also considered.

Since the travel restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, IRCC had been holding program-specific draws, alternating between Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) draws and Canadian Experience Class (CEC) draws.

Canada’s latest job statistics is good news for these immigrants since they can expect a stronger job market once they have obtained permanent residence.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

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COVID-19: Alberta reports 77 new cases on Friday, death count falls by 1 – CTV News

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Alberta reported 77 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total number of cases to 8,596.

There are 592 active cases across the province and 7,844 people have recovered from the coronavirus. 

The province’s death count fell by one on Friday, from 161 to 160. The number of COVID-19-related deaths fell from 18 to 17.

“One of the deaths reported at the Misericordia has been determined to not have COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death,” a spokesman for the province told CTV News.

The city of Edmonton has now surpassed 1,000 total cases, with 1,001. Its number of active cases sits at 173.

More than 510,000 COVID-19 tests have now been completed in Alberta. 

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Edmonton, Calgary top Canadian cities in unemployment – CTV News Edmonton

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Alberta has the second-worst provincial unemployment rate in Canada after Newfoundland and Labrador..

According to new Statistics Canada data, unemployment reached 15.5 per cent in June.

It marks an 8.8 per cent difference from the same time last year.

The only province with a higher unemployment rate is Newfoundland and Labrador, at 16.5 per cent.

And unemployment in Alberta’s largest cities is also highest among Canadian major urban centres: about 15.7 per cent of the Edmonton workforce is currently unemployed, and 15.6 per cent of the Calgary workforce.

In May, their unemployment rates were 13.6 per cent and 13.4 per cent, respectively.

The news comes alongside a report that Canada added 953,000 jobs in June as businesses forced to close by the pandemic began to reopen.

“That’s important progress but we have a long way to go,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commented Friday at a news conference in Fort Saskatchewan, where a carbon capture and storage facility recently reached the five-million equivalent tonnes milestone.

Kenney’s government’s economic recovery plan centres on infrastructure projects that create jobs and making Alberta an attractive place for investment – as does the facility at the Shell Scotford complex, Kenney said.

“Projects like this are a key part of Alberta’s recovery plan to build, to diversify, and to create jobs. When the global economy comes back form COVID, when demand returns for oil and gas, we are going to see, I believe, something of a supply shortage because of all the upstream exploration that has been cancelled, and so we’ll see prices go up. And that will be a great opportunity for Alberta, especially as we make progress on pipelines,” he said.

“But there’s one critical factor, we’ve got to bring investment back. And that means we’ve got to demonstrate our progress on environmental responsibility which is why investments like this… are so important to jobs, the economy, and the future prosperity of Alberta.”

The national unemployment rate fell to 12.3 per cent after hitting a record-high of 13.7 per cent in May.

With files from CTVNews.ca

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