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world toilet day November 19, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : inequality , add a comment

According to a WHO/UNICEF Report:

The good news is that since 1990 well over 2 billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water, and 116 countries have met the MDG target for water. Almost 2 billion people gained access to improved sanitation and 77 countries have met the MDG target. More than half the world’s population, almost 4 billion people, now enjoy the highest level of water access: a piped water connection at their homes.
But much remains to be done. More than 700 million people still lack ready access to improved sources of drinking water; nearly half are in sub-Saharan Africa. More than one third of the global population – some 2.5 billion people — do not use an improved sanitation facility, and of these 1 billion people still practice open defecation.

on not sounding too good to be true… November 13, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : consumers , add a comment

Investors who used the search term “secure investment” seemingly found their way to a website at secureinvestment.com which “acknowledged that currency trading was risky” – and it was.

how can we tell what is too good to be true? November 13, 2014

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Financial regulators try to help people make good decisions bout their money by encouraging them to focus on whether what they were being offered was too good to be true or not. I think any scheme that calls itself a “Profits Paradise” (a scheme operated from India, although designed to appear to be American) sounds too good to be true. It isn’t clear from the SEC’s announcement how many people responded to the rich promises by investing, although the SEC Order states that “By mid-January 14, 2014, the Website had more than 4,000 visits each day, including more than 200 U.S. visits.” The fact that the SEC published an investor alert alongside the press release suggests that the SEC thinks that people need to be reminded to be careful about investing. But if this scheme didn’t scream “too good to be true” what would?

rule of law and politics November 11, 2014

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THe EU’s Court of Justice held in Elisabeta Dano, Florin Dano v Jobcenter Leipzig (Case C-333/13) that EU rules on social security schemes do not prohibit Member States from excluding

nationals of other Member States… from entitlement to certain ‘special non-contributory cash benefits’ … although those benefits are granted to nationals of the host Member State who are in the same situation, in so far as those nationals of other Member States do not have a right of residence under Directive 2004/38 in the host Member State.

Ms Dano, a Romanian national, and her son, had been living in Leipzig with Ms Dano’s sister. She challenged a denial of non-contributory benefits. The Court noted the general principle of non-discrimination but that a particular derogation in the relevant EU rules:

it must be pointed out that, whilst Article 24(1) of Directive 2004/38 and Article 4 of Regulation No 883/2004 reiterate the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of nationality, Article 24(2) of that directive contains a derogation from the principle of non-discrimination.
Under Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38, the host Member State is not obliged to confer entitlement to social assistance during the first three months of residence or, where appropriate, the period of seeking employment, referred to in Article 14(4)(b) of the directive, that extends beyond that first period, nor is it obliged, prior to acquisition of the right of permanent residence, to grant maintenance aid for studies to persons other than workers, self-employed persons, persons who retain such status and members of their families.
It is apparent from the documents before the Court that Ms Dano has been residing in Germany for more than three months, that she is not seeking employment and that she did not enter Germany in order to work. She therefore does not fall within the scope ratione personae of Article 24(2) of Directive 2004/38.

Ms Dano had been in Germany for more than three months but less than five years. In these circumstances the Court said:

To accept that persons who do not have a right of residence under Directive 2004/38 may claim entitlement to social benefits under the same conditions as those applicable to nationals of the host Member State would run counter to an objective of the directive, set out in recital 10 in its preamble, namely preventing Union citizens who are nationals of other Member States from becoming an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State…. the applicants do not have sufficient resources and thus cannot claim a right of residence in the host Member State under Directive 2004/38. Therefore…they cannot invoke the principle of non-discrimination in Article 24(1) of the directive.

In the UK, where migration within the EU is a hot topic, Cameron said he would be looking closely at the judgment to see what he could do with it. The sort of careful parsing of the rules illustrated by the judgment isn’t inevitably what we see from the Court of Justice, but in an environment where concerns about immigration threaten the stability of the EU it isn’t surprising to see a careful rather than an ambitious approach to interpretation of the requirements of EU law.

is there a connection between advertising and rule-breaking? November 8, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : compliance , add a comment

This Lexus Ad suggests to me that there may be. The voiceover begins:

Limits are there to be shattered. Barriers are meant to be broken. Lines are drawn to be crossed

is england a better place to locate your financial activity than new york? November 6, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : law , add a comment

If you are an investor in Argentina’s exchange bonds (the ones governed by English law) perhaps so. Mr Justice Newey was asked by some of these investors for:

a declaration that the €225 million [held by BNY Mellon] is held on the English law trust…, .. a declaration that, as a matter of English conflicts of law, an order of a foreign Court is ineffective in varying a contract governed by English law and .. an interim injunction restraining the Bank … from dealing with or disposing of the €225 million (or any other funds paid to it by the Republic in respect of the euro-denominated Exchange Bonds) other than by paying the money to the beneficial holders of the bonds…

The Judge suggested that had Judge Griesa been informed that an English court took the view that the provisions of the relevant trust meant that Argentina had no interest in the moneys in question such that BNY Mellon could not be required to return them to Argentina he might have based his decision not to order Argentina to return the money on this reason rather than on the fact that the FSIA does not authorize attachment or execution of sovereign property located outside the United States:

I have in the end been persuaded that a declaration from an English Court that the €225 million is held on trust for the holders of the euro-denominated Exchange Bonds and the second defendant (and, correspondingly, that the Republic has no beneficial interest in the money) is likely to be of interest to an American Court having to consider issues relating to the funds. It is noteworthy that, when he denied the turnover motions, Judge Griesa did so by reference to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, not on the basis that the Republic could have no interest in the funds, an issue which he did “not reach”. Had there been a ruling from an English Court, the Judge might have felt able to proceed on the basis that the Republic could have no interest in the €225 million. Again, Judge Griesa might not have thought in terms of the money simply being returned to Argentina (as he did at the hearing on 27 June 2014) had it been evident from an English order that it was held on trust exclusively for the holders of the relevant bonds and the second defendant.

I am not at all sure about whether this would have changed the basis for Judge Griesa’s decision. The judge decided to allow an opportunity for the holdout creditors to express their views on the proposed declarations before making them. But it looks very much as though BNY Mellon will be in an uncomfortable position when the dust settles.

the justiciability of torture claims: uk version October 30, 2014

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In Belhaj v Straw the English Court of Appeals (the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, Lord Justice LLoyd Jones (who was the principal drafter of the judgment of the court) and Lady Justice Sharp) have allowed a range of claims that Jack Straw, Mark Allen, the FCO and the Home Office were involved in unlawful renditions to Libya (involving allegations of torture) to proceed. The Court rejected arguments (which had succeeded in the court below, although the Judge, Simon J. expressed some concern) that the acts complained of implicated the act of state doctrine which makes acts of a foreign state on its own territory non-justiciable in English courts. The Court of Appeal found that the act of state doctrine did not prevent the litigation because it involved claims of violations of international law and fundamental human rights and because the alleged acts perpetrated by the US took place outside the US. The Court of Appeal noted that English law did not require deference to the views of the executive as to the likely impact of exercising jurisdiction on foreign relations (in contrast to the situation in the US). The question was whether the court should go beyond precedent and hear a case which would require an investigation into the validity of the conduct of a foreign state (all of the claims would involve an assessment of acts of foreign states).

The Court said:

a fundamental change has occurred within public international law. The traditional view of public international law as a system of law merely regulating the conduct of states among themselves on the international plane has long been discarded. In its place has emerged a system which includes the regulation of human rights by international law, a system of which individuals are rightly considered to be subjects. A corresponding shift in international public policy has also taken place… These changes have been reflected in a growing willingness on the part of courts in this jurisdiction to address and investigate the conduct of foreign states and issues of public international law when appropriate….The abhorrent nature of torture and its condemnation by the community of nations is apparent from the participation of states in the UN Convention against Torture (to which all of the States concerned with the exception of Malaysia are parties) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Libya, Thailand, the United States and the United Kingdom are parties) and from the recognition in customary international law of its prohibition as a rule of jus cogens, a peremptory norm from which no derogation is permitted. While it is impermissible to draw consequences as to the jurisdictional competence of national courts from the jus cogens status of the prohibition on torture… it is appropriate to take account of the strength of this condemnation when considering the application of a rule of public policy….there is a compelling public interest in the investigation by the English courts of these very grave allegations. The only ground on which it could be contended that there is any exemption from the exercise of jurisdiction in the present case is because of the alleged involvement of other states and their officials in the conduct alleged. Notwithstanding our view that the present proceedings would entail an investigation of the legality of the conduct of those foreign officials, the fortuitous benefit the act of state doctrine might confer on the respondents is a further factor supporting the application of this public policy limitation.

I’d like to know whether this is the sort of issue on which Cameron would think that a British Human Rights Act should take the same, or a different, approach.

civil society and multilateral institutions October 29, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : governance , add a comment

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Maina Kiai, published a report yesterday arguing that multilateral institutions should make efforts to allow the voices of non-state, non-business entities to be heard:

In recent times, non-State actors have challenged the State-centric approach to global governance and are demanding a place at the negotiating table. Civil society in particular insists that discussions and decisions of multilateral institutions should focus on people’s concerns and human rights rather than being confined to geopolitical and economic interests that primarily occupy States and corporations. The Special Rapporteur believes that the concept of multilateralism should be expanded beyond action by States alone to include the effective participation of a variety of voices within those States. With this in mind, the report highlights the challenges experienced by civil society actors in having an effective voice at the multilateral level.

The report points out that this is particularly important as supra-national decision-making has more and more impact on domestic policy.

warning on blending: irresistible! October 22, 2014

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The EU’s Court of Auditors has warned the new EU Commission about the need to focus on issues of management in blending public and private finance in development assistance in a new report:

The 30 projects examined by the Court were all judged to be relevant for the regions and countries concerned. However, the approval process under‑taken by the Commission was not thorough, and the decisions to award the grants, at a particular level, were frequently not convincingly evidenced. Guidance on what criteria the Commission should use in its decision‑making was also lacking. Once grants were approved, the advance disbursements were unnecessarily high. The Commission’s monitoring did not ensure that the added value of grants was achieved in all cases.

formidable women… femmes formidables September 30, 2014

Posted by Bradley in : gender , add a comment

Today, reading Sergio Puig’s article, Social Capital in the Arbitration Market (the link is to the SSRN version, although I read the published version in volume 25 of the European Journal of International Law at 387-424 (2014)) – a fascinating social network analysis of international arbitration based on ICSID data – I was struck by a reference to the existence of a small number of “formidable women” (e.g. at p 407) in the group of prominent and mostly male arbitrators (“grand old men”). Professor Puig attributes the “formidable women” description to Jason Yackee’s article Controlling the International Investment Law Agency. I’m not sure what I think about this descriptor. It may be intended as complimentary, even a recognition that women have to be even better than men to be part of the club. But I have some reservations. I do know I’d rather be described as formidable in French than in English!