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Bryan Harris

Bryan Harris

Bryan Harris is a lead writer at Financial Times. He is a Hong Kong-based journalist with a penchant for international crime stories.

Articles by Bryan Harris

FirstFT – Mrs May in Brussels, how the cult of the expert collapsed and the Haitian warlord who met his match

October 21, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereTest your knowledge with the week in news quiz.British American Tobacco is poised to create a new tobacco giant. It has made a $47bn offer to buy control of rival US company Reynolds American, bringing together the makers of cigarette brands Lucky Strike and Camel. The move is the latest blockbuster consolidation effort in the tobacco industry, which has responded to years of litigation and the loss of consumer interest in developed markets with a combination of dealmaking to squeeze out costs and product innovation, such as electronic cigarettes, to generate stable returns. Shares in both companies climbed after the announcement. (FT)In the newsTrump fans the flames Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doubled down on his refusal to accept the results of the US election on November 8, saying he would do so “if I win”, while reserving his right to legally challenge the outcome if he loses. His remarks came as a 10th woman came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, allegations he denies. (FT, NBC)Are you following the US presidential campaign? Be a part of the FT’s election coverage by filling out our election survey.

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FirstFT – Trump refuses to commit to accepting vote, Airbnb faces NYC eviction and a plea against helicopter parenting

October 20, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereDonald Trump refused to guarantee that he would accept the result of the US election if he loses, in a fiery third and final presidential debate in which Hillary Clinton accused her Republican rival of being a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.According to a YouGov poll, 49 per cent of respondents said Mrs Clinton won the debate, while 39 per cent thought Mr Trump the victor. Here is what FT readers thought. (FT, YouGov) In the newsAirbnb faces fight for survival in NYC Governor Andrew Cuomo is preparing to sign a bill that would in effect end the home-sharing company’s business in New York City. The San Francisco-based company has waged a last-minute campaign to thwart the law, which would impose fines of up to $7,500 on any host who advertised short-term accommodation through Airbnb. (FT)Alleged Russian hacker held in Prague A Russian citizen accused of hacking targets in the US was arrested by police in the Czech Republic, less than two weeks after Washington formally accused Moscow of cyber attacks against US organisations. (FT)BHP Billiton aims for 50% of workforce to be women by 2025 The Anglo-Australian miner said raising the proportion of women among its 65,000 employees was “the right thing to do” and would improve performance. Women make up about 17 per cent of BHP staff.

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FirstFT – Pound rallies on sign of Brexit deal vote, Isis ‘using human shields’ and the dealmaker who was duped

October 19, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereChina’s economy grew 6.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2016, putting the country firmly on track to meet the government’s full-year target of at least 6.5 per cent growth. But many analysts believe the growth has been the byproduct of a dangerous expansion in credit, especially for real estate developments and state-backed infrastructure projects.A boom in property values in metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai and their environs — up 25 per cent or higher over the past year alone, according to Savills China — has spread to smaller cities this year. More than 20 urban governments across China have recently introduced measures to restrain house prices.China’s National Bureau of Statistics warned on Thursday: “With unstable and uncertain domestic and external factors, the foundation for continued economic growth is not solid enough.” In the newsIsis shifts its narrative Iraqi forces say they captured 20 villages in the first 24 hours of the offensive to take the city of Mosul from Isis fighters. The FT’s Erika Solomon reports from near the front lines in recaptured Badana al-Sagheera, and finds a town strewn with booby traps, secret tunnels and landmines. Meanwhile the jihadis are shifting their narrative as their so-called caliphate erodes, reminding devotees that the group does not need a territorial entity to survive.

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FirstFT – Britain’s self-employed; picking stocks; why billionaires have more sons

October 18, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereBritain’s self-employed workers are earning less than they did 20 years ago, according to data that expose the low incomes of many people in this growing part of the workforce.According to the Resolution Foundation think-tank, the official data show that the typical weekly earnings of a self-employed worker in 2014/15 were about £240 a week. After adjusting for inflation, that is less than in 1994/95, as far back as the data go.The figures will feed the debate over whether rising self-employment in the UK is to be celebrated or feared. (FT)In the newsTrump TV Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of his top advisers, has informally approached a top media industry banker about the prospect of setting up a Trump television network after the presidential election in November. Trump TV may be the logical next step for the former reality TV star, particularly with polls showing a widening lead for Hillary Clinton. Keep track of the 2016 presidential race with our daily US politics newsletter. Sign up here.Netflix and thrill Shares were up nearly 20 per cent in after-hours trade on Monday as the video streaming group raced past forecasts for subscriber growth. Its total subscriber base is now nearly 87m.

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FirstFT – Trump stokes conspiracies, Britain’s Brexit bill and the perilous pursuit of perfect coffee

October 17, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereThe battle for Mosul has begun. Columns of around 30,000 Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish peshmerga and local militias are moving on the Isis stronghold, backed by shelling and air strikes. The fight is expected to last weeks, if not months.When Iraq’s second city fell to the jihadi militants in July 2014, it was an abject humiliation for the country’s military. Riddled with corruption and sectarianism, and staffed by cronies of then president Maliki, its poorly-led soldiers were no match for the zealous militants fighting a so-called holy war.Two years on, the fight to regain the city is being supported by US and British special forces and air power. But it is expected to be long and difficult. The stakes are as high for Isis as they are for Baghdad — Mosul was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the group’s caliphate. Hundreds of thousands of civilians who still live inside the city are trapped between the fighting forces and the UN has warned that the battle could spark the single largest humanitarian crisis of the year. (FT, BuzzFeed, Middle East Eye)In the newsMr Duterte goes to China Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte heads to China and Japan this week for talks that will test whether his anti-US rhetoric will lead to a fundamental security shake-up on Asia’s seas.

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FirstFT – The $100bn tech fund, Britons rush for Irish passports, and the world’s most stressful cities

October 14, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereTest your knowledge with our week in news quizBarack Obama is being pressed to sack Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission and one of his most senior appointees.In a blistering letter, Senator Elizabeth Warren called on Mr Obama to use exceptional powers to eject Ms White, accusing her of standing in the way of greater corporate transparency, zeroing in on her alleged failure to develop a rule mandating the disclosure of political spending by companies — a hot issue since a loosening of restrictions on US campaign finance in 2010.Elizabeth Warren accuses Mary Jo White of ‘ignoring the SEC’s core mission of investor protection’ © BloombergMs Warren, known as the “scourge of Wall Street”, last month castigated former Wells Fargo chief John Stumpf for his bank’s phantom accounts scandal. A video of her grilling the banking chief went viral on the internet. Mr Stumpf resigned this week. (FT, YouTube)In the newsTech fund giant SoftBank and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund are preparing to launch the SoftBank Vision Fund that will manage as much as $100bn, creating one of the largest tech investment funds in the world. Based in London, it will be seeded with $25bn from SoftBank and up to $45bn from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund over the next five years.

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FirstFT – Trump unshackled, Cambridge university issues first bond and why millennials are switching off social media

October 12, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereDonald Trump signalled on Tuesday that he would revert to the bare-knuckled campaigning that won him the Republican nomination, setting up the final month of the race to be the nastiest yet.A day after House speaker Paul Ryan abandoned Mr Trump’s campaign, the Republican nominee sent out a series of tweets lambasting his party’s most senior official as “weak and ineffective”, and said that he was now free to go after Democratic rival Hillary Clinton “unshackled” by party restraint.“It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to,” he declared in a flurry of messages. “Disloyal [Republicans] are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win — I will teach them!”The divisions inside the Republican party spilled out into the open after Mr Ryan told party leaders that he would no longer defend Mr Trump or campaign on his behalf. As many as 160 prominent Republicans, including John McCain, have declared that they will not support Mr Trump’s bid for the presidency. (FT)In the newsPutin calls off Paris visit The Russian president cancelled a trip to the French capital after François Hollande strongly criticised Moscow’s role in the bombing campaign in Syria.

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FirstFT – Samsung woes, the declining prestige of democracy and what nobody tells you about becoming the boss

October 11, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereThe fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is being scrapped. The unprecedented move by Samsung Electronics is aimed at stemming reputational damage after investors wiped $19bn off its market value.There were growing fears that the impact of spiralling safety issues with the Galaxy Note 7 could spread to the group’s other consumer products. One network reported a slowdown in S7 sales this week, adding it was too early to tell if there had been sustained damage to the Samsung brand.Samsung’s safety crisis comes as rival devices from Apple and Google hit the market ahead of the crucial holiday sales season. (FT)In the newsPrice of a ‘hard Brexit’ Leaked papers from the UK cabinet warn that Britain could lose up to £66bn a year in tax revenues if it pursues a “hard Brexit”. The forecasts show that leaving the European single market could cause GDP to fall by as much as 9.5 per cent. (Times) Read our daily Brexit Briefing. FT subscribers can sign up to receive it daily by email here.South African currency plunge South Africa’s currency plummeted on Tuesday after the country’s highly respected finance minister was summoned by prosecutors. Pravin Gordhan says “political mischief” is behind fraud charges relating to the establishment of an investigation unit in the tax department a decade ago.

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FirstFT – Pound plunges 6% in 2 minutes, the danger of demagogues and what yawning says about your brain

October 7, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereTest your knowledge with the week in news quizThe British pound fell more than 6 per cent to below $1.20 in two minutes on Friday amid concerns over the UK’s exit from the EU.Shortly after currency markets opened in Asia on Friday, the pound lost as much as 6.1 per cent to $1.1841. The sharp nature of the move sparked speculation that it could have been triggered by a mistaken “fat finger” trade or a rogue automated algorithm, exacerbated by thinner liquidity during early Asian trade. It was the currency’s lowest level since May 1985 and the biggest intraday drop since the 11.1 per cent plunge on June 24 in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. (FT)In the newsWhen Hollande gets tough Britain must suffer the consequences of leaving the EU in order to save the institution from an existential crisis, François Hollande said on Thursday. (FT)Mars takes a bite out of Buffett The world leader in the confectionery market said on Thursday it would buy out the billionaire investor’s 20 per cent stake in Wrigley, the chewing gum group. The move comes as sugary snacks are under threat from changing trends. Consumers are moving towards healthier products and high-protein foods and away from traditional snack foods. (FT)Storm warning A major hurricane is closing in on the US east coast, and is expected to hit Florida first.

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FirstFT – IMF lowers growth forecasts, Google unveils smartphone and how art is used for espionage

October 5, 2016

The International Monetary Fund has lowered its growth forecasts for the US and other advanced economies, warning that the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the US presidential elections and rising protectionism advocated by Donald Trump are dragging on a world economy where politics now presents the biggest risk.
Updating its semi-annual forecasts for the global economy on Tuesday, the IMF sharply lowered its 2016 growth forecast for the US to 1.6 per cent, from the 2.2 per cent it predicted in July, and for advanced economies as a whole to 1.6 per cent.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s tough talk on Brexit has put so much pressure on sterling that the UK has fallen below France in the global table of economic powers when measured at market exchange rates. (FT)
In the news
Google unveils Pixel smartphone The tech group plunged deep into smartphones and other hardware on Tuesday as it unveiled an expensive and potentially risky bet intended to create a showcase for its artificial intelligence and other services. (FT)
Storm pounds Haiti The most powerful Caribbean hurricane in nearly a decade has hit Haiti, bringing 230km/h winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges. One local politician described the scene as “catastrophic”. (FT)
Ukip leader steps down . . . just 18 days after she was elected.

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FirstFT – Opec agrees on output cut, inside the minds of bankers and why some people die younger

September 29, 2016

September 29, 2016
by: Jennifer Bissell, Siona Jenkins and Bryan Harris

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereSome of the world’s biggest oil producers have agreed to cut production for the first time in eight years, sending crude prices higher by more than 6 per cent.The agreement at a meeting of Opec members in Algeria surprised oil traders, who thought consensus would be difficult to reach because of divisions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of Opec’s largest and most influential members who are at political loggerheads. The group agreed in principle to reduce output to 32.5m-33m barrels a day, but will not begin cutting output until the cartel’s next meeting on November 30. There is also no decision on the amount of oil individual countries must cut back. Nonetheless, the oil price briefly rose above $49 a barrel on Thursday. (FT)In the newsSaudis under fire with 9/11 vote The US Senate overrode a veto by President Barack Obama, allowing victims and families of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center to sue Saudi Arabia over its alleged connection to religious extremism and its conduct of the war in Yemen. “It’s a dangerous precedent and it’s an example of why sometimes you have to do what’s hard,” said Mr Obama.

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FirstFT – Wells Fargo chief to forfeit $40m, Elon Musk’s mission to Mars and the nuclear project beneath the Arctic ice

September 28, 2016

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John Stumpf, the chief executive and chairman of Wells Fargo, the US’s third-largest bank by assets, will forfeit $41m in pay awards and some of his salary as the board launches an investigation into the bank’s aggressive sales tactics.
The US bank was slapped with a record $185m fine by the US consumer finance watchdog after regulators found that staff, racing to meet sales targets, secretly opened millions of accounts without customers’ knowledge. About 5,300 employees lost their jobs as a result of the misconduct since 2011.
The penalty is a change from the past, when despite scandals at large banks, no CEO had to refund a bonus. Shares of the company have fallen nearly 10 per cent since September 8 when it reached a settlement with regulators. (FT, Reuters)
In the news
Nigeria famine warning A million people are at risk of famine in northeastern Nigeria, according to the UN. The crisis has been fuelled by the Boko Haram militant group, which has laid waste to much of the region in a years-long insurgency. But there has been little aid delivered to the millions still living in the area, with humanitarian groups saying they lack resources to effectively tackle the crisis. The news comes amid clashes in southeastern Nigeria that are being called the country’s “third conflict”.

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FirstFT – A fiery first presidential debate, the prospect of bank break-ups and going au naturel in Paris

September 27, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereAs many as 100m viewers were estimated to have tuned in to the first one-on-one debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a contentious affair in which the two candidates sparred on a range of topics from how to reignite the US economy to the best ways to defeat Isis. The Democratic nominee sought to portray her opponent as unprepared for the “awesome, immense responsibility” of the presidency, while Mr Trump attempted to paint his rival as a “typical politician”.The debate, however, highlighted Mr Trump’s tendency to make false claims. The New York Times fact-checked some of the more notable assertions, while the FT’s Ed Luce argues that the Republican candidate failed to clear a low bar. (FT, CNN, NYT)Keep track of the 2016 race with our daily US politics newsletter. Sign up here.In the newsDeutsche Bank denies seeking help from Berlin The bank said it did not seek assistance from Berlin and said it had no plans for a capital increase after investors attacked the embattled lender, sending its share price to its lowest levels in more than three decades. (FT)Historic peace deal in Colombia The Colombian government and left-wing Farc rebels have signed a historic agreement that formally brings an end to 52 years of civil war.

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FirstFT – Russia accused of supporting ‘barbarism’, living without a smartphone and a rare view of imperial China

September 26, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email here.The US accused Russia on Sunday of supporting “barbarism” over the bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo as the west stepped up diplomatic pressure on Moscow.Accusing Russia of supporting a Syrian regime offensive that has derailed a ceasefire agreement negotiated between Washington and Moscow, Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, said Russian and Syrian forces were “laying waste to what is left of an iconic Middle Eastern city”. (FT)In the newsAlarm over Brexit bluster Leading bankers from the City of London have expressed alarm and consternation at the growing political momentum behind a so-called “hard Brexit” they fear will erode confidence and trigger corporate departures. Meanwhile, Germany is growing increasingly exasperated with Britain’s bravado over Brexit, prompting a rethink over how hard to push London during negotiations on leaving the EU. (FT)Goldman Sachs swings the axe in Asia The bank is making cuts as it grapples with a regional slowdown and intensifying pressure to improve returns to shareholders. The move could mean as many as 90 investment bankers across the region will be laid off over the next few months, according to people familiar with the bank’s plans, with the bulk in Hong Kong and Singapore.

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FirstFT – Stage set for US rate rise, the secret world of wealth managers and the problem with being declared dead

September 22, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereA state of emergency has been declared in the US city of Charlotte, North Carolina, after a second night of violent demonstrations. The state governor, Pat McCrory, also called in the National Guard as demonstrators smashed windows and started fires. The protests erupted after a police officer shot Keith L. Scott, an African American, on Tuesday. Two other black men were killed in controversial circumstances in other parts of the US the previous week fuelling social tensions around the country.The issue of police violence against blacks has spilled over into the presidential election campaign, as candidates woo the African-American vote. Charlotte is a key political battleground, where Democrats need a strong showing among African Americans and Republicans need to win over independent white suburbanites. (NYT, FT)In the newsAn end to all illness Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are deploying $3bn towards the modest ambition of eradicating disease. The couple say they will use tech and knowledge sharing to “cure, prevent or manage all diseases by the end of the century”. (FT)‘Chemical attack’ in Iraq Isis militants may have fired a chemical rocket at US troops based in Iraq, the US military has said.

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FirstFT – New York bomb suspect arrested, Theresa May’s extended honeymoon and the best emotional state to make decisions

September 20, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereUS police on Monday arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami in connection with bombings in the New York area over the weekend after a shootout that left the suspect injured. Mr Rahami, a US citizen who was born in Afghanistan, had been wanted for questioning concerning the Saturday night explosion in Manhattan that wounded 29 people, as well as a blast on Saturday morning in the New Jersey shore community of Seaside Park.Donald Trump lamented that the suspect would receive medical treatment and legal representation after his arrest. It was a “sad situation” and underscored the country’s weak national security, said Mr Trump. Meanwhile, his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton said Mr Trump’s rhetoric only helped terrorist groups. “The kinds of rhetoric and language that Mr Trump has used is giving aid and comfort to our adversaries,” she told reporters at a news conference outside New York City.Here’s what we know about Mr Rahami, how the manhunt unfolded, and how the politics of terror could shake up the US election. (FT, BBC, NYT)Keep track of the 2016 race with our daily US politics newsletter. Sign up here.In the newsPolice shooting sparks outrage On Friday, Terence Crutcher’s SUV stalled on the way back from a music appreciation class at a community college near the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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FirstFT – New York on high alert, 50 days that will shake the world and why you should let your kids get dirty

September 19, 2016

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New York City is on high alert after a suspicious device in neighbouring New Jersey exploded. The blast took place as a bomb squad was attempting to disarm one of five devices discovered in a backpack close to a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The incident came after an explosion rocked Manhattan just hours before President Barack Obama and other world leaders were due to arrive in the city for annual meetings at the United Nations.
Over the weekend there was also a mass stabbing at a mall in Minnesota that has been claimed by Isis, although police say there is no evidence the group actually planned the attack.
The three incidents have raised fears of a terrorist campaign but police and officials remain cautious. Andrew Cuomo, New York governor, said early indications suggested the New York attack was not linked to Isis or any other international group. Here’s what we know and do not know about the blast. (BBC, Guardian, FT, NYT)
In the news
Pro-Putin party poll sweep The ruling United Russia party has strengthened its hold on the Russian parliament. With 93 per cent of the vote counted, the party controlled 76 per cent of the seats in the Duma. The poll was marred by irregularities and the lowest turnout in President Vladimir Putin’s 17 years in power.

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FirstFT – Deutsche Bank asked to pay $14bn, lessons from death row and how much parenting matters

September 16, 2016

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Test your knowledge with our week in news quiz. 

Deutsche Bank shares fell sharply on Thursday as Germany’s biggest bank scrambled to downplay the chances of having to pay $14bn to settle allegations of mis-selling mortgage securities from the US Department of Justice.
New York-listed shares in Deutsche fell by as much as 7.4 per cent after hours to $13.67. Investors fretted about the crippling impact of such a fine on a bank with a market capitalisation of only €18bn but a balance sheet of €1.6tn. (FT)

In the news
A tale of two tech companies Apple’s stock is on track for its best week in three years as investors’ concerns about the iPhone 7 launch ease on signs of strong demand for the new handset. Samsung, meanwhile, continues to suffer. The US on Thursday issued a formal recall notice for 1m Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after nearly a hundred reports in the country of overheating batteries. (FT)
Stimulus fears drag $1tn of bonds into positive territory The rupturing of the summer calm in markets over the past week has swept more than $1tn of sovereign and corporate bonds back into positive yielding territory, as investors question the future of central bank stimulus.

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FirstFT – US to lift sanctions on Myanmar, Amazon’s answer to the smartphone and how to manage millennials

September 15, 2016

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Barack Obama pledged on Wednesday to lift all remaining US sanctions on Myanmar as the president sought to reward the country for its rapid transition from military dictatorship to democracy.
The announcement, which has been urged by business groups and was criticised by human rights organisations, caps a dramatic turnround in relations between the two countries that were almost non-existent five years ago. (FT)

In the news
Lula and wife charged with corruption Brazilian prosecutors have accused former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of being the “commander-in-chief” of the country’s vast corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras in a move that is set to unleash further political turmoil in the Latin American nation. (FT)
Colin Powell: uncut Donald Trump is a “national disgrace and international pariah” and Hillary Clinton is a “70-year person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational”. That is according to Colin Powell whose emails have been hacked and leaked. (FT)
Activists push for shake-up at Wells Fargo The fake accounts scandal has put a spotlight on governance at the bank, while federal prosecutors have launched a probe into its sales tactics. (FT, WSJ)
Juncker reassures on Brexit The EU’s future will not be affected by Brexit, according to the EU Commission president.

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FirstFT – Bayer closes in on $66bn deal, the Great British Firewall and the trend toward ‘gamifying’ cities

September 14, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereThe EU’s future will not be affected by Brexit, according to the EU Commission President. In his eagerly awaited State of the Union address, Jean-Claude Juncker urged European leaders not to let the UK’s vote to leave the union dominate the agenda and said that members needed to confront “galloping populism”, which he said was responsible for many of the bloc’s problems.Saying that many Europeans had “forgotten what it is like to be European”, Mr Juncker warned against hate crime, and raised the issue of a Polish man who was killed in the UK following the EU referendum. He also highlighted the union’s achievements, pointing out that eurozone members had saved some €50bn thanks to the European Central Bank’s low interest rate policies. (Politico, FT)In the newsAgribusiness blockbuster Bayer and Monsanto have agreed a $65bn takeover deal. The German company sweetened its offer for the US seed maker to just under $130 a share, people informed about the negotiations said. The deal is the latest in a series of transactions in the agrichemical industry, which produces the seeds and fertilisers needed to grow the food we eat. (FT) Record-breaking military deal The US and Israel have reached an agreement on the biggest global package of military aid that will see Israel receive $38bn over the next 10 years.

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FirstFT – Tories accused of gerrymandering, a model to revive Europe and why you should make time for sleep

September 13, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereMembers of parliament in the UK could see their seats disappear from under them. Prominent politicians, including former chancellor George Osborne, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and dozens of other MPs will have to find new constituencies after a comprehensive redrawing of England’s parliamentary boundaries abolished their seats. The boundary changes — slated to be implemented in 2018 — would reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and ensure constituencies have a similar number of registered voters, fulfilling a pledge by former prime minister David Cameron to “cut the cost of politics”.Opposition politicians have accused the ruling conservatives of gerrymandering. The Labour party will be worst hit by the changes but 17 Conservatives will also lose their constituencies — the same number as the party’s working majority. However, former prime minister Mr Cameron is unlikely to be affected by the changes. He resigned as Conservative MP for Witney on Monday, saying he did not want to become “a distraction” to Theresa May, his successor. (FT, Guardian)In the newsSyria’s shaky ceasefire A US-Russia brokered truce has got off to a rocky start with violations reported in several parts of the country.

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FirstFT – North Korea nuclear test, Britain’s secret wars and a history of political insults

September 9, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereNorth Korea has conducted what appeared to be its fifth nuclear test, prompting international criticism of the isolated communist state. The defence ministry in South Korea said a tremor of magnitude 5.0 was detected near North Korea’s known nuclear test site earlier this morning. Authorities in Seoul believe the seismic activity was a nuclear test with an estimated yield of 10 kilotons. Both the South Korean and Japanese governments responded to the apparent test with emergency meetings. The international community has been increasing pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to halt its nuclear programme with a range of measures, including UN sanctions, but to little effect. Friday’s test is likely to increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula and fuel anxieties in the region. (FT, Yonhap, NAR)In the newsRecord fine for Wells Fargo The world’s most valuable bank has been hit by the US consumer finance watchdog’s largest fine to date after regulators found that staff racing to meet sales targets had secretly opened millions of accounts without customers’ knowledge. (FT)Arrests in jihadi car plot Police in France arrested three women suspected of planning terror attacks, shooting one of them in the process.

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FirstFT – May rejects radical immigration shake-up, Merkel’s election defeat and how the Great Fire shaped modern London

September 5, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereTheresa May has ruled out a radical switch to an immigration system that would strip EU citizens of their preferential access to the UK, in comments expected to inflame Brexit supporters.The prime minister, speaking ahead of her first G20 summit in China, is considering a more modest reform of immigration rules for EU citizens, knowing that severe curbs could leave Britain excluded from large parts of the single market. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has reiterated that the UK remains at the back of the queue as Washington seeks major new trade deals, while lamenting June’s vote for Brexit and the risk that it might “unravel” the close US business relationship with Britain. (FT)In the newsBeginning of the end for Merkel? German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered a humiliating defeat in regional elections on her home turf on Sunday as voters turned their backs on her liberal refugee policy and gave the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party a political triumph. (FT)State of lawlessness Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has declared “a state of lawlessness” and invited the military and police to run affairs in the country following a bomb blast that killed at least 14 people at the weekend.

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FirstFT – Transatlantic tax tensions, how Facebook labels you and Japan’s ‘handsome weeping boys’

August 25, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereThe US has launched a stinging attack on the European Commission in a last-ditch bid to dissuade Brussels from hitting Apple with a demand for billions of euros in underpaid taxes.In a sharp escalation of the transatlantic feud, the US Treasury issued a rare warning on Wednesday that Brussels was becoming a “supranational tax authority” that threatened international agreements on tax reform. (FT)In the newsEarth finds a neighbour just four light years away For decades, astronomers have searched the skies for planets in our galaxy similar to Earth that could be home to extraterrestrial life. On Wednesday, a team of European scientists revealed they were closer to this goal, as they announced the discovery of a new Earth-like body orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun. This makes it the closest planet outside the solar system that could theoretically harbour life. (FT)Peace in Colombia The Colombian government and the Farc rebel group have signed a historic peace accord, putting an end to more than five decades of conflict. The fighting has killed an estimated 220,000 people and displaced millions. (BBC)Fears over US market plumbing remain The combination of the US stock market at record highs and expectations of volatility languishing near the lowest level in two years should be cause to celebrate on Wall Street.

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FirstFT – Italy struck by quake, the benefits of a 4am start and how London might have looked

August 24, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereA violent earthquake has struck central Italy, killing at least 20 people and destroying dozens of buildings across the regions of Lazio, Umbria and Marche.The quake, which took place around 3.36am local time, was followed by a series of aftershocks and was felt across central Italy as far as Rome. Officials say the quake was comparable in intensity to one that struck the nearby L’Aquila region in 2009. “Half the town is gone,” Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, a town close to the epicentre, told Italian state broadcaster Rai. (FT)In the newsHarnessing the power of blockchain Four of the world’s biggest banks have teamed up to develop a new form of digital cash that they believe will become an industry standard to clear and settle financial trades over blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin. UBS, the Swiss bank, pioneered the “utility settlement coin” and has now joined forces with Deutsche Bank, Santander and BNY Mellon — as well as the broker ICAP — to pitch the idea to central banks, aiming for its first commercial launch by early 2018. (FT)Turkey launches ground offensive inside Syria Turkish tanks have crossed the border into Syria, backed by artillery and air force jets, as Ankara launched a large-scale operation against Isis.

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FirstFT – Renault emissions probe, Deutsche Bank’s $10bn scandal and the crisis in Anglo-American democracy

August 23, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereThe dispute over Hillary Clinton’s email practices now threatens to shadow her for the rest of the presidential campaign after the disclosure on Monday that the FBI has collected nearly 15,000 new emails and a federal judge ordered that the state department accelerate the documents’ release.As a result, thousands of emails that Mrs Clinton did not voluntarily turn over to the state department last year could be released just weeks before the election in November. The order came the same day a conservative watchdog group separately released hundreds of emails from one of Mrs Clinton’s closest aides, Huma Abedin, which put a new focus on the sometimes awkward ties between the Clinton Foundation and the state department.On Thursday, former president Bill Clinton announced that he would step down from the board of the Clinton Foundation if his wife won the election, as more questions emerged about what access donors had to Mrs Clinton while she was secretary of state. (NYT, FT)In the newsRenault emissions report ‘omitted crucial details’ A French government report omitted significant details of how Renault’s diesel cars were able to emit fewer deadly gases when subject to official emissions testing, members of the state inquiry have told the Financial Times.

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FirstFT – Big project spending slumps, the great British Olympic triumph and why we fear narcissism

August 22, 2016

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Pfizer is nearing a deal worth about $14bn to acquire California biotechnology company Medivation, beating a handful of its biggest rivals to win the auction for the sought-after cancer drugmaker.
People close to the talks said a deal between Pfizer, the world’s second-largest drugmaker, and Medivation could be announced as early as Monday, though they cautioned that the two sides were in the process of finalising their agreement.
San Francisco-based Medivation makes the world’s best-selling prostate cancer drug, Xtandi, which is forecast to generate $5.7bn in annual revenues by 2020.
The deal would mark the return of Pfizer to big-ticket dealmaking after its attempt to buy Dublin-based Allergan for $150bn was thwarted by the Obama administration, which wanted to stop the company moving its headquarters to Ireland, with its low-tax regime.

In the news
ChemChina clears Syngenta takeover hurdle Shares in Syngenta jumped 12 per cent on Monday after a US committee scrutinising national security concerns approved ChemChina’s $44bn takeover of the Swiss agribusiness. Investors had seen US worries about national security in a strategically important sector as the main obstacle to a successful transaction — leading to Syngenta’s shares trading at a significant discount to the offer price.

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FirstFT – Whistleblower spurns payout, the best of the bad Olympic losers and a night out in North Korea

August 19, 2016

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A whistleblower who helped expose false accounting at Deutsche Bank has turned down a multimillion-dollar award from the Securities and Exchange Commission in protest against the agency’s failure to punish executives at the bank.

Eric Ben-Artzi, a former Deutsche risk officer, has told the SEC he is declining his share of a $16.5m payout — the third-largest in the whistleblower programme’s history — awarded for information that led the agency to fine Deutsche Bank $55m last year. The SEC found Deutsche misstated its accounts at the height of the financial crisis by improperly valuing a giant derivatives position.
Mr Ben-Artzi said the fine should be paid by individual executives, not shareholders, and suggested the “revolving door” of senior personnel between the SEC and Germany’s largest bank had played a role in executives going unpunished.
He argued that shareholders must be protected and executives punished for their wrongdoing in an FT article today. (FT)
In the news
Bolt eyes the ‘treble treble’ After comfortably claiming gold in the men’s 200-metre, Usain Bolt is now looking ahead to the 4x100m relay final tomorrow. If victorious, he will have won all nine Olympic finals in which he has appeared.

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FirstFT – Fed splits over rates, Goldman Sachs aims for the 99% and the capture of ‘the ghost’

August 18, 2016

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A divided Federal Reserve left open the prospect of a further interest rate rise this year even as policymakers insisted they needed more evidence on the durability of the rebound before feeling confident enough to pull the trigger.
Minutes of the Fed’s latest July meeting revealed a hard-fought debate over when to move rates, with a couple of participants urging an immediate move while others were urging caution amid questions over how rapidly inflation will return to target. (FT)
In the news
Living with negative rates Almost 500m people are living under negative central bank interest rates — an unprecedented policy move which is “a clear sign of desperation” with a host of unintended consequences for the world economy, Standard & Poor’s has warned. In an in-depth study on the impact of sub-zero interest rates across the developed world in the eurozone, Japan and Scandinavia, S&P calculated that a quarter of the world’s GDP is affected by negative rates. (FastFT)

Law and disorder in Rio Two US swimmers have been prevented from boarding flights back to the US by Brazilian police, as doubts swirl about claims that they and two teammates had been robbed at gunpoint at the weekend. Meanwhile, Pat Hickey, the 71-year-old Irish head of the European Olympic Committees, was detained in connection with an alleged ticketing scam.

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FirstFT – Banks look to stockpile cash, gold medals roll in for Britain and why the world isn’t falling apart

August 17, 2016

Sign up to receive FirstFT by email hereMaster thieves take note. European banks are considering locking up piles of cash in high-security vaults as interest rates sink below zero across much of the continent. Europe’s highways are not yet jammed with heavily guarded trucks transporting money to top-secret locations but if it becomes financially sensible for banks to hoard cash as rates are cut even further, the practice could undermine central banks’ ability to use negative rates to boost growth. (FT)In the newsRussia bombs Syrian rebels from Iran air base The bombing campaign strengthens Moscow’s position in the Middle East and increases pressure on the US to co-ordinate its Syrian military campaign with the Kremlin. (FT)Britain’s gold rush It was another night of success for Britain at the Olympics, with cyclists Jason Kenny, in the keirin, and Laura Trott, in the omnium, producing record-winning performances. And the pair happen to be getting married next month. (FT) Car wars Ford is revving up plans to build the first mass-market driverless car, doubling the number of staff in Silicon Valley and teaming up with China’s Baidu search engine. Meanwhile, German carmakers led by BMW are training their sights on Tesla, pushing to catch up with the electric carmaker.

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