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Elon Musk once drank 8 cans of Diet Coke and a ton of coffee every day (TSLA)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Elon Musk

Elon Musk may make batteries for a living, but the billionaire entrepreneur once required a shocking amount of caffeine to stay energized. 

At one point, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO was reportedly consuming eight cans of Diet Coke and several large coffees in a day to keep himself alert and on top of his grueling work schedule, Inc. previously reported.

This was back when Musk was working 100 hours per week during the launch of his companies.

“I got so freaking jacked that I seriously started to feel like I was losing my peripheral vision,” Musk told Inc. He claims his office now has caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Sure, we're all guilty of craving a coffee pick-me-up, but that is a ton of caffeine. 

Most adults can safely consume 400 mg of caffeine each day. Diet Coke has 42 mg of caffeine in each can (more than any other type of Coca-Cola), which means he was consuming 336 mg in just soda drinks.

Adding coffee into the mix likely put him over than 400 mg max. A tall coffee from Starbucks has about 260 mg of caffeine per cup.

Musk isn't alone in his unhealthy eating habits.

Warren Buffett, who is 86 years old, has a McDonald's breakfast sandwich every day. On days when the market is down, Buffett claims he is more frugal and opts for the $2.95 Sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese. On good days, he'll order the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit for $3.17. Every morning, he tells his current wife, Astrid, to put the exact change in the center cup holder of his car. 

When Buffett arrives at his desk at Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha, he sits down to eat his breakfast with a glass of Coke. He drinks five Cokes per day. 

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Libertarian Party Blasts Government Case Against Bitcoin Trader

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

The US Libertarian Party sharply criticizing the sentencing of a bitcoin trader on an unlawful money transmission charge this week.

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How Ethereum became the platform of choice for ICO’d digital assets

TechCrunch, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

 For most of the history of blockchain-based currencies and assets, the story has been all about Bitcoin. At a market capitalization of around $40 billion, it remains the most valuable cryptocurrency. But with the rise of a new ‘chain on the — ahem — block, namely Ethereum, and new ways to fund the development of new crypto-platforms with ICOs, the narrative is shifting somewhat. Read More

Chinese Regulators Expected to Release Bitcoin Exchange Rules This Month

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

China’s central bank is reportedly expected to release new rules for bitcoin exchanges later this month.

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Kansas Republicans killed the state's disastrous tax cuts that look a lot like Trump's plan

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Sam Brownback

The Kansas state legislature voted on Monday to raise taxes in an effort to reduce the state's massive budget shortfall.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback — who slashed the Kansas business tax rate down to 0% in 2013 as part of the state's largest-ever tax cuts — quickly vetoed the bill.

But both chambers of the state's Republican-controlled legislature overrode the Governor's veto on Tuesday, effectively putting an end to the 2013 tax cuts.

The state legislature's tax hike will raise $1.2 billion over the next two years through an increase in the individual income tax rate and a repeal of the o% tax rate for pass-through business.

"I think we've taken a big step backwards," Brownback told reporters on Wednesday.

President Trump's most recent tax proposal similarly aims to reduce the tax burden for businesses by dropping the business tax rate from 35% to 15%. The aim with these types of cuts is to spur economic growth. After all, if businesses have more money in hand, they can, theoretically, hire more people and invest in making new products.

But ask some Kansans and you'll learn how that kind of tax cut could have serious unintended consequences.

Instead of spurring business investment and job creation, researchers from a number of institutions say it turned more into a "tax avoidance" program. A lot of white-collar workers like law partners, accountants, and doctors stopped taking salaries and instead started claiming the profits of the business. For them, state income tax essentially went from a maximum of 4.6% to nothing. This has led to the ongoing budget crisis.

“Kansas has been an unmitigated budgetary disaster,” Dr Lori McMillan, a tax-law professor at Washburn University, told Business Insider. “It was a very messy, blunt club when a scalpel was needed.”

The economic growth from the tax cuts never materialized. Kansas was saddled with an almost instantaneous budget hole, leaving schools and pensions drastically underfunded. Infrastructure repairs were put on hold. And to deal with a $700 million drop in revenue — almost twice what was predicted — Kansas raised its sales tax, hurting all residents, but especially lower income Kansans.

Kansas has some peculiarities, but the lessons still apply nationally. In the state, a 0% tax rate applied only to "pass-through" businesses, which send their profits directly to the companies' owners. Before this law, those owners would just pay Kansas' individual tax rate. The 2012 law effectively created a new category just for them, where they pay nothing.

Screen Shot 2017 05 04 at 6.30.09 PM

Nationally, 90% of US companies are pass-throughs, according to the Tax Foundation, so it's possible Trump's tax cut would have similar effects. It could also encourage some higher-income workers to become independent contractors rather than remain companies' employees.

"The logic is simple," Joseph Rosenberg and Leonard Burman of the Tax Policy Center say. "If wage income is taxed at 33 percent but business income is taxed at 15 percent (as under Trump’s campaign proposal), taxpayers may reduce their tax liability by more than half if they can effectively recharacterize their wage income as business income.”

In other words, someone might stop taking a traditional salary, and instead effectively become a one-person business to save on taxes. But it should be noted that even though people changed the way they file and went out of their way to get the tax cut, they were within the bounds of the law.

It wasn't supposed to be this way

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pushed hard for the 2013 tax break. He bet it would help the state's economy. But the bigger-than-expected budget shortfall has had drastic ripple effects.

It has exacerbated a school-funding crisis. The state's supreme court in March even called the low level of funding unconstitutional.

Despite widespread criticism, including from within his own party in the legislature, Brownback mostly resisted reversing the tax cuts. The state's budget director, Shawn Sullivan, who's appointed by the governor, said that might be changing.

“The goal is to be pro-growth," Sullivan told Business Insider prior to this week's legislative actions. "The governor believes the current plan is best, but as the legislature deals with the current situation, he is willing to compromise."

Sullivan also refutes the validity of some of the economic studies of Kansas completed by the Tax Foundation and academics, saying, "They've extrapolated conclusions not borne of the data."

But the state is still facing massive budget deficits — as much as $1.1 billion through the middle of 2019. Past action by Kansas lawmakers has raised the state's sales taxes in lieu of changing the tax cuts on business and personal income. Though some take issue with the burden that puts on ordinary Kansans.

“When you pick winners and losers in your tax policy, you only shift the burden of funding the government to others who may be less able to pay," says McMillan.

Kansas now has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation at 6.5%, the cigarette tax was recently raised by 79 cents to $1.29, and a new tax was put on vapor products as well, according to the Tax Foundation.

Bernie Koch of the Kansas Economic Progress Council isn’t sure how long that level of sales tax can last.

kansas

“The sales tax wasn’t meant to handle that load,” says Koch. “It’s become the largest slice of the pie for Kansas. More than the income tax. I don’t think the legislators ever thought ‘can the sales tax handle this?’”

In February, the state legislature approved a bill that would have repealed the pass-through tax exemption as part of a larger tax overhaul.

Governor Brownback vetoed it.

“I am vetoing it because the legislature failed to fulfill my request that they find savings and efficiencies before asking the people of Kansas for more taxes,” the governor said. “I am vetoing it because Kansas families deserve to keep more of their hard-earned cash.”

Following the veto, the credit-rating agency Moody's issued a negative outlook for the state.

A Trump plan

Trump's team says its plan might work differently. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration "will make sure that there are rules in place so that wealthy people can't create pass-throughs and use that as a mechanism to avoid paying the tax rate that they should be on the personal side."

But the big question is, how does he do that? What legal rules can the administration come up with so that tax lawyers and accountants can't find legal loopholes? 

"Kansas is a teaser for how hard it is to budget this kind of tax cut," McMillan said. 

Details of the Trump plan are currently being negotiated with Congress. 

Meanwhile, some were wondering if Kansas' schools would open in the fall. After the state supreme court's ruling, legislators had to pass some form of tax reform to properly fund the schools.

With school funding tied to the recently passed tax increases, it appears as though that crisis has been averted.

SEE ALSO: 'Trumponomics,' in Trump's own words, comes down to one thing — trade

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A notorious activist investor explains why he came to love that label

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Paul Singer

Billionaire Paul Singer, founder of hedge fund Elliott Management, is a polarizing figure.

As an activist investor — who tries to shake up boardrooms or challenge corporate leadership — he is admired by many investors but demonized by those he targets for his contentious fights.

A 15-year battle with the government of Argentina earned him the label of a vulture, and the CEO of a company his fund targeted recently sent a letter to Singer with veiled threats.

Singer says that image plays to his benefit. In an interview Wednesday at the Bloomberg Invest Summit in New York, Singer said he's learned not to "care too much about opprobrium and unfair press. There’s a part of this equation that’s functional."

He added: "If that's the reputation we have, backed by having the money and the process and generally sound thinking about the positions, it’s good when a corporate executive opens the mail or the email or picks up the phone and listens with the understanding that we are real, that we have the capacity to carry through and the history of carrying through on the projects that we undertake."

Recently, the fund set in motion the resignation of Arconic CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, and gained the right to have a say in naming the next CEO.

Singer's fund raised $5 billion in about 24 hours at the end of May, telling investors that it expected the capital would be deployed as it expected "all hell to break loose" in the markets. 

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Charts: Bitcoin's Network is Objectively More Congested Than Ever

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

CoinDesk's research team takes a look at the changing economics of the bitcoin blockchain, using charts to tell the story of the scaling debate.

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Draghi says ECB could still cut rates despite the bank effectively saying the opposite

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Mario Draghi

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Thursday that interest rates could be cut further if economic conditions worsen, appearing to contradict the bank's official stance outlined earlier in the day.

The ECB left all of its main interest rates as well as its quantitative easing programme unchanged on Thursday as expected. But the statement made by the ECB after those decisions removed the phrase "or lower" from commentary on the future direction of interest rates.

At a press conference after the ECB's decision, Draghi told reporters: "On the current expectation, I don't expect lower interest rates, but you ask me: 'In case things were to worsen are you ready to lower interest rates?' The answer is 'yes'."

The bank had changed a sentence in the first paragraph of its official update from:

"The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels for an extended period of time,"

To:

"The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels for an extended period of time."

By excluding those two words, the statement seemed to rule out interest rates falling further into negative territory in the foreseeable future. Draghi's comments undermine the confidence in that belief.

Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, on the bank's annual trip away from its headquarters in Frankfurt, Draghi said that the bank could still expand its QE programme, also known as the APP (asset purchase programme), despite a widespread belief in the markets that QE will be gradually reduced from the end of 2017 onwards.

"It is part of our reaction function. If things turn out less favourable then we are ready to expand our APP," he told reporters.

The ECB has already reduced the ceiling on monthly asset purchases from a peak of €80 billion per month to €60 billion per month.

Draghi presented said that the ECB's economists "foresee annual HICP inflation at 1.5% in 2017, 1.3% in 2018 and 1.6% in 2019."

Those estimates undershoot of the bank's inflation target — close to, but below 2% — and are one of the reasons why the ECB sees the need to keep asset purchase levels so high and rates so low.

"The economic expansion [seen in the eurozone so far in 2017] has yet to translate into stronger inflation dynamics," Draghi said during a set of prepared remarks.

"So far, measures of underlying inflation continue to remain subdued. Therefore, a very substantial degree of monetary accommodation is still needed for underlying inflation pressures to build up and support headline inflation in the medium term."

The ECB's conference also addressed issues surrounding Wednesday's sudden takeover of Banco Popular by fellow Spanish lender Santander as part of an ECB-backed plan to prevent Popular from collapsing.

Commenting on the ECB's decision to push through the sale overnight into Wednesday, ECB vice-president Vitor Constâncio said: "The reasons that triggered that decision were related to liquidity problems. There was a bank run. So it was not a matter of assessing the developments of the solvency as such, but the liquidity issues."

Popular was "about to be unable to settle its debts and liabilities," Constâncio added.

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JPMorgan is heading to Vegas (JPM)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Las Vegas Strip at Night

JPMorgan is doing Vegas.

As part of it continued expansion to America's regional markets, the largest US bank by assets will open its first commercial banking outpost in Nevada, the company announced Thursday. 

It will offer banking services to local businesses with more than $20 million in annual revenue throughout the state.
The team will be run by Megan Ackaert, who previously worked as vice president of Chase's commercial banking team in Seattle. 

Lisa Lobue has also joined the team as a senior banker. She most recently worked as relationship manager and development officer for Bank of America in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 

The move follows similar openings in middle-market cities across the country, including the addition of a commercial banking office in Atlanta in February. 

JPMorgan isn't the only bank hiring staff for or moving staff to regional centers in the US. The potential rewards are significant: Middle-market companies in the US and Canada paid $8.2 billion in deal fees in 2015, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch presentation.

That's more than the fees netted in most of Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America combined.

Chase's expansion in Nevada will also include the opening of a new retail branch in Las Vegas and two new branches in Reno, with more branches to follow in 2018. Chase has had retail branches in Las Vegas since 2008, when it acquired Washington Mutual.  

SEE ALSO: There's a hot new posting for Wall Street bankers — and it's not Hong Kong or London

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Bitcoin's 'Independence Day': Could Users Tip the Scales in the Scaling Debate?

CoinDesk, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Is 'BIP 148' a beneficial change or risky update? Here's what both sides are saying about bitcoin's upcoming 'Independence Day'.

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One type of Wall Street personality tends to get 'destroyed' in their 30s and 40s, according to one of the richest billionaires in finance (BX)

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Stephen A. Schwarzman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Blackstone Group, in New York, February 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

With more than four decades of experience on Wall Street, Steve Schwarzman has seen it all. 

The billionaire founder of Blackstone Group, who now also advises President Donald Trump, has built his company from a tiny advisory service in 1985 into an industry leader, with $368 billion in assets under management in 2017. 

Schwarzman, 70, has navigated the firm through multiple recessions and economic calamities that ended many other careers in finance. 

One of Schwarzman's keys to a lengthy — and prosperous — stay on Wall Street? Respecting and mastering risk and not becoming overconfident.

Banking has a reputation for breeding gladiators. But in an interview with Jason Kelly of Bloomberg, Schwarzman said the "brave" are the personality types that tend to wash out early in finance (emphasis ours):

"So part of what benefited us was that we’re risk-averse. I have a saying: There are no brave old people in finance. Because if you’re brave, you mostly get destroyed in your 30s and 40s. If you make it to your 50s and 60s and you’re still prospering, you have a very good sense of how to avoid problems and when to be conservative or aggressive with your investments.

Controlling risk was crucial to Blackstone's growth and longevity, and the buck stopped with Schwarzman. Lose control of risk and ink a few stray deals, he warned, and "all of a sudden you've blown up your business." 

"I was committed that that wouldn't happen," Schwarzman told Bloomberg. 

Schwarzman's full interview with Kelly is worth a read. Check it out at Bloomberg Markets.

SEE ALSO: Billionaire investor Steve Schwarzman had the perfect explanation for middle-class anger

DON'T MISS: The head of a $368 billion investment firm says he 'doesn't get emotional about business decisions' — but there's one exception

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OakNorth, the 'bank for entrepreneurs,' lent £300 million last year

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

OakNorth founders Rishi Kholsa, left, and Joel Perlman.

LONDON — Entrepreneur-focused startup bank OakNorth lent £300 million to small businesses last year and is expecting to lend out £800 million in 2017.

OakNorth's annual accounts, filed with Companies House this week, show the bank made net income from its lending of £7.1 million last year, up from £156,000 in 2015, its first year of operation.

Chairman Cyrus Ardalan writes in the report: "In the six months following the Brexit vote, we were able to triple our loan book and increase our lending to strong businesses as larger banks retrenched from the markets."

Notable deals include £19 million lent to healthy fast food chain LEON in August to fund expansion.

Ardalan adds: "We continue to see strong demand from businesses across all sectors." He says OakNorth has a "qualified pipeline" to lend a further £500 million. The bank had a gross loan book of £276 million at the end of December 2016 and the bank confirmed to Business Insider that its loan book now stands at £550 million.

Pre-tax losses edged up slightly from £2.2 million to £2.4 million in 2016. However, the bank says it is already breaking even on a monthly basis and most of the losses come from investment into technology.

OakNorth became the first bank to host its systems entirely on the cloud last May and the company's annual report details investment in machine learning and artificial intelligence projects to help with credit modelling and loan origination. The bank says it is working on a system to "better predict real estate selling and rental prices" and to "benchmark and predict performance of new borrowers in sectors such as restaurants and catering."

Customer deposits, attracted through a savings account, jumped from £10.9 million to £202.3 million in 2016. OakNorth told Business Insider it now has £350 million from 10,000 savers. The bank has raised £91.6 million in equity funding to date.

OakNorth's cofounder and CEO Rishi Khosla writes in the company's report that 2016 was a "phenomenal year" for the bank. "We have established ourselves as one of the the UK's fastest growing financial services companies," he writes.

Khosla cofounded OakNorth in 2015 as a "bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs." Khosla and fellow cofounder Joel Perlman had previously cofounded Copal Amba, a research company for banks that was sold to Moody's in 2014. Earlier this year tech-focused investment bank GP Bullhound named OakNorth as a fintech startup it believes could one day be worth over $1 billion.

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The General Election is hitting the housing market

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

In this photo illustration an array of property For Sale marketing boards are erected at sign manufacturers Real Estate Advertising Ltd on March 11, 2015 in Tamworth, England. (Photo by )

LONDON — Property professionals are blaming the UK General Election for a slowdown in house sales and slowing price growth.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)'s monthly survey of its members "points to a lacklustre set of overall conditions" in May, with sales declining by 8%. The number of new houses being put into the market is also declining.

"The General Election is again commonly cited as a factor hindering activity, causing some hesitancy from both buyers and vendors," RICS writes in the report. It says many sellers have been adopting "a wait and see approach."

Price growth nationally slowed to 17% in May, the weakest performance since August last year, and prices dropped in London for the 14th consecutive month.

Nationwide's measure of UK house prices fell 0.2% month-on-month in May, meaning house prices have dropped for three consecutive months for the first time since February 2009.

However, Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, says in Thursday's release: "Perhaps the most ominous signal emanating from the data released today is that contributors still expect house prices to increase at a faster pace than wages over the medium term despite the difficulty many first-time buyers are clearly having in taking their first steps onto the property ladder."

RICS members predict that house price inflation will average 3.5% over the next five years nationally. Wage growth is running at 2.3% and much of those gains are being eaten away by inflation, which currently stands at 2.7%.

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Confidence in Qatar's state finances has been shaken by its diplomatic row

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Doha, Qatar

Confidence Qatar's state finances is tumbling in the wake of a diplomatic row that has seen neighbouring states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut ties.

Credit rating agency S&P cut its long-term rating of Qatar one notch from AA to AA- late on Wednesday and implied that further downgrades were likely.

The cost of insuring against a sovereign bond default, through contracts known as credit default swaps rose sharply, Reuters reported, with the market pricing in a 6% chance of a default within five years.

CDS on Qatari sovereign bonds rose more than 10% to 89 points, Reuters said, up from 80 on Wednesday and 65.5 from last week.

Qatar's neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut diplomatic and trade ties with the country, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Qatar has denied the allegations.

The Qatari stock market has tumbled around 9% since the announcement and its currency, the riyal, has fallen to an 11-year low. 

Here's the chart of the stock market:

qatar

Qatar is one of the richest nations on the planet by gross domestic product per capita. It is the 18th-most-competitive country, according to the World Economic Forum's benchmark Global Competitiveness Report.

It is a small nation of just 2.4 million people, most of whom are foreign workers.

But tensions in the region are rising. On Wednesday Bahrain's foreign minister said it would consider "any options" to protect itself from Qatar.

Bahrain's Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said:"We will not hesitate to protect our interests and the road is open to any options to protect ourselves from Qatar," according to Saudi newspaper Mecca.

Meanwhile, Turkey's parliament approved a bill to deploy its troops to a military base in Qatar in a show of support for the now-isolated country, Reuters reported.

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The multi-billion dollar immigration industry is on 'extraordinarily thin ice' and fretting about its 'Napoleon III' moment

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Orsini

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The multi-billion dollar investment migration industry, which sees governments offering visas and citizenship to people in return for investments in local businesses and property, is surfing the crest of a wave.

Having ridden a boom in demand from newly affluent citizens from China and Russia seeking new lives in the West, some in the industry are now warning that the wave could be about to break.

"We are as a group on extraordinarily thin ice, because one bad apple who obtains a second passport or citizenship, who commits a heinous crime despite the vetting that was done, will bring these programs to an absolute collapse," Peter Vincent, an assistant director general at BORDERPOL, a global borders agency, said in a speech at the Investment Migration Forum in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.

"In this particular environment there's a great deal of scepticism and paranoia among global counter-terrorism experts, and a deep desire to shut things down before someone gets hurt," he said.

A sudden crackdown on immigration loopholes in response to a criminal act is not unprecedented. The industry is concerned that it could happen again in the near future, at a stroke crippling the consultants, lawyers and accountants who earn their fees by assisting clients looking to gain a second citizenship.

Dmitry Kochenov, a professor of European law at the University of Gronigen and chairman of the industry's Investment Migration Council pointed to the shift in passport policy that happened after Italian national Felice Orsini attempted to assassinate Napoleon III at a theatre in Paris in 1858.

Orsini had travelled to France on a UK-issued passport, with the resulting crackdown leading to the shift to the nationality-based passport system in the world today.

"The outcry was such that the whole passport system of the world was changed. This is something that can occur in a week or in a month. If an act of terror were to be committed by someone in one of these programs then all the programs would be ended," Kochenov told the assembled conference of investment migration specialists.

Napoleon III said at the time that "passports are an embarrassment and an obstacle to the peaceable citizen but utterly powerless" to stop those that wish harm. 

"Some day someone will dictate to you, perhaps it will be the Financial Action Task Force, and they will say 'ok, you're going to have to get a reporting agency.'

The investment migration industry is both large and unregulated. Figures on the size of it are hard to come by. But a source told Business Insider that the program of Cyprus, which requires a €2 million investment in the country in return for citizenship and access to the other 27 European Union countries, earns as much as €4 billion a year, or around 25% of its GDP. 

The system works well on the most part. It connects countries that want to boost foreign direct investment with the jet-setting rich who want ease of travel through places like Europe and the USA, or access to better schooling and public services for their families.

When done right, it services a need that is mutually beneficial to both country and consumer.

But, while the IMC has had a Code of Ethics in place for two years, there are no global, binding rules on how the companies that assist clients through the immigration investment process should operate, leading to Vincent to call for companies to come together and make sure they "are doing enough to establish the identity of individuals and their motives."

"There is a pernicious misconception that your clients operate in secrecy, in shadows, representing shady operations or shady governments," he said. 

As with banking, which has faced tougher anti-money laundering and compliance requirements since the financial crisis, now the investment immigration industry is starting to recognise the need to either self-regulate or accept rules imposed on it.

"I think the same thing is going to happen in this industry," Kim Marsh, the global head of the immigration practice at Exiger Due Diligence, said in a speech. "Some day someone will dictate to you, perhaps it will be the Financial Action Task Force, and they will say 'OK, you're going to have to get a reporting agency.'

"It started with the banks, then came precious stones, real estate and they even threw in lawyers," he said. "I think eventually it will come. Now have to focus on the regulatory part and get the consistency right through from beginning to end, from the agent who finds the client to the end process."

The industry also faces a more subtle, but no less dangerous, existential threat. The wave of populist nationalism that carried Donald Trump to US election victory and will take the UK out of the European Union could cut immigration of all types and hamper public support for the programs.

"There is also a, frankly less dramatic worry, among governments and academics that these programs commodify nationality. Certain governments hold nationality extraordinarily close and the view that somehow those passports and that citizenship is somehow being watered down causes them great concern," Vincent said.

Vincent's warnings to the industry may be harsh but he is used to hostile environments.

"I spent two and half years in Colombia, where I was in charge of extradition of Colombian war lords, narco kingpins and FARC terrorists. People wanted to kill me," he said.

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10 things you need to know before European markets open

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

A sign to a polling station hangs from a lamp post in central London, Britain, June 7, 2017.

Good morning! Here's what you need to know on Thursday.

1. Britain goes to the polls today, after a turbulent few weeks which have shifted the political ground and been marred by terror attacks. Polls open at 7 a.m. BST at more than 40,000 polling stations across the country, with counting starting once voting ends at 10 p.m. BST.

2. The fired FBI chief, James Comey, has publicly revealed how Donald Trump put pressure on him to shut down an investigation into a senior adviser’s links to Russia on Wednesday, the Guardian reports. Comey’s statement for the record was released on Wednesday ahead of his eagerly awaited appearance before the Senate intelligence committee on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

3. Investors expect a cut in inflation forecasts when the European Central Bank (ECB) meets to discuss monetary policy on Thursday at 13.30 p.m. BST (8.30 a.m. ET). The European Central Bank is likely to keep the money taps fully open at the meeting.

4. Elis, the French laundry services group, has reached a preliminary agreement to take over its UK rival Berendsen in a deal that values the target at about £2.2bn, the FT reports. A statement from the companies on Wednesday evening said the two had agreed "in principle" on a deal that would create a European leader in the sector.

5. UK economic growth will slow sharply next year before Britain leaves the EU in 2019 without a trade deal, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The gloomy forecast is driven by the OECD's assumption that Britain will leave the EU without a trade deal and fall back onto restrictive World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs.

6. RBS has reached a £200 million settlement with a majority of shareholders who invested in the bank for its £12 billion 2008 rights issue and lost most of their money. The RBS Shareholders Action Group voted to accept an 82p a share offer, which is significantly less than the 200 to 230p that the investors paid in 2008.

7. Some 13% of Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders have still not accepted the offer, however, according to an FT report. The High Court heard that 87% of investors by value had agreed to settle their legal case with RBS over its 2008 rights issue, but the remaining investors were undecided.

8. Japan's Nikkei share average hovered in positive terrain on Thursday, with the yen moving away from recent highs and Wall Street edging up, but market participants were on guard ahead of Thursday's key events: the UK vote, Comey's testimony, and the ECB meeting. The Nikkei was up 0.1%t at 19,993.97 at the end of morning trade, Reuters reports.

9. Gold edged lower early Thursday after Comey's written testimony was seen to contain a few fireworks. Spot gold was down 0.1%, to $1,285.20 per ounce at 2.05 a.m. BST, Reuters reports.

10. The collapse of BHS cost Sir Philip Green's retail empire £26.4 million and declining sales at its High Street outlets, such as Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, led to writedowns of £100 million, according to accounts filed with Companies House this week.

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The collapse of BHS cost Sir Philip Green's retail empire £26.4 million

Business Insider, 1/1/0001 12:00 AM PST

Retailer Philip Green speaks before Parliament's business select committee on the collapse of British Home Stores which he used to own, in London, Britain June 15, 2016.

LONDON — The collapse of BHS cost Sir Philip Green's retail empire £26.4 million and declining sales at its High Street outlets, such as Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, led to writedowns of £100 million.

Accounts filed with Companies House this week show that Taveta Investments, the holding company for Sir Philip's retail businesses, spent £26.4 million on "exceptional administration costs — including lease guarantee costs, legal and professional fees and redundancy costs," related to the collapse of BHS and subsequent investigation into what went wrong.

Taveta Investments owned BHS until 2015 when the loss-making department store was sold for £1. However, various agreements with the chain's buyer, Dominic Chappell, meant Arcadia (the operating company owned by Taveta) was not fully separated from BHS.

BHS subsequently collapsed in April 2016. An MPs report into its demise was highly critical of Sir Philip's running of the company, as well as the conduct of Chappell. Sir Philip has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The £26.4 million in costs comes on top of the £363 million that Sir Philip has personally agreed to spend funding the BHS pension scheme, which came close to collapse when BHS went under. The Sunday Times estimates that the declining value of Sir Philip and his wife Tina's business interests have also cost the couple £433 million.

Representatives of Sir Philip did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment in time for publication.

The BHS costs contributed to a jump in one-off costs for Taveta, which owns brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge through Arcadia Group. Exceptional costs jumped from £12.2 million in 2015 to £129.1 million last year.

The huge jump was due largely to a rapid decline in the performance of its stores as UK consumers switch to online shopping and fashion spending declines more generally. Provisions to cover rents in loss-making stores jumped to £21.7 million, suggesting more stores are becoming loss-making, and the company wrote down the value of its assets by £80 million to reflect the declining performance of its stores.

Taveta's board blame "on-going challenging global market conditions." They write:

"The retail industry continues to experience a major period of change as customers become ever more selective and value conscious and advances in technology open up more diverse, fast-changing and complex sales channels. This is set against an economic environment of a continued slow recovery from a deep recession and the uncertainty caused by Brexit."

The British Retail Consortium warned earlier this week that consumer spending in Britain is in "long-term decline" and UBS said earlier this year it is seeing a "dramatic reduction in consumer discretionary income and intention to spend." Fashion is being hit particularly hard, with BDO's High Street sales tracker showing a 3.9% in clothing sales in May.

Taveta bought Arcadia in 2002 for £850 million. The group performed well during the 2000s but has faltered in recent years. Taveta's brands rely largely on a strong High Street presence and have struggled to adapt to the pace of digital-only rivals such as ASOS and Boohoo.

Sir Philip has reportedly invested £100 million into improving Arcadia's digital operations and Taveta's accounts show the number of retail outlets Arcadia's brands trade from fell from 3,034 to 2,766 as the company reduces its physical footprint.

The accounts, which leaked in the press earlier this week, also confirmed a 16% fall in operating profit to £211 million and revenue flat at £2 billion.

Once exceptional items and discontinued operations are taking into account, Taveta made an operating profit of £82 million, down from £223.3 million in 2015. Pre-tax profit was £36.7 million, against £172.2 million in 2015.

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