The newest board member of non-profit, charitable organisation Wikimedia Foundation has been forced to resign following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by Wikipedia editors. Tesla’s vice president of human resources Arnnon Geshuri was appointed to the Foundation’s board of trustees in late December. Community members subsequently voiced their concerns over Geshuri's hiring due to his role in the Silicon Valley staff poaching scandal while employed as a senior staffing strategist at Google.
Malaysia’s Minister of Communications Salleh Said Keruak has accused the Swiss attorney general’s office of spreading misinformation and breaking protocol after it reported the findings of its probe into corruption at Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Swiss authorities are examining four possible cases of criminal conduct after its investigations revealed that approximately US$4 billion had been misappropriated from Malaysian state-owned entities. The financial scandal is threatening the reputation of Malaysia and its institutions, with the banker brother of Prime Minister Najib Razak warning of the fallout.
European Union antitrust commissioner Margarethe Vestager has urged the European Commission (EC) to consider reusing the potential carrot of lower fines for companies that admit to breaking the law as a means of speeding up anti-competitive probes. Speaking at a conference organised by Global Competition Law Centre, Vestager suggested that the tool could help to wrap up cases and restore competition faster.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged SAP SE with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when seeking business opportunities in Panama. Without admitting nor denying the charges, the German software manufacturer agreed to pay disgorgement of US$3.7 million in profits from software sales to the Panamanian government and prejudgment interest of US$188,896. In a statement, the SEC said the settlement reflected SAP’s cooperation and remedial measures.
A United States Navy commander has admitted to accepting bribes in the form of cash, gifts, travel expenses, entertainment and the services of prostitutes from a foreign defence contractor. San Diego-based Navy commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz pleaded guilty to accepting the bribes from Singaporean firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) in exchange for sharing classified information such as ship schedules concerning the Navy’s ballistic missile defence operations in the Pacific.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have criticised Qatar’s proposed changes to its labour laws ahead of the 2022 football World Cup. The international human rights organisations stated that the amendments do not go far enough in protecting migrant workers, leaving them “acutely vulnerable”. Qatar announced the changes in October 2015 in response to international criticism of the working conditions of many migrant construction workers, who are helping the country prepare to host the 2022 football World Cup.
Malaysian investigators have cleared Prime Minister Najib Razak of any wrongdoing over a “personal contribution” of US$681 million from the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The country’s Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali also cleared Najib of any misconduct in accepting unspecified funds from SRC International, a company linked to debt-ridden state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad. However, critics have highlighted the fact that Apandi is himself a recent appointment by Najib, who fired his predecessor over this very issue.
German sports manufacturer Adidas has informed the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that it will end its current sponsorship agreement with athletics’ world governing body four years early. Although neither organisation has confirmed the rumours, with both issuing statements to the effect that a ‘reform process’ was ongoing, the decision to terminate is believed to be directly related to the recent doping scandal that has engulfed the sport.
Ocwen Financial Corporation has agreed to pay a US$2 million penalty to settle charges that it misstated financial results as a result of using a flawed methodology to value mortgage assets. The United States mortgage loan provider has neither admitted nor denied the findings from a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation, which claimed that the company misled investors when it asserted that it independently valued complex mortgage assets at fair value under United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iran just one day after it lifted international sanctions against the country over its nuclear programme. The new sanctions, which were levied as a result of Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile, prevents 11 entities and individuals linked to the missile programme from using the United States banking system. The sanctions also target five Iranian individuals who helped in procuring missile components, as well as front companies used to deceive suppliers abroad.
Fifty-five people, including cabinet ministers, former governors and government workers, stole US$6.8 billion from Nigeria’s public coffers over a seven-year period between 2006 and 2013. The allegations were made by the country’s information minister Lai Mohammed as he sought to enlist the assistance of ordinary Nigerians in a new corruption awareness campaign. Also among those accused were bankers and businessmen although Mohammed did not identify names.
The head of the United Kingdom’s top antitrust regulator has warned companies, particular those in the pharmaceutical sector, to expect substantial fines as it seeks to improve its enforcement record. Alex Chishom said that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) intended to step up the scale and impact of its enforcement activity, and that high value markets with large players should face credible deterrents such as big fines.
Authorities in China have formally arrested one of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers and charged her with subversion. Wang Yu was initially detained in police custody back in July along with hundreds of other lawyers. While most have since been released, at least five, including Wang, have now been officially arrested. The charge of subversion can carry a potential life sentence in jail and is part of an escalating crackdown on freedom under President Xi Jinping that has placed pressure on activist lawyers fighting for human and legal rights.
The European Commission (EC) has ordered Belgium to repossess approximately €700 million (US$762 million) in illegal tax aids granted to at least 35 multinational corporations. The move is consistent with a continuing crackdown on excessively generous tax schemes within the European Union (EU). The EC stated that excess-profit rulings had allowed a host of global companies, believed to include the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev and BP, to be able to decrease their tax base by approximately 90 percent, giving them an unfair advantage over smaller competitors.
Oil company Hyperdynamics Corporation has lodged a contract suit and request for arbitration against its drilling partners in Guinea for reneging unfairly on their offshore drilling obligations. The small-sized company alleges that drilling partners Dana Petroleum and Tullow Oil sought to exploit its now-settled Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigation by delaying drilling activities. The case serves to highlight how reputational damage can have an impact on the operations of a business long after a probe has concluded.
GlaxoSmithKline has announced a new policy to end its practice of making payments to doctors to promote its products. The United Kingdom drugmaker will cease paying speaking fees to healthcare professionals that present on its behalf in seminars designed to educate other doctors on drug brands. The move marks the most recent effort by GSK to mend its reputation after a hugely damaging corruption scandal in China and the subsequent US$3 billion financial penalty incurred in the United States for illegal marketing.
The United States has responded with a show of force to last week’s testing of a so-called hydrogen bomb by North Korea by flying a B-52 bomber over its neighbour South Korea. North Korea’s announcement of its successful testing of a hydrogen bomb has been widely condemned by major world powers. While experts have been sceptical on whether the device was indeed a hydrogen bomb given the size of the blast, the move by Pyongyang has led to calls for an increase in sanctions against the isolated nation.
An alleged drug cartel kingpin intends to plead guilty to United States federal charges of money laundering and the distribution of cocaine, including attempts to import and export the illegal drug. Edgar Valdez Villareal, a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States who is known as ‘La Barbie’ due to his blue eyes and fair skin, allegedly played a significant role in the shipment of almost 100 kilogrammes of cocaine through a Texas border every week for most of 2005.