Bloomberg News

Russian Banking, Afren, SEC Whistle-Blower: Compliance

September 02, 2014

The U.K. is pressing European Union leaders to consider blocking Russian access to the Swift banking transaction system under an expansion of sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, a British government official said.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as Swift, is one of Russia’s main connections to the international financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government planned to put the topic on the agenda for a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels Aug. 30, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

The move underscores Europe’s concern at Russia’s latest incursion into Ukraine, with casualties mounting amid the threat that conflict will turn into an all-out war on the EU’s eastern flank. The U.K. wants the EU to respond by ratcheting up sanctions against Russia to bring them more into alignment with those imposed by the U.S., said the official.

The EU enrolled Swift as part of sanctions imposed on Iran in March 2012. Swift, based in Belgium, has to comply with EU decisions because the organization is incorporated under Belgian law. No one was immediately available for comment from Swift’s press office when contacted by phone Aug. 29.

Faced with the risk of losing access to the network, Russia’s government has already drafted a bill to create a new Russian system for domestic bank transfers, Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev said on Aug. 27, according to the Itar-Tass news service.

Compliance Action

Afren Probes $433 Million on Accounts After Suspending CEO

Afren Plc (AFR), the U.K. oil and gas explorer in Nigeria that suspended its chief executive officer and three senior staff, expanded its probe into unauthorized payments and is reviewing about $433 million on its half-year balance sheet.

The company appointed KPMG LLP to review three transactions between the explorer and partners in 2012 and 2013, which are also being examined by the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher (UK) LLP, hired by Afren, it said Aug. 29 in a statement. The probe is expected to conclude this month.

The inquiry adds to woes for the explorer that on Aug. 29 announced interim profit dropped by half and cut full-year net production guidance to as low as 32,000 barrels a day from 40,000 barrels forecast in March. It blamed the output decline on the spread of violence in Iraq, which forced the suspension of work at the Barda Rash field. The company declined to say when operations may resume.

“The investigation has not to date had any impact on our partnerships and license arrangements,” Toby Hayward, the interim CEO, said in a presentation of the Afren website.

SEC to Pay $300,000 Whistle-Blower Award to Audit Professional

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will pay a whistle-blower award of more than $300,000 to a company employee who performed audit and compliance functions, the agency said Aug. 29 in a statement, without naming the company.

This is the first award for a whistle-blower with an audit or compliance function at a company, according to the SEC.

The employee reported the wrongdoing to the SEC when the company didn’t take action after the employee made a report internally, the agency said in the statement.

Courts

Uber Faces Ban Across Germany as Taxi Group Wins Court Order

A German taxi organization won a fast-track ruling that may halt the use of Uber Technologies Inc.’s ride-hailing application in the country.

Uber drivers don’t have the necessary permits to carry passengers under German law, a Frankfurt court said in the emergency ruling dated Aug. 25, citing evidence provided by Taxi Deutschland Service Gesellschaft fuer Taxizentralen eG.

Governments and regulators in cities around the world are restricting Uber’s business on the grounds it poses safety risks and unfairly competes with licensed taxi services. The Frankfurt case is one of at least four legal actions against the company in the country.

Neil Gordon-Henderson, an Uber spokesman, said the company will appeal and continue to operate in Germany, one of its fastest growing markets.

Investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) and Google Ventures are putting money into the burgeoning market for apps that let users order taxis and cars or share rides using their smartphones. San Francisco-based Uber, which is active in more than 40 countries, raised $1.2 billion in June, giving it a value of $17 billion.

Under the ruling, Taxi Deutschland, a Frankfurt-based association of German cab dispatcher, can ask the court to impose a payment of as much as 250,000 euros ($328,000) each time Uber violates the ban.

Taxi Deutschland will monitor Uber and will ask the court to impose the sanctions, its spokeswoman Anja Floetenmeyer said.

Interviews/Commentary

Stasio Questions Whether Bank Hacking Was State-Backed

Bob Stasio, vice president of threat intelligence at CyberIQ Services, talked about hackers’ attack on JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) and potential additional threats to cybersecurity. Stasio spoke with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop.”

For the video, click here.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carla Main in New Jersey at cmain2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Charles Carter, Joe Schneider


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