Wells Fargo exec was fired for not scamming N.J. customers

Wells Fargo exec was fired for not scamming N.J. customers

A Somerset County woman is suing Wells Fargo Bank alleging she was fired for refusing to participate in an alleged scheme similar to the bank’s widespread account scam that led to millions of dollars in federal fines.
Melinda Bini, a former assistant vice president and regional private banker at the Highland Park bank’s branch, says in a recent lawsuit that supervisors instructed her to manipulate accounts and sell banking products or investments that were not the customers’ best interest or without their knowledge.

The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on April 5, names Wells Fargo and three local bank supervisors.

The Franklin Park woman accuses her former superiors in the suit of running or knowing about alleged banking and investment fraud scheme at the local branch.
A spokesman for Wells Fargo, Kevin Friedlander, said the three supervisors named in the lawsuit are still employed by the bank, but did not comment on the allegations.

“Since this is an ongoing legal matter, we are unable to comment any further on the lawsuit,” Friedlander said in an emailed statement.

Bini, who is a licensed financial advisor hired by the bank in 2002, refused to participate the “unlawful and unethical banking” and was harassed in retaliation, according to the suit.

In April 2016, Bini was fired, a move she said was manufactured by her supervisors for not joining the alleged scheme, according to the suit. Full Story

A New Jersey woman has sued Wells Fargo Bank, saying she was fired for refusing to participate in a scheme to manipulate accounts and sell products that weren’t in customers’ best interest.

Melinda Bini filed a lawsuit in state court in New Jersey on April 5 against the bank and three supervisors from the branch she worked at in Highland Park, NJ.com reported.

In the lawsuit, Bini accused her superiors of running or knowing about the scheme and says she was retaliated against and later fired for refusing to participate. Bini, a former assistant vice president and regional private banker, is seeking her job back and damages.

In September, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to a $185-million settlement with Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency after employees were found to have created as many as 2 million checking, savings and other accounts in customers’ names without those customers’ knowledge or consent.

The tactics, blamed on onerous sales goals, were first uncovered by the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

Kevin Friedlander, a spokesman for the bank, said the company doesn’t tolerate retaliation against employees who express their concerns.

“Our nonretaliation policy makes clear that no team member may be retaliated against for providing information about suspected unethical or illegal activities or possible violations of any Wells Fargo policies,” Friedlander said. Full Story

A former executive at Wells Fargo claims in a lawsuit that the bank fired her because she refused to participate in a scam like the bank’s well-publicized fake account scandal, which led to a $185 million fine after more than 5,000 of the bank’s former employees opened more than 2 million potentially unauthorized accounts to get sales bonuses.

NJ.com has the details:

Melinda Bini, a former assistant vice president and regional private banker at the Highland Park bank’s branch, says in a recent lawsuit that supervisors instructed her to manipulate accounts and sell banking products or investments that were not the customers’ best interest or without their knowledge.

The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on April 5, names Wells Fargo and three local bank supervisors.

The Franklin Park woman accuses her former superiors in the suit of running or knowing about alleged banking and investment fraud scheme at the local branch.

And after Bini refused to take part in the scheme, she claims she was harassed and eventually fired in retaliation.

It should be noted that Bini’s allegations are merely allegations so far. The bank is not commenting on the lawsuit beyond saying that it “does not tolerate retaliation against team members who report their concern.”

The lawsuit is just the latest in a string of bad headlines in the wake of the fake account fiasco. Full Story

China Seeks Foreign Help in Risky Work Finding Oil in Disputed Sea

China Seeks Foreign Help in Risky Work Finding Oil in Disputed Sea

Beijing is looking for foreign contractors to help find oil and gas under the South China Sea but expects to meet resistance because other governments contest its claims and any discoveries may bring low returns.

China’s state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. issued a tender last week for foreign companies to join it in exploring for fossil fuels in 22 tracts south of the country’s coastline. The blocks spanning a combined 47,270 square kilometers cover waters contested by Taiwan and Vietnam. Vietnam has been particularly outspoken since the 1970s about its claims.

Complicated matter

Foreign oil companies eyeing the bids, which close in September, probably worry that their ties to the Chinese maritime claim could spoil their reputation among rival South China Sea claimants or that any oil found would be a disputed asset, analysts say.
South China Sea Territorial Claims

“Given the area in question, there are risks around the sovereignty issue,” said Thomas Pugh, commodities economist with Capital Economics in London. “If they enter a deal with China and Chinese firms, they could risk not being allowed to work with other countries in the region who are disputing ownership of the area.”

Disputes over ownership continue

Discoveries themselves could also be contested by other countries, said Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence. Full Story

The Chinese government is looking to foreign businesses to help find oil and natural gas under the South China Sea.

Yet China expects to meet resistance because other countries dispute Chinese territorial claims to much of the sea. In addition, observers say any oil and gas discoveries might not be very profitable.

Last week, China’s state-operated China National Offshore Oil Corporation made an appeal for foreign help. The company said it wants to work with foreign businesses in exploring for fossil fuels in 22 areas south of the country’s coast.

When combined, that represents more than 47,000 square kilometers of territory. The governments in Taiwan and Vietnam also claim those waters. Vietnam has been outspoken about its claims since the 1970s.

Foreign oil companies are now studying the Chinese offer, which closes in September. Experts say the companies may be worried that any work they do for China could hurt their ability to work for other countries. And they say the companies may also be worried that any oil or gas they find could be claimed by China’s neighbors.

Thomas Pugh works for the Capital Economics research service in London. He says if foreign companies start working with “China and Chinese firms, they could risk not being allowed to work with other countries…who are disputing ownership of the area.”

Raymond Wu is the managing director of e-telligence, a Taipei-based service that specializes in political risk. He also notes that any oil and gas discoveries could be claimed by other countries. Full Story

Ant Financial sees rich opportunities

Ant Financial sees rich opportunities
Ant Financial Services, China’s largest online payment operator, sees mobile wallet applications becoming the next big technology trend in the emerging markets of South America and Africa.
Kenny Man, head of international investment for Ant Financial, said over the next five years, emerging markets including those in South America and Africa will be priority for the company’s global partnerships. A clear trend is emerging whereby mobile wallet applications, and financial transactions done over mobile internet, are set for widespread acceptance in emerging market economies.
Over the past three years Ant Financial, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding has done nine partnerships. Within Asia, Ant Financial has forged partnerships with local companies in South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong, Man said, adding that the company will continue to expand its footprint in the region.
“China has leapfrogged over traditional credit cards to the mobile wallet. That same change will be even more radical and faster in different parts of the world, whereby people will embrace mobile payments,” Man said.
Ant Financial, which just completed a US$14 billion series-C funding round in June from leading investors including Temasek, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Carlyle Group, and Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, formally known as GIC, has been increasingly active in expanding its technology and know-how through partnership in emerging Asia. Full Story

Ant Financial Services Group said on Monday it will extend its indigenous mobile payment technologies to economies along the Belt and Road Initiative and unveil a number of Alipay-like services this year.

The plan marks the company’s accelerated pace in expanding globally, adding to the existing five Asian markets where the financial technology powerhouse has announced investment plans since 2015.

“Technology exports will effectively save five to eight years’ time of our local partners in developing new technologies and conducting feasibility tests,” said Jia Hang, senior director of international business at Ant Financial.

The firm is counting on partners outside China to bring its model of online finance and local services to emerging Asian markets, where a substantial number of the population have no access to banking services and are underserved by traditional financial institutions.

Through strategic investments, the company can tap into the vast resources of one of the world’s most populous regions, Jia noted.

For instance, its investment in Thailand’s Ascend Money, an arm of the agricultural-to-telecom conglomerate, can give them access to local users and merchants.

In its latest overseas move, Ant Financial linked up this month with Indonesia’s second-largest media firm Emtek to form a payment platform within BlackBerry’s messaging service, which covers 63 million users in the country. Full Story

Ten years ago, Alipay was just a rapidly growing online payments service. Today, Alipay is the modern gateway to Ant Financial’s ecosystem of financial services, from wealth management and insurance to lending and credit scores.

Ant Financial was initially launched to support online payments. Today, it’s the largest fintech player globally.

As the financial affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, Ant Financial encapsulates a fintech ecosystem that starts with its dominant mobile payments service, Alipay, and expands into credit scoring, wealth management, insurance, and lending.
At $150B, the current valuation of Ant trumps the market capitalizations of leading financial institutions around the world, from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to Banco Santander and The Royal Bank of Canada.
As China undergoes a cashless revolution, many view Ant as a mobile payments company.

But Ant — which today counts nearly 600M Alipay users, plus 110M+ Alipay partners across 15 countries — is much bigger than payments alone.

100M+ users use all 5 of Ant’s key functions, meaning that they not only use Ant’s payments function to make everyday purchases, but also use Ant to take out loans, buy insurance, check credit scores, and invest assets in Ant’s money market fund — Yu’e Bao.

That’s not to say Ant doesn’t face its share of challenges. In the last year, Chinese regulators have clamped down on China’s burgeoning fintech sector. Full Story

 

IMF: Global Economic Growth Speeds Up a Bit

IMF Global Economic Growth Speeds Up

The International Monetary Fund says the global economic outlook is “brightening,” but warns that “protectionism” and geopolitical tensions could hurt economic growth.

The IMF published the report Tuesday, ahead of this week’s gathering of top economic officials from around the world for meetings of the World Bank and the IMF.

The IMF’s Maurice Obstfeld told journalists that global growth will probably accelerate from a 3.1 percent annual rate in 2016 to 3.6 percent in 2018. He says commodity prices have “firmed” since early last year, but at a relatively low level. That leaves commodity exporters in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America with challenges. He also says bad weather and civil unrest mean several low-income nations face mass starvation.

In the report, economists say there are many “downside risks” including political pressure to restrict trade, which they argue will hurt rather than help growth. The report’s authors say slow and unequal income growth, meager growth in productivity, the financial crisis, and other problems have generated political support for “zero-sum” approaches to trade. Obstfeld says nations that pull out of the multilateral trading system could suffer a “self-inflicted wound.”

The IMF says in many cases, wages have not kept up with rising productivity, and labor’s share of national incomes has dropped. These experts urge policymakers to do more to ensure that the gains from growth and trade are shared more widely. Full story

The IMF said on Monday it expects global growth this year of 3.5 per cent, down from 3.7 per cent in 2018 and from the 3.7 per cent it had forecast for 2019 in October.
“After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, as she presented the new forecast at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The fund left its prediction for US growth this year unchanged at 2.5 per cent – although a continuation of the partial 31-day shutdown of its federal government poses a risk. The IMF trimmed the outlook for the 19 countries that use the euro currency to 1.6 per cent from 1.8 per cent.
Growth in emerging-market countries is forecast to slow to 4.5 per cent from 4.6 per cent in 2018. The IMF expects the Chinese economy – the world’s second biggest – to grow 6.2 per cent this year, down from 6.6 per cent in 2018 and slowest since 1990.
The World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have also downgraded their world growth forecasts. Full Story

United Airlines CEO: No one will be fired in passenger-dragging incident

United Airlines incident

United Airlines will not fire employees involved in the recent dragging of a passenger from his seat, an incident CEO Oscar Munoz on Tuesday called “a system failure.”

Executives of the Chicago-based airline sought to assure investors that United is working to learn from the recent uproar over viral videos of Chicago Aviation Department security officers dragging Dr. David Dao from a Louisville-bound flight. Dao was removed from the plane at O’Hare International Airport after he refused to give up his seat to make room for airline employees.

“This is a true learning opportunity and will ultimately prove to be a watershed moment for our company as we work harder than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do,” Munoz said on a conference call discussing the airline’s quarterly earnings.

There was “never consideration” of firing an employee over the incident, he said.

The airline is reviewing policies around handling oversold flights to prevent similar incidents, including talking to some passengers and employees about how the airline can take a more “commonsense approach,” Munoz said.

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It’s too soon to say whether the April 9 incident has affected customers’ willingness to travel with United, particularly since it happened during the week before Easter, when the airline typically sees fewer passengers, executives said. Full Story

 

United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz said Tuesday that no one will be fired for the airline’s recent debacle involving a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight.

“The buck stops here. And I’m sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally,” the apologetic CEO said on the company’s earnings call Tuesday. “Again, it was a system failure across various areas, so no, there was never a consideration for firing an employee.”

The company has been embroiled in controversy ever since a video surfaced of Dr. David Dao being dragged off an overbooked flight in Chicago.

The fiasco has hurt shares of United Continental, which dropped about 4 percent on Tuesday, despite the company reporting better-than-expected earnings late Monday.

Munoz once again apologized for the confrontation, saying, “The incident on Flight 3411 has been a humbling learning experience for all of us here at United and for me in particular. In addition to apologizing to Dr. Dao, as well as all of the passengers aboard, I also want to apologize to all our customers. You can and should expect more from us and as CEO, I take full responsibility for making this right,” he added during Tuesday’s conference call.

Munoz reiterated that United will make policy changes, including not using law enforcement to take passengers off a flight unless there is a security issue and requiring that crews be booked at least an hour before takeoff. Full Story