“Wal-Mart Stores Inc this week sued Visa Inc for $5 billion, accusing the credit and debit card network of excessively high card swipe fees, several months after the retailer opted out of a class action settlement between merchants and Visa and MasterCard Inc. In December, a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., approved a $5.7 billion class action settlement between merchants and Visa and MasterCard despite the objections of thousands of retailers that complained it was inadequate. Wal-Mart, Inc, and Target Corp were among those opting out of the monetary components of the settlement to have the freedom to seek damages on their own.” Continue reading

“In a decree issued by the finance ministry, the 300 euro limit per person per day was scrapped, along with restrictions on breaking fixed-interest time deposits prior to maturity. The decree also allowed, under conditions, individuals to open bank accounts in other credit institutions. Restrictions remain on moving money abroad. Cypriot officials have previously said they anticipate that all controls could be fully lifted by the end of 2014. Cyprus was forced to wind down a major bank and convert large deposits in a second to recapitalise it in order to qualify for aid from the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.” Continue reading

“Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the downgrade of Russia’s rating outlook by the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency was due to a directive rather than objective circumstances. The downgrade decision ‘was clearly directive, not objective,’ Peskov told journalists Friday, adding that such forecasts reduce the degree of credibility of such agencies. On March 20, S&P said it revised its outlook on the Russian Federation to negative from stable. Fitch Ratings on Thursday revised the outlook on Russia’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) to negative from stable and affirmed the IDRs at ‘BBB’.” Continue reading

Putin eyes a Russian credit card system after Western sanctions

“President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Russia should create its own national payment settlement system, in a bid to reduce economic dependence on the West amid the controversy over Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. In countries such as Japan and China these systems work, and work very well,’ Putin told lawmakers in televised remarks. Initially, they started out solely as national systems limited to their own markets, their own territory, their own population but they are becoming more popular right now.’ ‘Why should we not do it? We should definitely do it and we will do it,’ he said, noting that Russia’s Central Bank and the government have been looking into the matter.” Continue reading

“The rumor spread quickly. A small rural lender in eastern China had turned down a customer’s request to withdraw 200,000 yuan ($32,200). Bankers and local officials say it never happened, but true or not the rumor was all it took to spark a run on a bank as the story passed quickly from person to person, among depositors, bystanders and even bank employees. Savers feared the bank in Yancheng, a city in Sheyang county, had run out of money and soon hundreds of customers had rushed to its doors demanding the withdrawal of their money despite assurances from regulators and the central bank that their money was safe.” Continue reading

“At the moment, if HMRC want to seize your property or cash, they have to take you to court, win and then get a court order. Now, after a couple of warning letters and a phone call, they apparently can do it at the flick of a switch. Crucially, there’s no safeguard built into this system – where’s the appeal process? To repeat, if HMRC decide you owe them cash, they just take it. If you haven’t managed to reach agreement with them, then you’ll just wake up one morning, check your bank account, and find the money’s gone. We’re told that ‘a minimum of £5,000 will be left across debtors’ accounts.’ That’s a very low threshold – especially for a business or a pensioner.” Continue reading

“The head of the European Union’s policing agency warned on Monday that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin were being used for money laundering and called for police to be given more powers to identify criminal suspects operating on the Internet. ‘We’re seeing that virtual currencies are being used as an instrument to facilitate crime, particularly in regard to the laundering of illicit profits,’ said Europol head Rob Wainwright, speaking on the margins of a nuclear security conference in The Hague. Wainwright said police should be given new powers to allow them to identify anonymous participants online and bring them to justice.” Continue reading

“There is no need for central banks’ balance sheets to shrink. They could stay permanently larger; and, for some countries, permanently bigger central-bank balance sheets will help reduce public-debt burdens. Even when permanent monetization occurs — as it almost certainly will in Japan and possibly elsewhere — it may remain forever the policy that dare not speak its name. Such reticence may serve a useful purpose. But it must not blind central banks and governments to the full range of policy tools available to address today’s severe debt overhangs.” Continue reading