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HighGround Research has selected the following news items for you:

Germany's highest court: CumEx trade is a crimal offence

The CumEx trade, in which bankers, intermediaries and financial institutions have defrauded the German treasury out of billions, is a criminal offence. This is the verdict reached today by the Bundesgerichtshof, the highest court in Germany. Bad news for ABN Amro and for the former banker Dutchman Frank Vogel, whose role in this fraud is being investigated by the German public prosecutor.



Council of Europe: Dutch government does too little against corruption at the top

The Dutch government has not followed up on any of the recommendations made in 2019, such as implementing a code of conduct and a lobby register. The Dutch government does too little to prevent corruption and conflicts of interest. The Council of Europe's anti-corruption body (GRECO) concludes in a report published Tuesday that the Netherlands has not followed any of the 16 recommendations made in 2019. Half of the recommendations were adopted in part, and the other half not at all. Within eighteen months, the government must still be able to demonstrate that the recommendations are implemented, although there are no sanctions for this.



Big oil and gas kept a dirty secret for decades. Now they may pay the price

Communities are now demanding the oil conglomerates pay damages and take urgent action to reduce further harm from burning fossil fuels. Via an unprecedented wave of lawsuits, America’s petroleum giants face a reckoning for the devastation caused by fossil fuels.



The regulators leave Dutch big law firms untouched whilst its member law firms struggle with money laundering rules

The Netherlands Bar Association with eleven deans has to keep an eye on almost 18.000 Dutch lawyers but mainly focuses on sole traders and small firms. The scandals at prestigious Dutch law firms Pels Rijcken and NautaDutilh raise the question whether this is still sufficient. Dutch lawyers have always successfully fought tooth and nail against government supervision of their profession. Instead, lawyers appoint officials from among their own ranks to supervise professional colleagues: the deans. Nevertheless, pressure is growing on the Netherlands Bar Association to further professionalise its supervision.



Money laundering in the banking sector: EU Court of Auditors gives European institutions a damning report card

The European Court of Auditors has just published its special report on EU anti-money laundering measures in the banking sector. Their verdict: “EU efforts to fight money laundering in the banking sector are fragmented and implementation is insufficient”. The auditors criticise a “lack of coordination at EU level” to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. Supervision is predominantly taking place at national level – while oversight by the EU is “insufficient” to ensure high standards across all Member States.



Underdog ESG activist Engine No. 1 is launching a new fund after big Exxon win

Engine No. 1, the upstart activist firm that put three candidates on Exxon’sboard of directors, is launching an exchange-traded fund in a bet that shareholder activism will take center stage in coming years.The Engine No. 1 Transform 500 ETF will trade under the ticker VOTE, and has received $100 million in commitments, the company said Tuesday. The passive fund will invest in 500 of the largest U.S. companies and track the Morningstar U.S. Large Cap Select Index, with the aim of helping to “instigate positive change for employees, customers, communities, and the environment.”



The UK's FCA joins the EU's securities watchdog in warning against "greenwashing" and its harms

Over 2020 a number of high-profile scandals over the true nature of companies held in sustainable funds drew attention to the nature of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings and how much investors could rely on them. Positioning the UK and London as a centre of green and sustainable finance will require regulation that clients trust, according to the FCA, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority. It said that if the market is to grow and develop, and is to maintain integrity, consumers have to be able to trust the products they’re offered, and rely on them to perform as they expect. We need to ensure that our regulatory framework can help to achieve this. Global coordination of regulation can take time, the harms may arise locally in the meantime.



The Consumer Federation of America raises concerns about the dire state of financial reporting in Corporate America

Americans for Financial Reform is a progressive nonprofit organization which advocates for financial reform in the United States, including stricter regulation of Wall Street. AFR is a coalition of approximately 200 consumer, labor and special interest groups. AFR urge the SEC to take bold action to restore the financial reporting infrastructure on which investor protection, the fair and orderly functioning of our markets, and the efficiency of the capital formation process all depend.



‘Monumental Victory’: Shell Oil Ordered To Limit Emissions In Historic Climate Court Case

Environmental campaigners in the Netherlands and around the world are celebrating today after a court in The Hague ordered oil firm Royal Dutch Shell to cut its carbon emissions, in a first-of-its-kind case that pitted climate activists against an oil giant.



The Dutch Bar Association (NovA) warns its members of risks in fraud investigations by Dutch lawyers

Dutch lawyers regularly come under attack after they have performed fraud investigations commissioned by companies. An additional guideline of the rules of conduct should help these lawyers 'to adjust their compass'. Critics, however, are hoping for the end fraud investigations by lawyers. The Dutch Bar Association warns its lawyers again for integrity risks in fraud investigations. Critics of 'self-investigation' are now hoping for 'a sledgehammer blow' to the lucrative fraud investigation practice of law firms. Surprisingly, the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office is rolling out the red carpet ever further for the lawyer-fraud investigator.



The Dutch lawyer-investigator is under fire

Accountants, trustees, members of parliament and judges are increasingly warning that deception is lurking in 'independent fraud investigations' by lawyers. Has the curtain come down on the lawyer-investigator? Can a biased advocate, the essential characteristic of a lawyer, carry out an independent and objective investigation into abuses committed by his client? There is increasing criticism of independent fraud investigations by lawyers. Accountants, trustees, members of parliament and even judges warn against the danger of deception. The objectivity of lawyers is said to be at odds with their partisan role as advocate for the interests of their clients.



German financial watchdog BaFin keeps crucial report on CumEx fraud by Fortis and WestLB secret for 14 years

The German financial regulator BaFin has been withholding a report from a whistleblower about large-scale CumEx fraud by Amsterdam-based Fortis GSLA since 2007. This emerges from research by the Dutch investigative journalism platform Follow the Money together with the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) and the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The total damages to the German state due to CumEX fraud is estimated to be more than 10 billion euros.



Dutch Court of Appeal condemns "independent" fraud investigation by Dutch lawyers

The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled that fraud investigations in the Netherlands as carried out by Dutch lawyers are not independent investigations. If law firms pretend this is the case, this is “at the very least potentially misleading and therefore undesirable”.



KPMG warned ABN Amro for years about money laundering problems

The Dutch Department of Justice blames Gerrit Zalm and his fellow board members for ignoring the warnings of KPMG, the company's auditors. In doing so, they possibly violated the legislation against money laundering.



ACFE awards Dan McCrum the 2021 Guardian Award.

Wirecard's house has tumbled and McCrum is relieved that the Wirecard story has reached its apparent denouement, but he’s still frustrated it took six years of investigative reporting to get to this point. “With every story, we at FT Times thought, “This is it”. This story will finally make people realize.’ But it wouldn’t because the BaFin, the German authorities, had effectively demonized the journalists bringing the bad news.



Wirecard : EU watchdog slams Germany for lapses in Wirecard fraud

Germany failed to do enough to avert the Wirecard fraud, the European Union's markets watchdog said on Tuesday as it delivered a highly critical verdict on the country's handling of its biggest post-war corporate scam.



Cleaning up the UK audit sector: debarment of Ernst & Young from public contracts

On 13 November 2020, Spotlight on Corruption wrote to the UK government’s procurement body, the Crown Commercial Service, asking it to review whether the accountancy firm Ernst & Young (EY) should be banned from bidding on public contracts for three years.



Final report MCA:
Impactful interventions required in the Dutch accountancy sector

The Dutch Accountancy Monitoring Committee (MCA) reports that after five years of measures, the quality awareness within the sector has been strengthened, cultural change is being worked on and various hopeful initiatives have been set in motion. However, the performance gap has not been closed. Audit firms insufficiently comply with the quality level laid down in laws and regulations and tested by supervisors. The operation and effects of the measures taken cannot be sufficiently demonstrated and are not permanently secured.



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