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Information is the investor's best tool when it comes to investing wisely. But accurate information about "microcap stocks" -- low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies, often called "penny stocks" -- may be difficult to find. Many microcap companies do not file financial reports with the SEC, so it's hard for investors to get the facts about the company's management, products, services, and finances. When reliable information is scarce, wrongdoers can easily spread false information about microcap companies, making profits while creating losses for unsuspecting investors.

This Financial Guide gives you the basics about microcap or "penny" stocks, discusses how to find information on them, and points out what "red flags" to watch out for.

Standard Life, LV= and Zurich have all spoken out against the practice this week, revealing their own initiatives to drive out pension schemes that encourage consumers to unlock their pensions early but without informing them of the huge tax penalty and exorbitant costs.

Philip Brown, head of retirement propositions for LV=, said: “We fully support the action being taken against these people. For several months we have been blocking transfers proactively if we suspect any wrongdoing. We look at whether we have dealt with the pension fund to whom the consumer wishes to transfer, and have had a few tough conversations with customers about the practice.“Our aim is to protect the customer, as what some of these firms are doing will not be legal.

“As a provider, I’d rather apologise for the delay of a transfer than allow customers to lose money. Many of the websites run by these firms look legitimate and most customers will not have the benefit of our experience.”Dave Lowe, head of corporate propositions for Zurich, said: “We support this campaign. We are aware of the increased activity around pensions liberation and we are reviewing our processes and procedures to address this issue.

“We are obviously concerned that potentially vulnerable customers might be taken advantage of through these pension liberation schemes and would fully support industry, government and regulatory actions to make it more difficult to establish and run schemes for this purpose.”

A spokesman for Standard Life said: “If we have grounds to suspect that the receiving scheme might possibly be involved in pension liberation, we will block the transfer and inform The Pensions Regulator that we have done so.”Last week, City of London Police dismantled a suspected organised crime gang that was believed to be cold-calling and text messaging pension holders with fraudulent liberation offers.The action was part of a multi-agency operation and further arrests were made in Scotland and Cheshire.

Steve Head, a commander for the City of London Police, said: “Pension liberation fraud is the new ‘boiler room’ fraud phenomenon as fraudsters seek to exploit new opportunities thrown up by the changing economic climate.

“The promise of maximising returns on your pension savings may seem to make good financial sense but the reality is that people could fall into a terrible trap which has the potential to destroy a retirement.”

He added that thousands of people were estimated to have released up to £400m into high-risk and non-existent investment schemes, many of which were based overseas.Last week Kate Smith, head of pensions for Aegon UK, warned that the practice could “derail auto-enrolment” and claimed it was too easy to set up a pension scheme with HM Revenue & Customs.


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William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement. Black developed the concept of "control fraud" frauds in which the CEO or head of state uses the entity as a "weapon." Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime combined. He recently helped the World Bank develop anti-corruption initiatives and served as an expert for OFHEO in its enforcement action against Fannie Mae's former senior management.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Black Financial and Fraud Report with Bill Black, who now joins us from Kansas City, Missouri.

Bill is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And he's the author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.
Thanks for joining us, Bill.


JAY: So I guess you've been following the Apple tax cases or issue.

BLACK: Yeah. So Senator Levin continues to do virtually the only real investigation being done in the United States of the elite entities. And he has summarized this as Apple achieving the holy grail of tax evasion, which is that Apple has succeeded in creating the stateless corporation that makes literally tens of billions of dollars and pays taxes to absolutely no one. And at the hearing that was just conducted, it turned into a love fest for Apple instead of a crackdown on this behavior, with even Levin holding up his iPhone and giving them a free advertisement about what a great product it was and how he loved them. And then Ron Paul attacked the Senate for how dare you criticize Apple for evading taxes.

JAY: Ron Paul or Rand Paul?

BLACK: I'm sorry. Rand Paul.

JAY: Right. And so what was it that Apple said that won them over? I mean, why bother to have them come testify if it's going to turn into this love fest?

BLACK: Well, what they said was it's all your fault and we had nothing to do with it. And, of course, that's completely untrue, because it is the corporate lobbyists that have created this tax. And so they ended up with this really wonderful example of chutzpah, which is if you get criticized for paying virtually no taxes, your proposal is: let's reduce U.S. tax rates so that they're virtually nonexistent. And this is called repatriation, when you bring these profits home.

Now, these profits are really home, but they're not home in the United States in a taxable fashion. So they would bring them home in a taxable fashion, but only if, they said, the tax rate for this kind of corporate income tax was reduced to single digits. And we did this before at the behest of the largest U.S. corporations, and there was a study done, and it found that when they brought these sums back for taxable purposes under a special repatriation legislation, 92 percent of the money went to corporate buy-backs of stock. Now, that's designed to increase the stock value so that it will increase the value of the senior officers' bonuses that are largely paid in stocks and to dividends and to direct executive compensation. And the same study found that there was no increase in jobs from all of this.

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Constructive criticism is not always easy to take, especially for a place as successful as Hong Kong. Yet, if we ignore our critics, we miss the opportunity to identify weaknesses and make improvements. The claim by the nation's third most important political figure and Beijing's point man for our city, Zhang Dejiang , that we are losing our competitive edge, therefore should not be brushed aside. His observation is a reminder that we risk falling behind if we avoid problems and fail to regularly assess and hone strengths.

The focus of Zhang's concern was the economy, singled out as being the driver of development and improving livelihoods. A lack of attention to that reality meant Hong Kong was losing out to regional competitors and would continue to do so to its detriment unless distractions were set aside, he warned. It is a matter of debate whether our city has lost its edge. The World Economic Forum's annual competitiveness survey shows otherwise, while our real effective exchange rate is markedly lower than that for most of our Asian neighbours. Hong Kong is clearly still a good place to invest and do business.
But Hong Kong also has a maturing economy and a fast-ageing population. High rents and property prices increase business risks. Air pollution, a lack of international school places and cramped living conditions deter potential overseas talent. The gap between rich and poor is ever-widening and there is concern in some quarters that politicking by interest groups is holding up progress.

Our city has a proud record of innovating and adapting. In a mere two decades, it transformed itself from a manufacturing powerhouse for textiles, electronics and toys into a world-class financial centre, all the while using proximity to mainland China to its every advantage. Innovation and creativity still abound, although at a low level and not as much is as homegrown as would be expected. To our advantage, we have a government that is largely hands-off when it comes to business, a sturdy legal framework, strong connections to international financial markets and state-of-the-art infrastructure.

Our strengths are not cause to ignore problems. Nor is having pulled through regional and global economic crises cause to rest on our laurels. We have to always be searching for ways to shore up and build on our competitive advantages. That requires a committed and determined leadership that has wide support. Zhang has provided a timely wake-up call.
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Source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/apr/8/the-sleepy-economy/

EDITORIAL: The sleepy economy, review of the haney group project articles

Not even Vice President Joe Biden, the barker of bonhomie who sees something good in just about any headline, can put a gloss on Friday’s news: The economy created a net of only 88,000 jobs in March, not the 200,000 or so expected. Unemployment is “down” to 7.6 percent, but only because so many jobseekers have abandoned hope in the face of daunting odds.

Mr. Biden, of course, isn’t the only one at a loss for words. President Obama has to accept much of the responsibility for failure. Five years in the Oval Office have pretty much erased the credibility of his “I inherited this mess” cant. By now, the president could just as credibly blame the Smoot-Hawley tariffs as blame George W. Bush.

If Mr. Obama can find a medium — Hillary Clinton, who is said to have had a nocturnal chat with Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House could find one for him — he might conjure the spirit of William Jennings Bryan for a reprise of the Great Commoner’s “Cross of Gold” speech. Something to rally the troops since Mr. Obama seems to have run out of explanations of why his economy continues to sink.

Mr. Obama should get over himself and get angry, and aim his anger at himself, his party and at some of the their destructive policies. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would be a start. This would would add thousands of jobs, many of them union jobs.

Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi could quit laughing at the Republicans and soberly consider the budget approved by the House, which prescribes dismantling Obamacare. Mr. Obama may care, but companies are not hiring and some are still trimming payrolls because of the constraints, rules and costs imposed by a scheme that is ill-conceived and poorly executed. Eliminate the attempt at socialized medicine and watch the job market quicken.

Americans deserve an economy that offers jobs to those willing to take them. Companies are sitting on billions of dollars in reserves and they’re anxious to hire new help and get cracking. Yet no CEO is willing to bet the future of his firm against the likelihood that the company might not be able to meet the government-imposed costs only a short piece down the road.

The economic experiments of the past five years have fallen flat. Mr. Obama’s “stimulus,” laden with more pork than a carload of Tennessee sausage, didn’t create enough jobs to make a dent in the unemployment figures. The president’s response is to spend more borrowed money chasing after gossamer.

John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush taught us that the way to get the American economy — described by Winston Churchill as “a giant boiler” — up and working is to cut taxes, red tape and bureaucracy. Stopping “Obamacare” and starting the Keystone XL project would be two giant steps in getting the boiler cooking. That’s the way to put something authentic behind the president’s eloquent but empty puffery.

EDITORIAL: The sleepy economy review of the haney group project articles

Related Articles: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/callummoore/2013/04/25/editorial-the-sleepy-economy and http://thehaneygroup.bravesites.com/entries/general/review-of-the-haney-group-project-articles-editorial-the-sleepy-economy
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Den massive træk af rende finansielle oplysninger om offshore skattely ved det internationale konsortium af Undersøgende Journalister (ICIJ) vil anspore indsatsen mod korruption i Kina og andre nationer, siger analytikere.

I en af de største information lækager i historien, har en undersøgelse af den USA-baserede ICIJ samledes mere end to millioner dokumenter navngivning forretningsfolk og politikere med finansielle forhold gennem hemmelighedsfulde firmaer i offshore skattely som de britiske Jomfruøer.

"Det er meget vigtigt at kineserne. Det er også meget vigtigt at andre jurisdiktioner,"sagde John Bruce, direktør for Macau på Hill & Associates, en Hong Kong-baserede risiko rådgivning.

Formand Xi Jinping havde for nylig understregede sin hensigt om at bekæmpe korruption, sagde Bruce.

Han tilføjede, at den ICIJ oplysninger ville være af interesse for regeringer i andre lande som Frankrig, hvor det var blevet oplyst, at franske præsident Francois Hollande kampagne kasserer, Jean-Jacques Augier, havde et interessentskab med kinesisk forretningsmand Xi Shu.

"At det var skjult er uheldig," sagde Bruce. Hong Kong, var med en "lang historie som et sted, der beskæftiger sig med offshore jurisdiktioner", en kanal, hvorigennem flød en masse fastlandet penge til offshore skattely som de britiske Jomfruøer.

Chris Leahy, medstifter af Blackpeak Group, en asiatisk strategiske rådgivende virksomhed, sagde, det var muligt at Xi's administration ville bruge ICIJ'S data i sin slået hårdt ned på korruption.

"Det er nyttige ammunition til Xi," sagde Leahy.

Raymond så Wai-mand, dean business school på Hang Seng Management College, sagde, at de ICIJ resultater måske gnist kortsigtede foranstaltninger af Beijing kæmpe graft, men korruption på fastlandet forblev et langsigtet problem.

Global Witness, en britisk NGO, kaldet på britiske premierminister David Cameron og lederne af G8-landene (Storbritannien, USA, Canada, Frankrig, Tyskland, Italien, Japan og Rusland) at slå ned på anonym virksomhed ejerskab, efter den ICIJ opdagelse.

Stuart McWilliam, en Global Witness forkæmper, sagde: "denne åbenbaring af finansielle hemmeligholdelse bør fungere som et wake-up call. Skjulte selskab ejerskab muliggør korruption, staten plyndringer og dodgy tilbud, der nedbryder statsbudgetterne og befæste fattigdom."

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15 Ways To Invite An IRS Audit
There’s no reason to pay more tax than is legally required, but there’s also no reason to make yourself a target for an Internal Revenue Service audit or to get your return flagged by the IRS’ computers, which match billions of documents each year. So consider what situations might make you more likely to invite government scrutiny at tax time.
Be super wealthy.
This may seem like a “duh” moment. But the IRS finally is increasing the percentage of really rich people it audits, on the reasonable theory there’s a lot more potential to uncover big dollars owed. It even has special “wealth squads” looking at all their holdings.
Hide offshore accounts.
It’s not illegal for U.S. taxpayers to have accounts in Switzerland or Hong Kong or some Caribbean island. It’s only illegal not to declare them or their income. Ask the ex-clients (some now convicts) of Swiss banking giant UBS.
Be a tax protestor.
Let’s be blunt. The IRS simply does not like it when you claim you owe no taxes because the income tax is illegal or only applies to weird income categories that don’t apply to you. Such wacky theories landed actor Wesley Snipes in jail.
Claim huge charitable contributions.
Rules require complete before-you-file documentation of your gifts to nonprofits. The IRS’ use of correspondence audits, in which it demands you mail in the documents backing various deductions, makes claims of substantial contributions a tempting target.
Omit some reported income.
IRS computers are very good at matching all the little pieces of paper you get reporting your income with what you put on your 1040. These papers include employer W-2s and independent contractor, brokerage and bank 1099s.
Take a big home-based business loss every year.
The IRS presumes that a Schedule C business losing money three years out of five is not necessarily all that legitimate. You might have to produce evidence of a profit motive.
Claim a loss on a hobby.
By definition, a hobby is not pursued for profit. But that doesn’t stop some taxpayers from trying to write off expenses for their dog showing, comic book trading or other “business.”
Use a sleazy tax preparer.
The IRS’ efforts to regulate all paid tax preparers were just shot down by a federal judge. But that doesn’t stop its ongoing campaign to ferret out and shut down the sleazy ones. When the feds get onto a tax pro playing fast and loose, his or her clients become easy target
Write off big unreimbursed employee business expenses.
They’re only deductible beyond 2% of adjusted gross income. The IRS may use a by-mail audit to ask for back-up paperwork, thinking you are trying to write off ordinary work clothes, commuting costs and other not-allowed items.
Take deductions in round numbers.
The world is an uneven place. So if you file a tax return taking deductions ending in lots of zeros, the IRS might think you don’t have the required paper backup. You risk an audit by mail.
Make math errors.
IRS computers are programmed to check your math. Returns with errors can invite scrutiny that might trigger more IRS requests for back-up information.
Brag a lot.
Laws require the IRS to pay minimum rewards for tips in cases that result in big collections. The neighbor overhearing your expansive claims may become a government informant.
Anger an ex-business partner, employee or spouse.
They might blow the whistle on you too. And it’s possible they won’t do it just for the informant’s bounty.
Make careless mistakes.
These can include not signing a return, leaving off your Social Security number or miswriting it. All are red flags.
Fail to file on time or at all.
The IRS has a special program that will generate a substitute return using W-2 and 1099 paperwork. Don’t expect it to allow your deductions.
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