Lloyds agrees to pay penalty
British-based Lloyds TSB Bank agreed on Friday to pay a US$350 million penalty to settle a probe that it illegally handled financial transfers for Iran and Sudan in violation of US sanctions. A Justice Department statement said Lloyd’s “has accepted and acknowledged responsibility for its criminal conduct” in a criminal complain filed in US District Court in New York. “Lloyds agreed to forfeit the funds as part of deferred prosecution agreements with the Department of Justice and the New York County District Attorney’s Office,” the statement said. Prosecutors alleged that from 1995 until 2007, Lloyds agents in Britain and Dubai “falsified outgoing US wire transfers that involved countries or persons on US sanctions lists.”
Harper vows ‘big actions’
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed on Friday his government would initiate major measures in an upcoming budget and possibly over the next three to five years to stimulate the economy. “We’ll take big, comprehensive actions,” Harper told a press conference. “We’ll assume that we’re probably going to look at a period of three to five years of such actions,” he added. “It won’t necessarily be that long, but we’re not going to underestimate the situation.” Earlier, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said extra government spending or tax cuts or both to prop up the economy would mean this year “the deficit will be substantial.” The budget is to be unveiled on Jan. 27, marking the nation’s first budget deficit in more than a decade.
PRC property prices drop
Chinese property prices fell last month for the first time since 2005, state media reported yesterday, quoting official figures. The price of housing in 70 major cities fell 0.4 percent year-on-year, Xinhua reported, quoting from a statement issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency, and the National Bureau of Statistics. The southern boom town of Shenzhen saw the largest fall, with prices down 18.1 percent.
PDVSA denies layoffs
Venezuela’s state oil company on Friday denied 4,000 contract workers have been laid off as the nation moves to comply with new OPEC production cuts. State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), dismissed reports that at least eight oil rigs have been halted and thousands of contract workers laid off. Vice President Eulogio Del Pino said in a statement that union leaders who made the allegations were lying for political reasons.
IT flirting course on offer
Even the most quirky of computer nerds can learn to flirt with finesse thanks to a new “flirting course” being offered to budding IT engineers at Potsdam University south of Berlin. The 440 students enrolled in the master’s degree course will learn how to write flirtatious text messages and e-mails, impress people at parties and cope with rejection. Philip von Senftleben, an author and radio presenter who will teach the course, summed up his job as teaching how to “get someone else’s heart beating fast while yours stays calm.” The course, which starts next Monday, is part of the social skills section of the IT course and is designed to ease entry into the world of work. Students also learn body language, public speaking, stress management and presentation skills.