South Africa’s Kganyago Sues After SARB Battle Gets Personal

© Reuters.  South Africa’s Kganyago Sues After SARB Battle Gets Personal © Reuters. South Africa’s Kganyago Sues After SARB Battle Gets Personal

(Bloomberg) — Less than a week since vowed to go to war to protect the independence of the South African Reserve Bank, Governor Lesetja Kganyago has approached the courts to protect his name after a racial slur from a ruling party official.

Kganyago is suing Andile Lungisa, a municipal councilor for the African National Congress, for defamation for a posting on Twitter about the governor’s defense of the central bank’s mandate. Lungisa on Tuesday posted the first page of the summons that was served on him.

This is not the first time Kganyago has gone to the courts for resolve a dispute, but the previous occasion it was on behalf of the central bank.

He successfully fought off a proposal by the nation’s anti-graft ombudsman two years ago to change the institution’s inflation-targeting mandate. The nation’s top court found Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to be personally liable for 15% of the central bank’s legal costs in that case.

Lungisa’s series of Tweets in June began as support for the ANC’s proposal to nationalize the Reserve Bank, before targeting Kganyago. He described the governor as “a lackey of racist people” and used a highly offensive racial slur, according to the court documents.

Reserve Bank spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy confirmed the legal action when contacted by phone and said the matter was now in the hands of the court.

‘Trojan Horse’

The governor has said the debate about the ownership of the central bank is a distraction from the real problems facing the economy and that it could be used as “Trojan horse” for another attempt to change the mandate. He told reporters at a lunch in Johannesburg last week he would “go to war” if the constitutionally enshrined independence of the central bank is threatened.

The spat also highlights the racial tensions that still exist in South Africa 25 years after the end of white minority rule, and the extent to which race is often used as weapon in public discourse.

Lungisa is currently out on bail pending an appeal of a conviction for assault after he smashed a glass water jug over the head of a Democratic Alliance councilor during a meeting in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in 2016, Johannesburg-based Business Day reported on Tuesday. The newspaper first reported on the summons that was served on Lungisa.

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PepsiCo sues small farmers in India over potatoes for Lays chips

PepsiCo, which counts potato chip brand Lays among its many products, says it’s hoping to reach an agreement with four farmers in India for growing a type of potato the food conglomerate claims to own the rights to. 

The U.S. company’s India subsidiary filed lawsuits against the farmers earlier this month, with a court in the Indian state of Gujaret holding a hearing on the matter Friday, according to published reports. PepsiCo, with nearly $ 65 billion in global food and beverage revenue last year, reportedly sought 10 million rupees, or $ 143,000, from each farmer, who operate farms of a few acres each.

“The company was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers that are engaged with its collaborative potato farming program,” a company spokesperson emailed CBS MoneyWatch. 

That said, PepsiCo is offering to drop the case so long as the farmers agreed to join its authorized cultivation program.

“PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming program,” the company spokesperson stated.

If the farmers don’t want to sign on to PepsiCo’s program, they can sign an agreement and grow other types of potatoes, the PepsiCo spokesperson added.

A lawyer for the farmers said they needed time to consider PepsiCo’s offer, with another hearing scheduled for June 12.

Farmers’ groups and activists in India had urged their government to intervene, saying their rights to grow and sell registered crops are protected under the country’s agricultural laws.

In a letter to the India’s Ministry of Agriculture, 194 activists called the lawsuit from the food and beverage giant “false and untenable,” according to India Today. “We believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of (their) rights,” they wrote.

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Father of ISIS bride sues to get U.S. to let her come back

Washington — The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States. Hoda Muthana is currently in a Syrian refugee camp with the 18-month-old boy after fleeing the remnants of the Islamic State.

Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit filed in federal court in Washington that his 24-year-old daughter is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son. Her lawyers said in a statement that she expects to be charged with providing material support to terrorism if she is allowed to return to the U.S.

“Ms. Muthana has publicly acknowledged her actions and accepted full responsibility for those actions,” the lawyers said. “In Ms. Muthana’s words, she recognizes that she has ‘ruined’ her own life, but she does not want to ruin the life of her young child.”

“At the end of the day, she is a U.S. citizen, and whether Americans make crimes or not, that doesn’t deprive them of their citizenship,” one of her attorneys, Hassan Shibly, told CBS News’ Holly Williams. 

hoda.jpg
Hoda Muthana with her young son Hoda Muthana

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the young woman is not a citizen and will not be admitted to the country.

The family and their lawyers say they were told that the U.S. determined she did not qualify for citizenship because her father was a Yemeni diplomat at the time of her birth.

But the family argues that is incorrect. They say that her father ceased to be a diplomat before she was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, and that she had a legitimate passport when she left the U.S. to join the Islamic State in Syria in 2014.

The Obama administration initially determined she was not a citizen and notified her family that it was revoking her passport in January 2016.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person born in the U.S. to an accredited foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to U.S. law and is not automatically considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

U.S.-backed forces in Syria are preparing for a final surge into the last town held by ISIS. Even after the terror group is destroyed, there is the question of what to do with the hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families from foreign countries, Williams points out.

Muthana left her home in Hoover, Alabama to become the bride of an ISIS fighter in Syria. She’s now a widow.

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U.S. sues UBS, alleges crisis-era mortgage securities fraud

© Reuters. Logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich © Reuters. Logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich

By Karen Freifeld and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Thursday filed a civil fraud lawsuit accusing UBS Group AG (S:), Switzerland’s largest bank, of defrauding investors in its sale of residential mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

UBS was accused of misleading investors about the quality of more than $ 41 billion of subprime and other risky mortgage loans backing 40 securities offerings in 2006 and 2007, the Department of Justice said in a complaint filed with the federal court in Brooklyn.

The lawsuit came after UBS rejected a government proposal that it pay nearly $ 2 billion to settle, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to speak publicly about them.

While UBS was not a big originator of U.S. residential home loans, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn said investors suffered "catastrophic losses" from the bank’s failure to fully disclose the risks of mortgage securities it helped sell.

A UBS spokesman and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement talks, but the bank said it will fight the lawsuit.

"The DOJ’s claims are not supported by the facts or the law," it said in a statement. "UBS is confident in its legal position and has been fully prepared for some time to defend itself in court."

U.S. officials are seeking unspecified fines against UBS under a federal law allowing it to pursue penalties up to the amounts the bank gained or others lost from alleged misconduct.

The case is one of the last addressing alleged misconduct in the pooling and sale by large banks of mortgage securities that were a major cause of the financial crisis.

Bank of America Corp (N:), Barclays Plc (L:), Citigroup Inc (N:), Credit Suisse Group AG (S:), Deutsche Bank AG (DE:), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (N:), HSBC Holdings Plc (L:), JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:), Morgan Stanley (N:) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (L:) previously settled.

‘LYING IS OK’

U.S. officials faulted UBS for having a business culture that placed a higher priority on profits than full disclosure to investors, who were deprived of crucial information about the quality of the loans underlying the securities they bought.

Thursday’s lawsuit quoted a UBS trader who in a 2006 instant message said "our crack due diligence effort is a joke," and a UBS mortgage employee who the same year complained to his bosses about the bank’s ethics, including that "Lying is ok."

Like UBS, Barclays had also resisted settling prior to being sued by the Justice Department. That case ended in March with a $ 2 billion settlement.

UBS was among the banks hardest hit in the financial crisis, and has said it lost more than $ 45 billion after the U.S. housing market collapsed.

It was not immediately clear how much UBS has set aside for the U.S. case, though analysts said it might be more than half the 1.2 billion Swiss francs ($ 1.20 billion) it has reserved for so-called non-core legal risks.

UBS is also fighting charges by investigators in France that it helped wealthy clients avoid taxes in that country, and turned down a 1.1 billion euro ($ 1.25 billion) settlement offer, judicial sources have said.

Shares of UBS closed up 1.3 percent in European trading earlier on Thursday. The U.S. lawsuit was made public after markets closed in that country.

The case is U.S. v UBS Securities LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 18-06369.

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J.K. Rowling sues former assistant for alleged theft

J.K. Rowling is suing her former assistant for £24,000, roughly $ 31,000, for allegedly using the “Harry Potter” author’s money to go on shopping sprees. Rowling claims that her former employee, Amanda Donaldson, used her money to buy makeup and gifts. Donaldson has denied the accusation. 

Rowling says that Donaldson spent £23,696.32 on a business credit card and stole Harry Potter merchandise, reports the BBC. Donaldson worked for Rowling between February 2014 and April 2017 before she was fired for gross misconduct. 

Rowling claimed in the suit that Donaldson’s credit card was for “buying items in connection with business and personal affairs only.” Instead, Rowling alleges, Donaldson used the credit card for a number of luxury items without permission. Rowling says Donald spent nearly $ 5,000 at skincare store Molton Brown, nearly $ 2,000 at fragrance shop Jo Malone, and more than $ 2,000 at Starbucks. 

The author also says that Donaldson, who dealt with memorabilia requests from fans, pocketed Harry Potter toys for herself that amounted to approximately $ 4,000 worth of goods. Rowling said these were taken without her “knowledge or consent.”

Donaldson also allegedly spent more than $ 1,500 buying two cats and stole more than $ 10,000 of foreign cash from a safe. 

Donaldson responded that Rowling has “not suffered any loss and is not entitled to damages” from her.

Rowling’s spokeswoman said, “I can confirm J.K. Rowling has taken legal action against her former personal assistant, Amanda Donaldson, following her dismissal for gross misconduct involving a substantial breach of trust.

“As the case is not yet concluded we are not able to comment further and there won’t be any comment from J.K. Rowling.”

The case is due in court later this year.  

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