Squiz Today / 24 August 2017
Squiz Today – Thursday, 24 August
"Make Partying Great Again”
Thousands of dollars worth of orange ecstasy tablets shaped like US President Donald Trump’s head were seized in Germany after their distinct marketing campaign was traced on the interwebs. Medical experts said the drugs could have a strong effect and lead to behavioural issues. Ahem…
CLASS ACTION AGAINST COMMONWEALTH BANK
Cranky Commonwealth Bank investors can take part in a class action over the company’s drop in value following AUSTRAC’s investigation into poor compliance with anti-money laundering reporting protocols. The bank failed to notify the regulator on more than 53,000 occasions when cash amounts of $10,000 or more were deposited via their intelligent ATMs – something they need to do to help prevent the funding of criminal and terrorist activity. Law firm Maurice Blackburn says the bank’s directors breached their “continuous disclosure obligations” by sitting on the information for as long as two years. That’s just a fancy way of saying those in charge should have known the issue would affect the share price and they had an obligation to tell shareholders and the market about it ASAP. For their part, Commonwealth has ‘fessed up to the mistakes and said it would work with AUSTRAC to remedy any ongoing issues.
SO WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL?
Well, it’s big on three fronts:
1. It’s potentially the largest shareholder class action Australia has ever seen. As Oz’s largest company, the Commonwealth Bank has more than 800,000 shareholders, so there's a big reservoir of discontent to net.
2. There’s a lot of money involved. The bank lost $5.6 billion in value of the day after AUSTRAC’s announcement when the share price dropped by 3.9%. Maurice Blackburn is claiming the shareholder loss is actually more like $7.8 billion.
3. Remember: the penalty could be up to $18 million for each breach, and while no-one is seriously expecting a trillion-dollar fine it could add up to a lot of cash-ola.
Reports say there's a lot of shareholder anger about the AUSTRAC matter and other recent problems, and Commonwealth's board have cut executive bonuses in response. But here's another thing to ponder: banks are probably on a level with lawyers in the reputation stakes, and there are class action critics who say it’s just a way for law firms to make money. Hmmm.
WHERE IS THIS ALL GOING?
There’s many (including federal Labor and the Greens) who think the only place for this to go is destination Royal Commission. But despite the Turnbull Government’s hostility towards the banks this year, the Coalition is not on board. Treasurer Scott Morrison has particularly gone out of his way to trash talk the ‘Big Four’ (think: the bank levy and continuous potshots about executive pay, conduct and ethics). But the bad headlines and our general lack of ‘like’ for the banks coupled with a government under pressure in the opinion polls, you just never know where this could go.
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LAST DAY TO SORT YOUR ENROLMENT FOR SAME-SEX VOTE
You have until the end of today to get on the electoral roll or to update your postal address deets to participate in the same-sex marriage postal vote. The Australian Electoral Commission yesterday tweeted; “The electoral roll has increased by 54,545 between 8 & 22 August. 577,879 total enrolment transactions processed in this timeframe" so we've been pretty diligent. Check here if you're not sure. Ballot papers will start arriving on 12 September and need to be returned by 7 November. Here’s how we measure time: we’ll be about 15 bottles of wine down by then. That’s a reasonably respectable one-and-a-bit bottles per week, but crikey!
QUEENSLAND TO TIGHTEN LAWS AFTER DREAMWORLD DEATHS
Amusement ride operators might be forced to get licences, attendants undergo mandatory training and old amusements decommissioned in big changes suggested by a safety review following the four tragic deaths on a Dreamworld ride last year. Grace Grace (yes, that’s her name), the Queensland industrial relations minister, said the 58 recommendations would be implemented, including making ‘industrial manslaughter’ part of the state’s criminal law. If the law is passed, company directors could be hit with 20-year prison terms and fines of up to $10 million. The new laws and regulations would apply to country shows, school fetes and all the way up to big theme parks.
BANGLADESH, INDIA AND NEPAL SMASHED BY FLOODS
The worst floods in 100 years in Bangladesh have led to food/clean water shortages and disease, putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. The floods have also affected India and Nepal claiming 800 lives and displacing 24 million people. There has been a lot of criticism of the response, but aid agencies and government officials say the scale of the disaster has made it difficult to deal with.
WOOLIES PULLS UP ITS SOCKS, BUT TOUGH GOING FOR COKE’S AUSSIE BOTTLER
Woolworths Group (which includes Woolies, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Big W) announced their earnings for the last financial year yesterday and they’re doing well after putting their failed home improvement venture behind them. The stand out was the last three months (April-June) for Woolies where they saw 7.2% sales growth compared to the same period last year (which was a very low point). Woolies have tipped a tonne of profits into lowering their supermarket prices over the last 18 months. Discount department store Big W is really struggling. It lost $150 million last year, but the company said it’s determined to make it profitable before considering selling it.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Amatil is having a tougher time of it. It announced a 4% fall in its half-year earnings yesterday and said it expects the rest of the year to be more of the same. One number that caught our eye showed that still and sparkling water volumes are down. CCA owns the Mount Franklin brands and with the sugar = evil debate getting louder, water and low/no sugar brands will need to fire up.
The commander of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet (based in Japan), Vice Admiral Joseph Aucion, will be dismissed following Monday’s collision of the USS John S McCain with a merchant ship claiming ten lives. It was the fourth incident under his watch this year.
Danish police yesterday confirmed the torso washed up in Copenhagen is that of journalist Kim Wall. Authorities said metal weights had been attached to prevent the body from floating. Ingrid Wall, Kim’s mother, said; “We cannot see the end of the disaster yet, and a lot of questions are still to be answered.”
Australia’s women’s rugby side has guaranteed a place in the 2021 World Cup after their win against host country Ireland. The Wallaroos will play off for fifth place on the weekend as the World Cup comes to a close. New Zealand’s Black Ferns are the favourite to win – they’ll face either England or France in the final.
SOCIAL MEDIA’S NEW BODYGUARD CRUSH
New Zealand Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern was known to us previously as the focus of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s distrust. But she’s now more notable for having the interweb’s latest crush on her security detail – behold the bald bearded bodyguard. He’s very tall and seems to have just one expression, but people are going crazy for him. Each to their own…
SQUIZ THE DAY
12.30pm (AEST) - Tim Costello of World Vision and Peter Jennings of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to address the National Press Club on 'What price the war on terror?'- Canberra
Directions Hearing in the High Court on MP Citizenship Referrals (relates to Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters and Malcolm Roberts)
ABS Data Release - Detailed Labour Force Data, July
Ukraine Independence Day
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