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loan shark fishing season September 27, 2007

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While concerns about subprime lending have dominated the news recently there are other areas of lending which raise concerns. The UK Government is supporting a number of projects to address loan sharking (mostly illegal lending) in different parts of the country, including for example London and Bristol. The Association of British Credit Unions has welcomed the attacks on loan sharks, arguing that credit unions, which currently serve a small proportion of UK borrowers, are a much better option. There are some similar concerns expressed in rule-making in the US, although much of the current concern in the UK seems to be aimed specifically at the informal sector, and payday lenders in the US have close links to mainstream banking.

The online etymology dictionary suggests that it is possible that the term shark applied first to lenders and only subsequently to the marine animal. My Concise Oxford Dictionary suggests a slightly more complex relationship between the two meanings (and see languagehat on this point). But the linkage has been convenient for those who have tried to focus the attention of legislators on predatory lending.

On a more general level, the behaviors of lenders illustrated by loan adverts like this one have provoked critical reactions

multilingualism September 26, 2007

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On this day of European languages the EU Commission announced an online consultation on multilingualism in preparation for a Communication on languages to be published during 2008.

european day of languages September 26, 2007

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26th September each year is the European Day of Languages. Here is a listing of some of the activities taking place to celebrate the day.

scottish eating habits and politics September 25, 2007

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From John Sutherland at the Guardian:

It’s the sick heart which has been the curse of modern Scottish politics. Try this counterfactual experiment: if Cook, Smith, and Dewar had been granted another 15 years apiece, how different would that entity which Gordon Brown calls “our Britain” be? Would the Labour party be a better, or worse, thing?

lasting powers of attorney September 24, 2007

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I have just noticed (via the Guardian) that the UK is moving to a new system for powers of attorney, introducing lasting powers of attorney (which will give the grantee a wide range of powers including powers about health care decisions) to replace enduring powers of attorney (which give the grantee power with respect to financial decisions). After 1 October 2007 it will be possible for people to set up LPAs. But the new documents are much more expensive to produce and explain to clients than those for EPAs so it seems that many people are trying to set up EPAs before the new system comes into effect.

This is one of the changes brought about by the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and it is another area where the UK Government used an easy read consultation document (the full consultation document is here).

In looking into this development I noticeed that a number of solicitors’ firms have posted documents on their websites with the title: Lasting Powers of Attorney The New Law in Detail. The Lockharts Solicitors version is here, the Peter, Peter and Wright version is here, and the Oliver Fisher version is here. But these different versions are in fact all the same, although they don’t state that they were not written by anyone at the firm in question. And Oliver Fisher states at the top of its web page that “Not all law firms are the same…..”

women's lives… September 23, 2007

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I have an uncomfortable fascination with the style sections of the New York Times. And today’s front page story with the title Putting Money on the Table is an example of why I find it uncomfortable (rather than fascinating). The subtitle for the article is: “With rising incomes, young women discover the pitfalls of “dating down.”” It’s uncomfortable because it is shallow (the topic might merit serious treatment, but doesn’t get it). Similarly shallow, the Sydney Morning Herald seems to be preoccupied with the question whether all the best ones are taken (connected to the “dating down” phenomenon?).
The Guardian’s women’s page used to debate all the time whether it was OK or not to have a page for women (wasn’t the whole paper a women’s newspaper?). That was interesting if sometimes uncomfortable. The Guardian’s style section now has an article which argues that most working mothers would lie if they were late for work because of problems with childcare. What about the working fathers – don’t they have problems with childcare? And would they tell the truth about them if they did?

metaplace September 18, 2007

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Much more cheerful than what is happening in the financial markets is the announcement that Metaplace went live today at TechCrunch40. Not too many details yet, but they do have cute pictures….metaplacepicture

It’s a venture headed up by Raph Koster and John Donham which is designed to allow people to build their own mmorgs. The announcement states:

Our goals are sort of idealistic. We think there are all kinds of things on the Internet that would be improved if anyone could have a virtual place of their own. Right now, there aren’t enough good games, for example, and they all seem to be about elves in tights or soldiers in battle armor. Metaplace allows more diversity. Right now, there are lots of people who want to use virtual worlds for research, or education, or business, but it’s just too darn hard to get one going. Now you can create a world in just a few minutes and start tailoring it to your needs. Basically, we wanted to democratize the process of making online spaces of all sorts.

statement of the uk chancellor September 17, 2007

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Darling on Northern Rock and investor distrust:

I want to put the matter beyond doubt. In the current market circumstances, and because of the importance I place on maintaining a stable banking system and public confidence in it, I can announce today that following discussions with the Governor and the Chairman of the FSA, should it be necessary, we, with the Bank of England, would put in place arrangements that would guarantee all the existing deposits in Northern Rock during the current instability in the financial markets.
This means that people can continue to take their money out of Northern Rock. But if they choose to leave their money in Northern Rock, it will be guaranteed safe and secure.

generic financial advice September 17, 2007

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looks really boring. And there’s a statement at the bottom of the web page:

For a statement on Northern Rock plc please visit the FSA website.

The Treasury Press release stated that generic financial advice would also be available from A4e. When I visited their web site just now the most likely place to look for generic financial advice seemed to be a link under the heading Financial Inclusion and Education which took me to a page headed Moneyhelp – supported by HBOS but I’m not sure if that is the right place to look.

more troubles at northern rock September 17, 2007

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Savers continue to withdraw funds despite this announcement by Callum McCarthy of the FSA on Saturday:

To be absolutely clear, if we believed that Northern Rock was not solvent, we would not have allowed it to remain open for business. It is open for business and it can continue to receive deposits and allow customers to make withdrawals.

The Chief Executive of Horthern Rock stated on Sunday:

Your money is safe with us and if you want some, or all of it back, then you are perfectly entitled to it. Whilst you may have to wait a little longer than usual to receive it, you will get it. However, your savings are secure and there is no need for you to withdraw your money based on our recent announcement, and the widespread media coverage that has ensued. The Bank of England has agreed to provide a funding facility to enable us to manage through the current global liquidity crisis. They would not have done so, if we were not a solvent, adequately capitalised, well run bank. I hope this helps to reassure you.

Meanwhile the Guardian and the BBC are remembering the UK’s secondary banking crisis in 1973.