Giant fraud rattles banks, could prompt more regulation; New Thai Prime Minister elected; Bush makes final tours of Iraq and Afghanistan; ANC rival grows in South Africa; and more
Top of the Agenda: Fraud Scandal Rocks Banks
Some of the world's largest banks have revealed that they have been victims of a large-scale fraud and face losses of billions of dollars. An alleged ponzi scheme pulled off by an investment fund managed by the New York financier Bernard Madoff, the former head of the Nasdaq stock exchange, is reportedly one of the biggest such frauds ever, and has affected banks (BBC) from Britain's RBS, to France's BNP Paribas, to Spain's Santander. The Wall Street Journal reports a high-profile array of American investors, from the real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman, to charities managed by the movie director Steven Spielberg and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, were also victimized.
The main upshot of the incident could prove to be yet more calls for heightened securities regulation in the United States, at a time when the chorus of such calls is already growing. MarketWatch reports many of the losses stem back to an unregistered money management busisness Madoff ran alongside his firm's main brokerage business. The Journal, in a separate article, reports that the US Securities and Exchange Commission had several opportunities to discover Madoff's ponzi scheme, and says the episode comes as "the latest blow to the reputation of an agency that has been criticized for insufficient enforcement and the failure to better monitor the dangerous risk-taking on Wall Street that triggered the financial crisis."
PACIFIC RIM: New Thai PM
The BBC reports Thailand's primary opposition leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party, has been confirmed as the new Thai prime minister following a special parliamentary vote in which his party defeated the former national police chief Pracha Promnok by a 235-198 margin (BBC).
South Korea: Yonhap reports President Lee Myung-bak vowed to start massive infrastructure projects in rural areas of South Korea in a move to boost the country's economy.