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Sharing Economy

Uber is Enron Deja Vu: Culture Trumps Strategy

For over a  year now I have blogged here about the red flags flying about Travis Kalanick and Uber. Many investigative articles have been published over this time, in the New York Times and other publications, which have raised disturbing questions about Uber, Kalanick and some members of his team. The Board of Directors has finally taken action but it feels like its a day late and a dollar short.  Why did it take so long?  I have bluntly used the epithet that “Uber is Trump,” but now on reflection, it is more apt to describe Uber as Enron the sequel, and “deja vu all over again.” Remember the audio of two Enron electricity traders laughing about “screwing grandma?” That is Uber. 

Global Populism

Trump’s radical new foreign policy portends much worse to come

As Fareed Zakaria has pointed out this week in the Washington Post and on CNN GPS, we now have a Trump foreign policy doctrine, and it is not reassuring for the World. Obviously heavily influenced by Bannon, who many had thought had been relegated to backseat status by McMaster, we have been fooled again. As Trump demonstrates his RealPolitik admiration for authoritarians like Putin, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, and Duterte, more sinister scenarios begin to crystallize.  Trump’s speech justifying the withdrawal of the United States from the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement is a frightening exposition of this new Trump Doctrine. It is Trump thumbing his nose at the World. It is the United States against the World, led by a coterie of plutocrats and their money.  The reality is that the evidence points to an ongoing seizure of executive power by Trump that destroys our Constitution in the name of our national security.  The question is what we can do about it. 

Global

University degree no longer comes with promise of stable job

The unwritten promise of a post-secondary education has been to earn a degree in an applied field such as engineering and you’ll end up with a good, stable job, but the millennial generation is finding that can no longer be counted on. I have been thinking about this issue for some time. Last year, I posted an article on this blog by Robert Reich, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. I was stimulated to share that article by what I was seeing with my own students from the University of British Columbia, and contrasting that with my own experience years ago, walking into my Silicon Valley dream career by sheer chance. That simply no longer happens. Grads must begin plotting out a plan early, no later than the beginning of their third year, and begin to execute on it in order to find an entry-level position commensurate with their education. Networking and cold calling is imperative, but as this article points out, even that may not guarantee solid employment.

Vancouver

Canada’s Open Door to Tax Fraud, Money Laundering

How many shell companies exist in Canada? How many legal trusts? Who are the beneficial owners protected by such unnecessary veils of secrecy? No one knows because in most cases there is no legal requirement to disclose actual ownership even to regulators. In fact, more information is required to get a library card than to set up a company in most jurisdictions in Canada. What we do know is that Canada ranks near the bottom among our OECD partners in terms of corporate disclosure requirements to fight money laundering and tax evasion. A recent report from Transparency International detailed the dismal situation and why our country has become a haven for dubious offshore property speculation.

Financial markets

China's Problems Grow: Shanghai Billionaire Guo Guangchang Caught Up in Scandal

In the Autumn of 1999, I joined a Hong Kong friend for the amazing “K98” train trip from Hong Kong north through the heart of China to Beijing, just in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the People’s Republic of China. It was my version of Paul Theroux’s “Riding the Iron Rooster,” and the images of China at that time still stick in my head. Since then China has changed so dramatically that those images no longer exist. Since Deng Xiaoping declared that “getting rich is glorious,” and China’s growth has skyrocketed, China’s domestic and international problems have also multiplied.

Tax havens

Getting Rich Off The Recession: "The Big Short" Comes to Hollywood

Liar’s Poker is one of those books one of your friends strongly urges you to read. A short little book, the recommendation I got from Bill Howe, my Canadian Intel colleague in Europe, was that it was a hilarious read. And so it was. It reads like Animal House. Michael Lewis also recently wrote The Big Short, his analysis of the 2008 financial meltdown. Liar’s Poker has been described as a comedy, and The Big Short as a tragedy, which seems very apt to me if you have heard Michael discuss both books. Many may know Michael best for his recent success with Moneyball.

Global politics

What the Paris Climate Meeting Must Do

Le Bourget airport just north of Paris is the place where Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis. That event 88 years ago could now be interpreted as foreshadowing the era of globalization. Tomorrow, the world’s nations will meet there under the banner of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

Investment

Reid Hoffman: Venture Capitalist Loser | MIT Technology Review

An insightful interview with Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist and founder of LinkedIn. But to my mind, Hoffman seems blase’ about Big Ideas and “deep tech” funding. I share the views of Startup Genome founder, Max Marmer, and bemoan the limited focus of VC’s on world-changing technologies, leaving it to billionaire angels. I also sense myopia about the ongoing intense debate over the distortion of the sharing economy by Uber, Airbnb, and others.

Tax havens

Pfizer's Corporate Tax "Inversion" To Ireland: Masqueraded Tax Evasion

Pfizer’s announcement this week of its intricate $160 Billion merger/acquisition with Irish pharmaceutical company Allergan, revealed that Pfizer will be moving the new corporate headquarters to Dublin. Essentially, Pfizer, the much larger company, is providing a bridging loan to Allergan to purchase Pfizer so that it may move to Ireland. This enables Pfizer to avoid paying U.S. taxes, even after receiving massive support for R&D from U.S. government programs.

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