EU TO FORCE MINING FIRMS TO DISCLOSE FOREIGN PAYMENTS - European companies involved in mining and other extractive industries worldwide will be obliged to disclose payments made to governments, under a new directive agreed under the Irish presidency of the European Council, says the Irish Times. The obligation on large companies and public-interest entities to report payments to governments, many in the developing world, has been one of the most controversial aspects of the new EU accounting directive which will result in a significant reduction in red tape for businesses across the European Union. NGOs and lobbyists, including Bono, have strongly advocated the introduction of an EU extractive transparency law, arguing that companies should be obliged to disclose publicly what they pay to the governments for exploiting gold, gas and other minerals. The legislation, which is unlikely to enter into force before 2016, could have implications for companies such as Tullow Oil, which have a significant presence in Africa. The US introduced similar legislation last year. However, some NGOs had argued that telecommunication and construction companies should also be included in the directive.
PLANS TO END MORTGAGE MISERY FOR THOUSANDS WON'T WORK, SAYS MABS - Plans to solve the mortgage crisis won't work, a new report warns. It comes as the Government's attempts to deal with the mess received a separate blow with the announcement that financial regulator and Central Bank deputy governor Matthew Elderfield is to step down in six months' time. The Irish Independent says that the report from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) finds the typical struggling homeowner in arrears is older than many experts previously thought, casting doubt on the official split mortgage plan to tackle the crisis. It finds that the majority of people in mortgage distress are aged between 41 and 65. Experts said this was a new and explosive revelation and contradicted perceived wisdom that most of those in arrears are in their 30s. Regulators and the Department of Finance are hoping that most of the almost 100,000 distressed borrowers will be offered split mortgages. This is where the mortgage is divided, with repayments made on the main part of the mortgage and the other part "parked" and dealt with later. But the report on mortgage arrears, a copy of which has been seen by the Independent, casts serious doubts on whether this will work.
AUSTRIAN BANK CHIEF RETURNS €2m OF PAY - The chief executive of Austria’s second-largest bank by assets, Raiffeisen Bank International, has returned €2m of his pay from 2012, saying that executive remuneration could sometimes “turn out to be too high”, writes the Financial Times. In an email to staff, Herbert Stepic explained he had paid back the sum - about two-fifths of the €4.9m he originally received - because the size of the total payout was “neither in accord with my own self-conception nor with the Raiffeisen banking group’s foundation of values”. He added that he also regarded the move as “my personal contribution to the rigorous cost-saving measures in our company that shall ensure that RBI will continue to be successful above average in these challenging times”. Executive pay - of top bankers in particular - has become an increasingly fraught topic in Europe in recent years. The European parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee last month voted to cap fund managers’ bonuses at 100% of their salaries. And in February, the EU agreed to cap bankers’ bonuses at twice their annual salary, in response to public anger at the mismatch between the high rewards received by some bankers and the poor performance of many banks in the years since the financial crisis.
HUNDREDS OF JOBS AT RISK IN MORRISONS CASH-HANDLING MOVE - Nearly 700 jobs are at risk at Morrisons after the UK grocer decided to implement automated cash-handling technology in the back offices of its stores. The UK's fourth-biggest supermarket said the introduction of the cash-handling systems is part of an ongoing programme to improve its "competitiveness", says the London Independent. Most of its big grocery rivals have already introduced similar technology to reduce costs. Morrisons has started a consultation with 689 cash office managers and supervisors about a proposal to remove these roles in its 490 stores. Despite the fact that a growing proportion of customers now pay with plastic cards, supermarkets still take huge sums in cash on a daily basis. The job cuts come at a difficult time for Morrisons, which has suffered a fall in profits and underlying sales recently. The Bradford-based grocer's pre-tax profits fell by 8% to £879m over the year to 3 February. This was its first decline since 2005-06, when Morrisons was recovering from its troubled acquisition of Safeway in 2004.