FIRST PERSONAL INSOLVENCY PRACTITIONERS APPROVED - The first personal insolvency practitioners came on stream this week as efforts intensify to clean up the mortgage debt pile in Ireland. This came as one company, Pepper, announced that it would offer incentives for householders who stick to agreed split mortgage plans.

Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers says it is important to point out that Pepper had bought out GE Money loanbook. "When they bought that book, there was a heavy discount. This won't happen with the Irish banks because we bailed them out and they're allowed to keep their assets looking as if they're at the price at which they were lent out," he explains. "This is evidence of the importance of enforcing losses on banks when they make bad decisions rather than bailing them out. There is a positive aspect to that in that allows them make realistic commercial decisions with their borrowers,'' he states.

Mr Deeter believes that the new personal insolvency practitioner arrangement will not benefit some people as they will deal primarily with the banks. He says the banks are intent on vetoing as much as they can because they believe by keeping people ''on the hook'' there is a chance they can recoup some of their money over time. "If you make a deal that has a five year end-date, the banks are closing their window of opportunity. The banks will probably try to veto as many deals as possible so they can see who will go into complete bankruptcy versus staying in the steps below."

He also points out that the PIP system is untested and he believes the debt settlement arrangements will be more successful.


MORNING BRIEFS - Computer network equipment maker Cisco Systems is cutting 4,000 jobs, or 5% of its workforce, as it makes another attempt to reduce costs and refocus on growth areas in the face of uncertain demand.

The company employs over 200 people here - and it is not yet known where the cuts will be made or if workers here will be affected. Shares in Cisco fell nearly 10% in after hours trade to close at $23.84 - that was the biggest drop in more than a year. Yesterday's fourth quarter results, however, were in line with expectations. The company profits of $2.3 billion were better than last year.

*** US prosecutors have brought criminal charges against two former JPMorgan bankers in a trading scandal that cost the bank $6.2 billion last year. They are the first charges in the so-called ''London whale'' scandal, which referred to one trader because of the scale of the losses. But that trader was not one of the two charged. The two who were worked at the bank's chief investment office in London and they were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to falsify books and records related to the trading losses.

*** The hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson, has agreed to buy Steinway Musical Instruments, for $512m. The company is renowned for its pianos. The move has raised eyebrows both in the world of music and on Wall Street. Paulson made billions in 2007 by betting against the housing market. He usually takes a stake in companies but has never bought one outright. His firm specialises in mortgages, gold and other financial assets. There were reports overnight that he had cut his holdings in gold by more than half. He had told investors as recently as last month that they should own gold.

*** Shares in Japan fell overnight after the Finance Minister denied that the government was considering a cut to the corporate tax rate. The Nikkei was up in recent days on rumours that a cut was coming down the tracks. At 25.5%, Japan has the second highest corporate tax rate in the OECD. The government is expected to increase consumption taxes in the near future.