Tuesday, July 05, 2022

How to Stop Your Android Phone

  “Print a poster version of this comic to hang up on your fridge or give away to friends. Download the poster Coronavirus FAQ: Can I get COVID outdoors?.”

 Rogue HackerOne employee steals bug reports to sell on the side

     Marie Darrieussecq Q & A 

       In the Hindustan Times Arunima Mazumdar has a Q & A with the author, in ‘I was reborn as a writer’ - Marie Darrieussecq, author, Pig Tales

       New to me re. Pig Tales: "Jean-Luc Godard bought the novel rights as soon as it came out, in September 1996". (But, yeah, it didn't work out.) 

How to Stop Your Android Phone  

MakeUseOf: “No matter where you go online, you’re being tracked. Apps and websites constantly monitor your activity and collect your data for all sorts of reasons. Your physical location, buying behavior, and media consumption habits all leave a trail every time you pick up your phone. If privacy is a big deal for you, this is enough to invite a lot of fear and anxiety. In this guide, we’ll show you eight ways you can stop your Android phone from tracking you…”

How to scrub yourself from the internet, the best that you can

Washington Post: “Data brokers collect detailed information about who we are based on our things like our online activity, real world purchases and public records. Together, it’s enough to figure out your political leanings and health status, even if you’re pregnant. Friday’s news that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, and abortion could become illegal in at 13 states within a month, highlight concerns about ways these piles of information could be used. You can’t fully scrub yourself from the internet. A little bit of you will always linger, whether it’s in data-broker databases, on old social media you forgot about or in the back of someone else’s vacation photos on Flickr. That’s no reason to give up! You can absolutely take steps to protect your privacy by cleaning up things like your Google results. For the best results you’ll need time, money, patience, and to live in a country or state with strong privacy laws…”

Just 4% Of Employers Are Making Everyone Return To The Office Full-Time

Forbes: “…A new survey of human resources leaders from the Conference Board, a nonprofit business research group, finds that just 4% said they are requiring all employees to return to the workplace full-time. And less than half (45%) said they were requiring some workers to return to the office five days a week. “We were all pretty shocked,” says Robin Erickson, vice president of human capital at the Conference Board. “We were surprised given what we’re hearing about how many employers are requiring workers to come back full time.” In other words: Hybrid work arrangements really do seem to be taking hold. The research found that 90% of the surveyed employers are allowing hybrid work schedules, whether that means the occasional office visit that workers decide on their own or a more prescribed schedule of one to four days in the workplace. Erickson believes the percentage may not stay that low, particularly if the labor market cools, but for now there is too much pressure on companies to be flexible from workers who have the upper hand…”

Workplaces: Vatican releases thousands of Holocaust-era letters and requests online

 The World’s Workplace Is Broken – Here’s How to Fix It - GallupGallup: “81,396 hours. That’s how much of life most of us spend working. The only thing we spend more time doing is sleeping. If we spend so much of life at work, how is life at work going? According to the world’s workers, not well. Gallup finds 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. But is that a surprise, or a statistical explanation of the obvious?

 The idea that “work sucks” is everywhere. It’s been the subject of ancient philosophers, world leaders, your colleagues and even pop culture. Comedian George Carlin once quipped, “Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.” Carlin’s joke works because it’s true — but workplace misery isn’t funny. Being miserable at work can bring more suffering to a person’s life than being unemployed…”

The World’s $7.8 Trillion Workplace Problem - Gallup: “Employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report. That’s equal to 11% of global GDP. In 2021, 21% of the world’s employees were engaged at work. Although this is an increase of one percentage point from 2020, we have still not returned to our peak of 22% recorded in 2019. 

Clearly, the pandemic has taken a toll on the world’s workers. Employee engagement had been rising for the past decade, but the pandemic has stalled that steadily increasing trend. Leaders are now responsible for creating new work environments that are more resilient and adaptable to global shocks. The future trajectory of employee engagement will be one measure of their success…”

Vatican releases thousands of Holocaust-era letters and requests online - Times of Israel: “Pope Francis orders the online publication of 170 volumes of its Jewish files from the recently opened Pope Pius XII archives, the Vatican announces, amid renewed debate about the legacy of its World War II-era pope. The documentation contains 2,700 files of requests for Vatican help from Jewish groups and families, many of them baptized Catholics, so not actually practicing Jews anymore. 

The files were held in the Secretariat of State’s archives and contain requests for papal intervention to avoid Nazi deportation, to obtain liberation from concentration camps, or help finding family members. The online publication of the files comes amid renewed debate about Pius’s legacy following the 2020 opening to scholars of his archives, of which the “Jews” files are but a small part. The Vatican has long defended Pius against criticism from some Jewish groups that he remained silent in the face of the Holocaust, saying he used quiet diplomacy to save lives. 

One recent book that cites the newly opened archives, “The Pope at War,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Kertzer, suggests that Pius was loath to intervene on behalf of Jews, or make public denunciations of Nazi atrocities against them, to avoid antagonizing Adolf Hitler or Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini…”

Micromanagement - The Future of Corporate Criminal Liability

An Australian woman was awarded $2.8 million by the Federal Court after it deemed she had been “micromanaged” and “bullied” by her boss.

A racing club in New South Wales was ordered to make the major payout after a long-time manager was subjected to an “overbearing micromanagement style”.

The court also found the CEO had bullied the manager by singling her out, micromanaging her tasks, distracting her from work with relentless emails and denying her benefits that were offered to other employees.

The woman, who had been working for the club since 1991, started having the issues when the new CEO came on board in 2016.

It was at this point the new CEO felt the manager was being paid too much and the harassment began.

The manager was denied annual leave, long-service leave and commission payments.

After numerous complaints, the manager left the business in 2019 and the court awarded the manager the payout in December 2021.

Woman wins $2.8 million for being ‘micromanaged’ at work

(Hawkesbury Race Club ordered to pay bullied manager over $2.8million in compensation and legal fees. hawkesburypost.com.au.)

The 30 May 2022 decision in Leggett v Hawkesbury Race Club Limited (No 4) [2022] FCA 622, handed down by a single Judge in the Federal Court of Australia, has highlighted numerous issues which give pause for thought - specifically regarding how employers should manage their risk, and how injured workers should bring claims for damages for personal injury.

Where an employer is exposed to damages for breach of provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 or other Commonwealth legislation (such as anti-discrimination law, as well as in negligence), the Federal Court is not restricted in the way it assesses damages by the limitations in the NSW Workers Compensation Act 1987.

With this in mind, employers within the NSW workers compensation scheme may be entitled to indemnity from Icare and SIRA if the breach of the Fair Work Act 2009 arises from an "injury" to the worker.

The Court has made it clear though, that a worker cannot double dip - and must account for any state compensation received.

Australia: How workers can avoid statutory limits on damages: Employers have real risks of uncapped damages, but SIRA/ICARE policies may still respond (Leggett v Hawkesbury Race Club Limited (No 4) [2022] FCA 622)

Kyley Daykin  - Case alleging workplace bullying against Auditor-General settled

Credit Suisse struggles with backlog of new wealthy client accounts in Asia FT

Tax havens are in effect the aircraft carriers from which assaults on major democratic states and their policies can be launched. No wonder Russia loves them.

I wrote this more than ten years ago (with minor changes to tenses to suit the new context): Feral capitalism is the unfettered, wild form
Read the full article…

In April 2022, 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, according to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

April marked the 11th consecutive month that 4 million US employees left their jobs, indicating that the Great Resignation may be turning into a Forever Resignation, Insider's Aki Ito reported.

Research published by MIT Sloan School of Management earlier this year found that toxic work cultures were the driving force behind the Great Resignation. The research said that toxic work culture was the biggest cause of attrition, even more so than bad pay or job insecurity.

Toxic work cultures are driving The Great Resignation. Here's how to tell if a company culture is toxic before accepting a job.

Reporter tracks down scammers in dramatic raid

"Schadenfreude" is a German word that describes pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune. It might be a brutal emotion but we guarantee you'll enjoy watching the misery of the men you're about to meet.

60 Minutes' Most Notorious Scammer Stories

Scammers stole over $2 billion from Australians last year — more than double 2020's total: ACCC

Nelson, J.S. (Josephine Sandler), The Future of Corporate Criminal Liability: Watching the ESG Space (January 15, 2022). J.S. Nelson, The Future of Corporate Criminal Liability: Watching the ESG Space, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4057736 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4057736 

“The future of corporate criminal liability in the U.S. and around the world may be for failure to adequately act on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. In Europe and elsewhere, courts have found a fundamental right or the equivalent to protection from climate change. That right has been exercised in court cases against governments first, and it is moving into cases against private corporations. This manuscript focuses within ESG issues on potential U.S. corporate criminal liability for inaction to prevent climate change. 

There has not been discussion of this topic elsewhere in the literature, and businesses need to look for these developments in the law. U.S. courts are not likely to follow the international pattern of finding a fundamental right to protection against climate change, but they are more likely to find potential corporate criminal liability for misrepresentations that corporations make to investors in the gap between what corporations say and what they do on climate change issues. The first movements in this evolution are already happening.”

How Do You Know You’re Not Dreaming?  Ted-Ed

How Neurons Really Work is Being Elucidated The Economist

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Can be Killed by Pom-Pom Molecules NewScientist

Lost in space: Astronauts struggle to regain bone density France24. I thought the cosmonauts used whole body vibration plates before and after for bone density and muscle strength…

Queen’s Secret Influence on Laws Revealed in Scottish Government Memo The Guardian

Monday, July 04, 2022

Wirecard’s former top accountant admits forging documents for KPMG special audit


Wirecard’s former top accountant admits forging documents for KPMG special audit

Stephan von Erffa said fabricated payment authorisation was an isolated event

Stephan von Erffa is one of three defendants in a case brought by Munich prosecutors over the downfall of Wirecard © Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg

Wirecard’s ex-head of accounting has admitted to forging documents requested by KPMG during a special audit, ahead of a trial that is set for later this year, according to people familiar with the matter. 
Stephan von Erffa is one of three defendants in a case brought by Munich prosecutors over the spectacular downfall of one of Germany’s highest-flying technology companies. The 47-year-old is the first senior Wirecard executive to admit wrongdoing since Oliver Bellenhaus, head of a Dubai subsidiary, turned himself in to authorities in July 2020 and turned chief witness for the prosecution.

Wirecard crashed into insolvency in June 2020 after admitting that half of its stated revenues and €1.9bn of corporate cash purportedly held in escrow accounts in Asia did not exist. Von Erffa is one of three Wirecard executives who were charged with fraud, breach of trust and market manipulation this year. 
He, Bellenhaus and former chief executive Markus Braun, who denies wrongdoing, are set to face trial this year. Von Erffa denied any involvement in the wider fraud and blamed Wirecard’s fugitive second-in-command Jan Marsalek during a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal last year. However, the police investigation found evidence that von Erffa in early 2020 forged documents that were then shared with auditors at KPMG and EY. 
The documents were linked to a €50mn payment that Wirecard had received in 2018, purportedly from one of the Asian escrow accounts and wired by a trustee at von Erffa’s behest. One year after the payment, KPMG scrutinised Wirecard’s accounts in a special audit. The investigation was launched by the supervisory board after the Financial Times in October 2019 raised questions about potential balance sheet manipulation. KPMG’s forensic investigators wanted to see von Erffa’s payment authorisation for the €50mn transfer. 
As no such document existed, the top accountant decided to fabricate one, he told prosecutors, according to people familiar with the matter. Using a private computer, where von Erffa set back the system date to December 2018, he generated a back-dated email and a sham “escrow request/authorisation form” for the €50mn, both of which have been seen by the FT. 
Von Erffa told prosecutors that the forgery was a single and isolated case, according to people familiar with the matter. He said that the transaction itself had been genuine and he created a document to substantiate it under immense pressure from KPMG to supply evidence. 
He stressed he had not been willing to forge documents to doctor the company’s accounts. The collapse of Wirecard, which at its peak was valued at more than €24bn, sent shockwaves through Germany’s financial and political elite. 
Wirecard’s long-standing auditor EY did not spot the fraud for years, while German financial regulator BaFin protected Wirecard from short sellers and prosecutors took action against critical journalists. 
OCBC, the Singaporean bank that was supposedly holding the escrow accounts, told Wirecard’s administrator after its collapse that it never held significant amounts of cash on behalf of the trustee, and that some of the accounts did not exist at all, according to documents seen by the FT. 
Prosecutors established that the €50mn sent to Wirecard came from one of its Asian business partners, which had previously borrowed €100mn from Wirecard and sent half the money back via a string of opaque companies to obscure its origin, people familiar with the matter said. 

Munich prosecutors and a lawyer for von Erffa declined to comment.

Wirecard: the investigation that brought down a German tech giant

The FT’s Dan McCrum talks about his book ‘Money Men’

This is an audio transcript of the Rachman Review podcast episode: Wirecard: the investigation that brought down a German tech giant


Gideon Rachman 

Hello and welcome to The Rachman Review. I’m Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator of the Financial Times. This week’s edition is slightly unusual. It’s longer than normal, and it’s about finance. That’s because I’ve taken the opportunity to talk to my FT colleague Dan McCrum, about his extraordinary investigation into Wirecard, which exposed a multibillion-dollar fraud and caused the collapse of one of Germany’s most celebrated firms. As you’ll hear, it’s a story full of skulduggery, which raises disturbing questions about the financial system and the extent of corporate fraud. So, what happened at Wirecard and how many similar frauds are waiting to be discovered?

I work in a different subject area of the FT from Dan McCrum, and for many years I saw very little of him. That may have been partly because he was spending a great deal of time locked away in a secured office, working on a computer that was deliberately not connected to the internet to avoid being hacked. Dan was engaged in a long-running battle to prove fraud at one of Germany’s most successful new companies. Here’s Wirecard’s chief executive in 2019 shrugging off the allegations. 

Markus Braun 
Do not too much look into controversies of my messages. I think we have a very strong year before us. We concentrate on technology innovations. The whole digital payment area is still early stage. So of course in many areas we are, we are pioneers. 

Gideon Rachman 
But in 2020, many years of sleuthing came to spectacular fruition. 
News clip 
Prosecutors have arrested three former top executives of the scandal-hit payments company Wirecard. They were detained on suspicion of running an organised criminal enterprise. The former chief executive of the German payments firm Markus Braun, has been rearrested. He has been accused of committing a multiyear fraud after Wirecard’s collapse in June. 

Gideon Rachman 
Dan McCrum’s now written a book about his investigation called Money Men, which I found more thrilling than most thrillers — revealing as it did, a strange netherworld of financial speculators, private detectives, bumbling accountants and outright criminals. When Dan joined me in the FT studio, I started by asking him when he first heard the name Wirecard. 

Dan McCrum 
I was chatting to a hedge fund manager, Australian guy called John Hampton. He knew the sorts of stories I was interested in, which is sort of corporate frauds, companies with a bit of skulduggery about them. And he just says to me: “So, Dan, would you be interested in some German gangsters?” So I say, “Yeah, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t be?” So I checked the name down. Have a look at it. And. Nobody really heard of who I got at this point. It had something to do with payments. Called itself the European PayPal and it was sort of an up-and-coming fintech. But when I looked at this business, it just didn’t make any sense. And so I took a look at it, but I couldn’t really work out what was going on. Then another hedge fund manager gets in touch and surprise, surprise, he’s also looked at Wirecard because it was almost too good to be true because it was growing really, really quickly, but was also incredibly profitable at the same time. It’s quite hard to do both. And what it turned out, there were two theories about what was going on. One was, it’s faking its profits, there’s accounting fraud. But the other, was that maybe it has got a real business, but it’s involved effectively in money laundering. It’s processing payments for every unsavory character that you might find online. So I set to work thinking, OK, there’s definitely something here and sort of came down on the hmmm . . . this looks a bit fraudy. 

Gideon Rachman 
And at what point do you become convinced there really is something bad going on there? Or is it really quite quickly?

Statue of Liberty - The Open Secret of Google Search

How often do bystanders stop attacks? (NYT)

Australia's cost of living crisis is forcing some to make difficult decisions about their future

By one new estimate Covid vaccines saved 20 million lives in their first year.  That is why I say the great stagnation is over, at least for now, though of course we could slip back into it.

Via B C : For his 1985 documentary about the Statue of Liberty, the filmmaker Ken Burns interviewed two Jewish boys sitting on a bench in New York City. They were twins who had fled Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, with their father. Like generations of refugees before them and generations since, they had arrived in the United States hoping for a better life.

One of those boys, Alexander aka Sasha Vindman, would grow up to become a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army and director for European and Russian affairs for the National Security Council. He was also a key witness at the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. His brother, Yevgeny, would become a colonel in the Army and serve as deputy legal adviser for the National Security Council.

In recent months, as the Vindmans’ homeland has come under siege by Russian forces, Mr. Burns reunited with the brothers to make the Opinion Video above. In this short film, the Vindmans argue that the refugee crises in Ukraine and elsewhere demand a much stronger response from the Biden administration, including not just fully restoring a refugee system gutted by the Trump administration but expanding it further.

The nation’s policies, they contend, are not living up to its ideals.

America Is Failing Refugees, and Itself

The Open Secret of Google Search - The Atlantic: “…Like many, I use Google to answer most of the mundane questions that pop up in my day-to-day life. And yet that first page of search results feels like it’s been surfacing fewer satisfying answers lately. I’m not alone; the frustration has become a persistent meme: that Google Search, what many consider an indispensable tool of modern life, is dead or dying. For the past few years, across various forums and social-media platforms, people have been claiming in viral posts that Google’s flagship product is broken.

Search google dying on Twitter or Reddit and you can see people grousing about it going back to the mid 2010s. Lately, though, the criticisms have grown louder…Google Search might be worse now because, like much of the internet, it has matured and has been ruthlessly commercialized. In an attempt to avoid regulation and be corporate-friendly, parts of it might be less wild. But some of what feels dead or dying about Google might be our own nostalgia for a smaller, less mature internet. Sullivan, the Search liaison, understands this longing for the past, but told me that what feels like a Google change is also the search engine responding to the evolution of the web.

 “Some of that blog-style content has migrated over time to closed forums or social media. Sometimes the blog post we’re hoping to find isn’t there.” Sullivan believes that some of the recent frustrations with Google Search actually reflect just how goodit’s become. “We search for things today we didn’t imagine we could search for 15 years ago and we believe we’ll find exactly what we want,” he said. “Our expectations have continued to grow. So we demand more of the tool.” It’s an interesting, albeit convenient, response…”

       Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022) 

       Australian author Frank Moorhouse has passed away; see, for example, obituaries in The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald