EU Online Gambling, Swedish Banks, U.K. M&A: Compliance

Gambling websites should check users’ ages and identities when they open accounts, the European Union said in a nonbinding recommendation to governments.

The EU asked governments to make sure that players under 18 can’t gamble online and face limited exposure to gambling advertising.

Gambling websites also should tell users about risks and enable players to set spending limits during the registration process, and players should have help lines and be able to block gambling ads, the EU said in its recommendations.

Gambling companies shouldn’t make “unfounded statements about chances of winning” or suggest that gambling resolves personal problems, the EU said.

Online gambling revenues in the EU were 10.5 billion euros ($14.4 billion) in 2012, the EU said.

Regulators will be evaluating governmental actions.

Swedish Banks Weigh Contingent Convertible Bond Sales Amid Boom

Swedish banks, the best capitalized in Europe, are weighing the sale of bonds with more rigorous triggers protecting against financial meltdown, a market in the region that has grown to $50 billion in about a year.

Swedbank AB is among lenders talking with the country’s regulator about contingent convertible Additional Tier 1 debt, which is written down or convert to equity if capital falls below a pre-set trigger. An acceptable level in Sweden for so-called AT1s might be 7 percent to 8 percent, according to Gregori Karamouzis, the head of investor relations at Swedbank.

The Financial Supervisory Authority is expected to complete details around the capital requirements by August or September, and provide some guidance on the loss-absorption trigger, Karamouzis said by telephone from Stockholm July 8.

Sweden’s banks are facing higher triggers than lenders elsewhere in Europe amid talks on a wider context of risk and capital levels. The nation has imposed tougher standards on its banks than elsewhere to protect the largest Nordic economy.

Compliance Action

Ernst & Young to Pay $4 Million Over SEC Lobbying Claims

Ernst & Young LLP agreed to pay $4.1 million to settle U.S. regulatory claims that it violated auditor-independence rules when its subsidiary lobbied congressional staff on behalf of two clients.

Washington Council EY, a subsidiary, was prohibited from lobbying on behalf of clients because Ernst & Young repeatedly said in audit reports that its reviews of the companies’ financial reports were independent, the Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday in a statement.

Before 2009, the firm lobbied for one client at least three times and another at least twice, the SEC said.

Ernst & Young acquired Washington Council in 2000.

While Ernst & Young had a written policy that dealt with independence, it didn’t provide any formal, in-person training on that policy to staff, the SEC said. The firm has since put into place new guidance about lobbying, according to the agency.

“We regret these instances that arose many years ago and are pleased to put this matter behind us,” Ernst & Young said in an e-mailed statement. “In 2012, EY voluntarily decided to cease performing lobbying work for SEC registrant audit clients.”

European Banks Seen Selling $795 Billion of Property Assets

European banks and asset managers plan to sell or restructure 584 billion euros ($796 billion) of riskier real estate as they try to clean up their balance sheets, Cushman & Wakefield Inc. said.

The region’s lenders, asset managers and bad banks, such as Spain’s Sareb, sold 40.9 billion euros of loans tied to property in the first six months, 611 percent more than a year earlier, the New York-based broker said in a report yesterday. Transactions including foreclosure sales will reach a record 60 billion euros this year, Cushman & Wakefield estimates.

Lenders such as Royal Bank of Scotland Plc are accelerating loan-portfolio sales as borrowing costs fall from a year ago and economic sentiment improves. Lone Star Funds and Cerberus Capital Management LP are among U.S. investors that are taking advantage as sellers opt to offer bigger groups of loans, making it more difficult for smaller firms to make purchases, Cushman & Wakefield said.

“The upcoming stress tests being enforced by the European Central Bank will guarantee that the current high levels of activity in the market will be sustained in the next few years,” Federico Montero, head of loan sales at Cushman’s EMEA corporate finance unit, said in the statement.


Cable Tells BBC U.K. to Tighten Foreign Takeover Rules

U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable talked about plans to tighten rules governing foreign takeovers of British companies to ensure bidders are held to commitments such as maintaining jobs. He spoke July 13 on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

For the video, click here.

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