Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chevron and the Activist

Chevron was recently involved in a lawsuit in Ecuador. An excellent blog explains many of the details of the suit. Chevron lost and the court in Ecuador awarded the plaintiffs $18 billion USD.  There environmental claims and strange goings on in a far away court. What interests me is the involvement of a Shareholder Activist, Trillium Asset Management. This investor has great interest in encouraging Chevron to care more about sustainable issues like the environment. Chevron recently subpoenaed Trillium for another suit in the US involving a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) claim.

Chevron seems to want information from the shareholder Trillium involving its actions to pressure Chevron to  settle the claim in Ecuador rather than going to trial. This seems straight forward enough.

What I find interesting is the tone of both the blog (see link above) and a December 9th New York Times article describing the activities of Chevron as muscling Trillium rather than seeking truth and Trillium seeking only the best for shareholders. Trillium has $1 billion under management. These are big boys playing big boy games all around.    

The tone of most of what I have read is that Chevron is guilty and Trillium, because it is seeking matters of sustainability, is lacks guile. How can one know the truth? I just think at least the media should reserve judgment. once the sustainable investor gets as large as Trillium, it is ok to suspect everyone of having an agenda.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown: Raising a child with disabilities in the US vs. Gun control

We are all grieving over the tragic shooting in Connecticut.
So many lives lost and so many survivors and parents who will never live life as they had before.

The media and social media quickly resorted to demanding more gun control which may be necessary. I really cannot say. It would take more time than I have to form an opinion informed enough to say what legislation we do have and what MORE gun control will achieve. It is not so obvious to me that abolishing gun ownership would save every life ended by a gun. It is just not that simple.

Even if legislation was passed, just like gay marriage, the courts would become involved because opponents of the legislation would activate suits. This article in the Atlantic is an interesting discussion of recent US Supreme Court decisions regarding attempts at gun control and the Courts understanding of the 2nd amendment's right to bear arms. My concern is that the one of the lessons to be learned from the Newton shooting has been lost and will continue to be lost in the legal and political wranglings we are seeing play out right now in the US. That lesson concerns a family grappling with a disabled child's struggles and the stress that puts on the fragile ties that currently bind American marriages.

The New York Time's has an excellent Op-Ed piece asking us not to blame Autism for Newtown. I concur. When reading the Newtown news reports I felt us all sliding back in time to a day when Autism was caused by uncaring mothers. The media has focused on the Mother's gun ownership and the son's aloofness and it seems that there is so much more we can focus on to help prevent this kind of tragedy in the future. I believe we need to focus on helping families get the help they need to remain together when they are raising a child with disabilities.

As a society, among all the other things we need to worry about, we must see that this specific kind of family fracture is happening everywhere all of the time. Our schools can only do so much. While so many of us are DEMANDING gun control, which will cost money to pass and enforce, let us also consider the soft, non-legal and political response. How do we help these families survive and raise kids with disabilities and not lose themselves to burnout in the process? Why not consider that impossibly big problem and try to solve that as well?

I want us to think outside the box and with our hearts. I doubt any legislation is going to solve the myriad of problems that led to this result. I wish we could go back "13 seconds" like the Omega 13 device from the movie Galaxy Quest. Going back and removing access to guns is not enough of a solution for me. I wish we could go back and at least know that there was not more we could have done as a society to support ALL  parents with children who demand more.

This is not one more entitlement. This is asking of States and Cities, churches and non-profits to begin to think what role they have in not preventing a recurrence of this tragedy. How have we all let these families down??  Pass gun control if that will help but it is just a band-aid. Lets try and be brutally honest about the limitations of the law and conceive of real solutions that will actually help people deal with what they face in life. Maybe it is not more than simply educating families and pointing them to where support is available. Let's start talking about THIS alongside other solutions that are so very politically laden.    

Monday, December 17, 2012

Post-Cairo ASEA 2012 thoughts

The African Stock Exchange Association (ASEA) conference in Cairo was more intimate in many ways because of the threat of violence in Cairo. The Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) did an amazing job organizing and running the show. Many of the presenters were Egyptian and spoke passionately about what was happening literally a few blocks away at Tahrir Square. It really was pretty amazing to be there and engage in discussions about what was happening  and try to understand the various perspectives. Newspapers were delivered twice a day directly to our tables which was impressive. (If only individuals in Orange County California read that much things might improve here.) In addition to the politics outside in Cairo, there was the usual politics of African Stock Exchanges inside.

We heard presentations from the African Development Bank and the World Federation of Exchanges. Many speakers failed to show at the conference so Exchange Officials stepped in to fill in spots. This actually worked out well and contributed to the intimate feel of the discussions.

There was still plenty of discussion of a pan-African Exchange and the concept that economies of scale would address liquidity issues. This only seemed to underscore more the very real sense that an Exchange has a national identity. Any economies of scale must allow that identity to remain. Creative order-routing and cross-listing were mentioned and currently do and can address liquidity issues on the continent.

Another interesting inclusion at the conference was Asian exchanges. This was an excellent idea by conference organizers. The panel touched on common interests and goals and served to begin a dialogue which is how a journey of a 1000 miles is accomplished. See below:  

Panel 7: Exploring Cooperation Opportunities among African and Asian Exchanges

Panel Moderator: Geoff Rothschild, Head of Government & International Affairs, Johannesburg Stock Exchange JSE 
1. Oscar N. Onyema, CEO, Nigeria Stock Exchange 
2. Mustafa Baltacı, Secretary General of Federation of Euro Asian Exchanges (FEAS) & Vice Chairman of Istanbul Menkul Kiymetler Borsasi (IMKB) 
3. Aftab Ahmad Ch, Managing Director & CEO Lahore Stock Exchange (LSE) & Secretary General of the South Asian Federation of Exchanges (SAFE) 

I was very excited to connect with a lawyer working at the Nepal Stock Exchange and have already begun to think of papers to pursue with her. 

My main take-away was that the venue was a perfect back-drop to what proved to be a valuable conference and a great opportunity to meet and hear from knowledgeable experts who regulate, run and advise exchanges in Africa.    

Conferences are what they are in some respect and you make of them what you can. I found this one valuable for the discussion and the professionals that I met.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I finally arrived in Cairo. I am staying where the conference is, at the Four Seasons....yes, very fortunate.
Gorgeous location and Cairo is such an amazing mix of architecture, I recognize things form other parts of Africa, then suddenly I feel as if I am in Paris. I anxiously await the sun so I can really take this city in.

Why am I so irritated when I fly with Europeans...and South Africans for that matter? Sorry, but that is the truth. I think it must be me. I believe there is actually a way to fly all squished together in a polite way.  African airlines, Kenya Air, Egypt Air, people are squished but polite-people help with luggage and let you go first. they say please and thank you.

On the other hand, the minute I am on a big international flight from Europe or the US for that matter...there is shoving and arguing, elbowing and rudeness. This is my observation. I dunno, maybe it was just Lufthansa.

In any case, it does look as if the reason I have come all this way has disappeared. The Agenda is now missing many of the speakers on Capital Markets regulation are not coming. That is ok since the World Federation of Exchange is here and I really want to hear that discussion.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ASEA 2012 in Cairo

I leave tomorrow for the African Stock Exchange Association meeting 2012 in Cairo.
While I always agree with people when they tell me conferences are time consuming and can result in diminishing returns...(opportunity costs and all that)....I am excited for this meeting !!

The Agenda is posted on the ASEA 2012 website and the whole conference is VERY well organized and there are many interesting speakers that are NOT politicians. Sometimes this conference is about the politics but this one promises more. I am cautiously optimistic.

The theme of the conference this year is "Unleashing Africa's Investment potential-What could be done by African Capital Markets."

There may be security concerns but I believe the location of the conference will be safe and the staff at the stock exchange CASE appear to be on top of things. I plan to be conservative and remain close to the exceedingly posh-looking hotel.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I am very...

thankful for friends old and new.
full of thanks for learning so much by teaching.
grateful for my students who struggle, overcome, then give back.
cheerful 2012 is almost over.
hopeful for new beginnings in 2013...


Monday, November 19, 2012

SEC contemplating more scrutiny of order types on NYSE

After multiple problems with high frequency trading and Initial Public Offerings gone awry, matters discussed many times here on Muzungu, the Securities and Exchange Commission is exploring the idea that more extensive regulation & scrutiny is needed on the exchanges. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the SEC, run by Mary Shaperio (whose picture int he story clearly illustrates how difficult a tenure she has had at the helm of the the SEC), believes that high-frequency orders have received special treatment on the floor which is not really legal. All order must be treated the same. If some orders have more information or are given preference over other orders then the systems has broken down. The entire idea of an exchange is fairness of treatment. Otherwise, everything should be specially arranged like private agreements between buyer and sellers.

The entire purpose of an exchange is economies of scale and uniform treatment of orders. This is the way to a more sophisticated level of trading inside the building and not outside under the Buttonwood tree. How is it that the oversight regulator lost sight of this? How is it that Congress lost sight of this?

Regardless, regular investors must have the same opportunities on exchanges as the institutional or sophisticated investor. HA! That has never happened. The institutional trader has ALWAYS had an advantage on exchanges. It is the nature of the beast. They trade more and have contacts on the exchange floor. It is how it is. However, the exchange regulator must make sure that that advantage is not too great.
This is what is taking place right now.

While high-frequency traders (HFT) make up to 50% of the trading volume on exchanges, the question is did exchanges HELP them...either through commission or omission. I don't really know but if forced to speculate, the exchanges failed to stop the dominance of HFT's....hence no level playing field. Now enough people have complained so it is time to act.

We shall see what they come up with. I believe the SEC is fatigued. I do not think Mary Shapiro intended to be SEC Commissioner another term. She is done and worked hard. We shall see is new changes actually come to be.

Of course, my final thought is this, we (the WEST) do actually feel entitled to tell Africa how to regulate its exchanges. I still think this is ok. I believe that the NYSE faces challenges not currently faced by African Exchanges, and yet the small illiquid exchanges of sub-Saharan Africa so not need to follow in our exact footsteps and can leapfrog these particular difficulties.

I do hope things calm down so I can head to Egypt next week!              

Monday, November 12, 2012

Law and investment in Africa

I recently attended the Texas Africa Business Summit in Houston. It was very interesting and saw there some friends from Malawi. The Summit brought together many friends of Africa in the Houston Business Community. There is a huge amount of support of Africa, East Africa and investment in those relationships-business or otherwise. It was remarkable to me, coming from California which is not so far away, to see that support. Africa does not exist, really as far as California is concerned. I forgive them that since the last few years have been so difficulty here on the left coast. However, Hollywood has not stopped cranking out the American cultural propaganda they call movies and spend not so much time bringing the outside world to us...and they could do that. They have the power to do that.

Hollywood has sat by making money while California raises taxes to provide the basics like education. The State had to ask for more money to do what we already pay taxes now to have them do; which is to educate the children. Where is all of the money?? I am not that good at math but I think donating even a small percentage of some meaningless holiday films this season could solve the crisis of public schools in the entire State of California. So, people in California don't even care about California, let alone Africa. Houston, Texas has some people who care about Africa and I went to their conference.

There was not much discussion of the law at the Texas Africa business Summit. There was a good deal of discussion of how bad the colonial powers were in Africa and how we (those of European descent) should all be ashamed of that. There were also on discussion panels,many former diplomats who were now Academics or at least writing books about their time spent in Africa. To be honest, they said so many valuable and interesting things from their personal perspective of having lived and worked there for so many years. Also, of interest was the discussion by the mutual fund managers who spent time meeting with company executives learning how to invest in Africa. A wise South African told me when I was in Malawi this past Summer, that Africa is about relationships.

I am sure that is true, but it is also true about pretty much everything. I think he meant it in a more complex way. Africa is about cultivating those relationships. This is excellent advice for Americans who really think everything is about the transaction. The relationship is incidental or collateral to the deal. This basic truth and misunderstanding, is America's problem with the World and California's basic, fundamental problem-full stop. It is also the fundamental problem with a focus on laws when trying to promote investment on African Exchanges. Investing has ALWAYS, historically been about relationships. The law can help and support that but not create those relationships. Rule of law, banking infrastructure, phewy!! Get in there and start relating and that is how we create more investment.

This December I will attend the African Stock Exchange Association meeting in Cairo. It looks very stimulating and there might be some regulators there worth hearing from. Cairo may not be super friendly to female Americans but who knows. I go and invest my time because I believe that there is a future for investment in Africa, for America and the World. I go because each year these Exchange Executives meet and ask the questions that the Investment community asks as well. How do we improve the investment climate in Africa, above and below the Sahara??!!

Conferences are monumentally silly-some sillier than others, but they do start conversations. The bad things happen when that conversation stops.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Malawi Stock Exchange

I recently bought some shares on the Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE). I wanted to do a little research to see how it is regulated.  The MSE started in 1996. The MSE is regulated by the Capital Markets Development Act of 1990 (Cap 46.06). Some of the rules are available on the MSE website.  A Securities Act is also in the process of being formally passed.

In general, the laws are extensive enough to set up a functioning Exchange. 13 companies are currently listed. Malawi is still very poor. When I visited the MSE this past summer the CEO described it as a frontier exchange. That does seem accurate. As it grows it and the other financial infrastructure dose as well, there will need to be more regulation. 

Recently also, the International Bar Associations’ Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) released a Rule of Law analysis of Malawi. The aim of the report was to assess the state of the rule of law in Malawi. Emphasis was placed on assessing the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession. I think that it is a positive that the IBA attempts these kinds of missions but the report did, as usual, seemed skewed to push the donor agenda of making African countries more Western. Part of the review was to criticize Malawi for its enactment of a law criminalizing homosexuality. I have been to several IBA meetings and it has always been my impression that it serves the interests of large well funded law firms and organizations. It always touts the standard line. The report did draw attention to the 2011 unrest in Malawi and the death of a student activist critical of the government.   

Malawi currently has some inflation and growth has slowed. The outlook is for continued slowing. I have always been a contrarian investor. I like buying equity which can perform well even in weak economic conditions.

CASE Handbook now online

The Central African Stock Exchange handbook is now available for download.
The website is nifty and full of interesting info.
The handbook can be downloaded for a fee.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Social impact investors and Boards

Social impact investors put their investment 'dollars' to work for an educational, environmental, social and essentially public good purpose. Social stock exchanges and boards brings those investors to socially conscious businesses that want to raise capital.

In addition to the recently started but not yet LIVE Social Stock Exchange in London, another social investment board has launched. In partnership with the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, the iX, or Impact Exchange has launched a board to help companies who have a social purpose, and not simply a profitable purpose, to raise cash.

All of this raises the issue of who qualifies as a social company and how do we know once we buy shares that they will remain social? Oh, they are waaaay ahead of us. There are verification agents and audits, as well as ongoing reporting requirements.

This is not a new concept. Companies can do green audits, why not social audits. Of course, these are an additional cost. We pay more for organic, locally grown, specially made healthy for us and society goods. Being socially, environmentally conscious costs more. Some companies can afford that additional cost to attract that impact investor. Some companies cannot.

Here is where I get stuck. Anecdotally, its the small to medium enterprise from the developing world who cannot afford those additional costs to be green and responsible. Here is the kicker, the founders of iX plan to ask development agencies to assist them in defraying the costs of some of these audits. What do the economists call seeking? I hope I got that right. It is just another layer of cost and bureaucracy, job security for some, and all acceptable because we are investing in a sustainable future.

These ideas and concepts are not harmless. Exchanges make money and impact investors cannot get around that. Also, impact investors should be responsible for the companies they put OUT of business in favor of others that can afford the audit, impact verification and reporting requirements.  

Any data driven researcher out there that wants to help me find the proof please call me!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Socially responsible investing

This is my favorite topic next to investment in Africa, in fact it is related.
I strongly believe that Socially Responsible Investment in the developed world is very bad news for the developing world. I jsut have not had time and the data to prove it.

There is anecdotal evidence but I need hard data.
In any case, London has promised to establish a Social Stock Exchange in 2013. 

I will watch with interest its development which I am SURE will be amazing for resource laden companies in a position to take advantage of social do-gooders and RUBBISH for companies in the developing world where they are intending to do the most good: the bottom of the pyramid as they like to say.

Hopefully, I can spend some time on this this year.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

SADC Tribunal Summer 2012

The SADC Tribunal is still not in session. here is an excellent recap of the history and current status of the SADC Tribunal and its nullification by SADC.

Apparently, new efforts to control land are in the new draft Zimbabwe Constitution. Ben Freeth  is pursuing an appeal to the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. It registered  an application brought by Ben Freeth and another dispossessed Zimbabwean farmer, Luke Tembani, to be heard by the African Court on Human and People's Rights. They seek an order from the Court that will require the SADC Summit to reinstate the Tribunal.   

I think in life, just as in law, time is of no consequence. You hope to outlive your claim but you may not. The important thing is to persevere, whatever that means.

I respect the Campbell and Freeth dispute because they seem willing to die for what is right. Many peole the world over do this. Let's not diminish the effort of these men and women because they are white and living in Zimbabwe. That is intellectually dishonest. 

Instead,  honor their effort to work within the system, however flawed. We women have been doing that, universally, for years.

Shame on you for letting race cloud your insight.

These men and women are civil rights activists just like those in America in the 1960's. 
Honor their sacrifice just like the sacrifice of their black brothers in Zim who threw out the British.

Yes, let that bake your noodle for a bit.


Sunday, July 29, 2012


Joseph Stiglitz is promoting a new book called The Price of Inequality. Here is his interview in the Rolling Stone. He also recently had an interview in Vanity Fair as well.

He is trying to sell a book but what he has to sell is very compelling. My main interest is Education as the go to for government cuts. In California, they have no compunction for cutting Education.

I was in Hollywood recently and learned more about Proposition 38 which is trying to make some corrections to the mistakes from the past cuts in Education. This is the core of the US inequality problem: cutting funding to education. If our children are not our future who/what is??? And yet education is cut first and deep.

This is a good blog on poverty and inequality in the US. My personal observations are this: People continue to lose their houses and jobs here. It is really difficult to find a job and we all rejoice when someone does find one. And the costs of education continue to rise.

The biggest crime is that the cost of education goes up and there is no way students can pay so their parents pay for tuition even when they cannot afford it. And those kids NEED the degree to get a decent job. Everyone has moved back in with their parents.

How can the US run around the world and tell everyone else how to run their economy??
I do not know the answer to that.    

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spain is not Uganda

The London Stock Exchange is partnering with African Banker magazine and Springwood Capital to hold the African Debt Capital Markets Summit on London this week. The Minister of Finance of Uganda is one of the speakers.  

The title of this post refers to statements in the keynote speakers address as well as comments about the Euro zone's difficulties that have been flying back and forth.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Invest in Africa

Invest in Africa  is a partnership between Tullow Oil and Sunderland Football club. Its purpose is to promote  African business and dispel misconceptions about doing business in Africa.

Looks interesting. Check it out !   

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Central African Stock Exchanges Handbook 2012

The New Zanj Publishing House has released the 2012 Central African Stock Exchanges Handbook. The handbook provides in depth information on publicly traded company financials, fiscal policy, political developments, regional indicators and stock exchange details for Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It is a incredibly valuable resource for anyone investing in the Region. It provides company profiles, executive and website information. Additionally, for each company the books includes trading and balance sheet figures as well as an outlook for the year.
Please let me know if you would like more information on getting a copy.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Walking in Africa

I have done lots of writing and lots of walking here in South Africa. On the weekend I walked everywhere and on most streets I was the only white person. I visited the Mall, and walked past the markets and up to the University. Most white people were in cars-small, mostly white ones-and other people walked. I walked too.

Sunday was fascinating in terms of who was on the street and what times they were there and then everyone headed to Church. I went wine tasting via car, a tan Land Rover. The driver told me he was Khoisan. He told me all he knew of SA history. Some of it was very sad and some was amazing. Many things I never knew, how could I? You really have to work hard in the States to learn about Africa. I asked many questions and learned.  Louwtjie was an excellent tour guide and owns the company. I made him work for the money which you MUST do here. Collected me at 9 am, 4 vineyards, lunch (not included) and back at the hotel at 4 pm. R1200, cash, paid upfront the night before (so African)! I think the price was ok.        

The Winelands are magnificent. The mountains and valleys, the vineyards and farms, and the absolutely picturesque buildings. It was spectacular. Murphy's law, of course, only 4 of my 62 pictures of the vineyards came out...the wine was good too.

Today is Monday and I did some more walking and some loitering. I NEVER sit at coffee shops. I just never have. I see people do it in movies and I wonder why I never do. It looks....meaningful. Today, I loitered at a table on the street near a main intersection in Stellenbosch. I just kept ordering tea, read my Cape Times and loitered. I watched and people watched me too. Stellenbosch is a University town so there were students and school children in uniforms. There were ladies lunching and women doing the grocery run. Lots of workers and other shoppers. For my first ever, real loitering gig, I think I did fine. The waitress was happy to see me go. I am not sure it was meaningful but I did come to a conclusion. This place is so very diverse. It does not know how to handle this diversity. This place becomes more diverse all of the time.

So frequently I see similarities with Southern Africa and the US. We, in California, watch senseless drug violence in Mexico and then deal with the immigrant/refugees. We face the decline of the white majority and the growth of all kinds of race mixtures and ethnicities who speak other languages and attend school and live next door and walk the streets. This dealing with the differences never ends, I don't believe. Moreover, it is often not at all pretty.  

My loitering with intention ended and I left the coffee shop and began to walk again. I came across a bookshop that I had previously ignored. In that shop I bought a book call Shoe Shop. The book is part of a larger project developed by, among others, a German writer and curator, Marie-Hélène-Gutberlet. The book followed an exhibit and festival in Johannesburg in May celebrating the migratory nature of South Africans. The book is an anthology of movement, mobility, feet, physicality and shoes. As I purchased the book, the shop-owner and I discussed the effort to understand SA. She said that is even more challenging for those who live here.

Tomorrow, I head back to the bookstore. The shop-owner wants me to read an out-of-print book written by Sindiwe Magona. She is bringing it from home and says I can finish it in one day. I will do that and then leave South Africa for Malawi then Dar es Salaam.      

Friday, June 1, 2012

CoSSE new website

The Committee of SADC Stock Exchanges has a new website!
The member exchanges include, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

This is a private organization that has formal status as being blessed under SADC's Finance and Investment Protocol. The website has current Financial information for each member exchange which is very useful.    

South Africa

I sit here in Stellenbosch, SA trying to tie up some loose ends on my dissertation: a writing retreat of sorts and the WiFi is free.

It is beautiful here and just turning winter. The leaves are falling from the numerous oak trees.

Talking about tying up loose ends I want to refer everyone to the IntLaw Grrls blog discussion on the SA Court judgment regarding Universal Jurisdiction. I did read (most) of the courts opinion but to be honest it was mostly the type of legal brick laying that is methodical, necessary but not hugely interesting.

Essentially, the court went to pains to show why it had the power to tell the Police to do their job and investigate Human rights violations. In no way am I diminishing the significance of he decision. It is the kind of rule of law stuff that makes society move forward. And this is complex and political stuff upon which other progressive and positive decisions will depend.

It is just that the law grrrls blog discussion is comprehensive and has a link to the judgment.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Zim National Land Audit

Zimbabwe National Land Audit discussion continues.
Please check out this link.

I am reading the SA Court case ruling but it is 98 pages loooooong.
Very interesting stuff, not sure what I can add but will do soooooon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Decision by the SA court about Zimbabwe

A South African Court recently rendered a judgment essentially declaring its power to rule on misconduct by Zimbabwe officials. It seems to base its finding on Human Rights and as SA is a signatory to the Rome Convention and therefore a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

I will take some time to look at the news reports and try to look at the decision myself so I can discuss it in more detail. Right now this is all I have.      

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sokari Douglas Camp

Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp has an exhibit in London. She sculpts with steel combining her Nigerian roots, her life in London and her stage of life. The BBC interviewed her.

Very interesting interview with her discussing the works in this exhibit at the Tiwani Gallery in London.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Land reform similarities: US and Zimbabwe

I went for a walk this afternoon around my neighborhood with the for sale signs and the people moving out. I wondered where all the people go. I know some people who lost their jobs, homes and then moved away. I know people who lost jobs, homes and stayed but downsized. When I think about the changes to my affluent town I am frequently reminded of the changes in Zimbabwe. I also recently happened to finally have watched the movie Mugabe and the White African which chronicles the case of Ben Freeth and the SADC tribunal ruling on Land Reform in Zimbabwe. It occurred to me, while I was walking in my neighborhood, that America has created a kind of Land Reform program of its own. It has redistributed property from American families to banks. This redistribution of land has many similarities to the program of Land Reform in Zim.

My neighbor has had it share of foreclosures but I failed to find out exactly how many of the years. Recent statistics show that 1 in every 303 housing units in the state of California is foreclosed.   That sounds like a lot to me. I wonder who gets those properties? If a home is foreclosed it goes back to the bank who held the loan or mortgage. So the banks now own the house. Banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bank of New York, and JP Morgan are beneficiaries of foreclosure. They now own those properties.

It is true that some properties are resold to new American homeowners, about 33% of sales are resales from foreclosures. So what happens to the balance? What if the banks own them ? What does it mean socially, politically and economically that banks own so much property in California?

The new sub-prime mortgage loan process that relaxed lendee credit and income requirements was spearheaded by banks and mortgage lenders. Now the banks own those failed mortgage lenders and the banks own the homes as well. The US government permitted this through its determination not to regulate.

Homeowners have tried to sue banks and argue to keep their homes because of the deficiencies in the assignment of mortgages to MERS the mortgage electronic registration system leaving the bank not with the title but the homeowner. These cases are not successful as the courts do not support the homeowner but instead support the bank in order to maintain the status quo.

It's official. I do live in Africa. Let's go through the similarities between the land reform programs.

The government of Zimbabwe passed laws to redistribute land. The US government failed to regulate MERS and the entire driver of the subprime lending fiasco, collateralized debt obligations. Both government activity of failure to act resulted in homeowners losing their homestead and suing in the courts.

Both land reform programs, one intentional one incidental, resulted in courts being slow to see the homeowners point of view. Africa is actually ahead of the game on this point. SADC declared land reform illegal in Zim. In the US, the courts pretty much rubber stamp foreclosures.

Lawyers have been trying to argue for more scrutiny by courts in these cases in order to recognize the numerous legal deficiencies in the foreclosure process giving an advantage to the banks. But these cases are few and far between.

The US land reform program resulted in transferring property to banks. In Zim, former white owned farms are redistributed to indigenous Zimbabweans, who sometimes also work for the Zim government. Two programs that may have had one purpose to begin with or on their face, but resulted in the same thing: dispossession, economic downturn and a complete lack of faith in the process and rule of law.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Portrayal of African men by Hollywood

This video is clever. It attempts to contradict the stereotype of African men depicted in Hollywood. The African Man  video does ask for money at the end which is also funny in its own way.

I never wanted to admit that Hollywood has a tremendous influence on how Americans see certain parts of the World. Maybe I am in is hard to admit that a country with access to Google and Wikipedia cannot be bothered to find out even the geography of Africa. Truth be told, before I did research on Africa I myslef suffered (and continue to suffer) from ignorance.

But as my students love to tell me....that is what the internet is for. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Art in Africa

The New York Times has an excellent series on Art in Africa.  It is from the perspective of an Art Critic. It is very interesting.

Please check it out.

Also, I am busy planning my trip to Africa in May/June. I think, as of now, I will visit Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania. I plan to see good, good friends and really enjoy my time in Africa without having to attend a conference. Instead, I go because I want to enrich my understanding....very noble !!!  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TED talk on the African Capital Markets

This 2011 You Tube link is a video of Yale World Fellow, Nicky Newton-King, the Deputy CEO of the  Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) talking about the "Elephant in the Room", referring to strategies to move African Exchanges forward and African Exchanges refusal to adopt them. She listed three important strategies to attract more investors to African Exchanges.

1) Harmonisation of laws
2) Cross-listing of Securities
3) Creation of Regional or Pan-African Exchanges

The talk was exceedingly rudimentary-I am not sure what qualifies one as a Yale World Fellow- but interesting. I did agree with her last two points. Cross-listing of securities may be feared but will increase liquidity for the company and all boats will rise with that tide. Exchanges do serve issuers by providing the facility for raising capital. Cross-listing helps facilitate investors finding new, emerging market companies by appearing several places, ideally on a large exchange and on a smaller one.

I also agree that the development of more regional exchanges can only help. East Africa is well on its way toward a regional exchange, even though that has been true for awhile. Ms. Newton-King did not mention this but did use East Africa as an example of where a regional exchange might work.

Finally, I disagree that Harmonisation of laws in Africa, whether exchange procedure or governance, will help anyone. Once again we must remember the poor Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal. 15 African states are members of SADC and yet when the Tribunal ruled against Zimbabwe in the Land Reform case of Ben Freeth and Luke Tembani in 2008, a decision upheld by the South African Supreme Court, it was ignored and then ultimately disbanded in 2011. For Harmonisation of laws to work among even a few exchanges, there needs to be a dispute resolution process in place that functions in a reliable way. Just like African Exchanges don't want to be part of an African Board in SA, they don't want to end up in court there either. So there will need to be a dispute resolution body for exchanges, investors and issuers to take their disputes to.

SADC is not the only alternative for resolution of disputes but for Southern Africa a SADC-like organisation could be developed. Harmonisation is always tricky, in my opinion, because of the potential power imbalances that cannot be rectified. It is usually the laws of the dominant party which are adopted and that is not always good for everybody involved.

More on SADC soon. Watch the video if you can. It is interesting and has some good slides!              

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Africa Board closing

Maybe a little stale news that the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's (JSE)  Africa Board is closing. That Board was an attempt to consolidate and use economies of scale to increase profits for investors in Africa. by listing stocks on the JSE. Companies from all over Africa would have been able to take advantage of the benefits that such a well capitalized Exchange can provide....but it is closing.

That is interesting since interest in investment on the Continent is increasing. What else can explain this lack of interest by Companies to list on the JSE?  

I really don't know except to say that certainly US Companies are very particular about where they trade. Do companies from Philly trade in Cincinnati or Boston...when regional exchanges existed? I think regionalism is natural and nationalism is to. The JSE has a very interesting idea that might be profitable if there were a way around the fact that the JSE resides in SA. That seems a shame for profits and a victory for those little exchanges that just want to be and exist.    

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sokwanele is a civic action support group for Zimbabwe. They have a blog and newsletter that reports on things going on in Zimbabwe.

They have begun a new project-the Zimbabwe Land Series. Sokwanele invited two scholars to write monthly articles about land reform in Zimbabwe. These articles will provoke thought and are intended to invite comment by Zimbabweans world-wide to participate int he conversation through comments.

 This is the first in the series describes why land reform will always define Zimbabwe:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lots going on in the Capital Markets in Africa...but first take a look at this:

All about the governance at Universities by Faculty Senates.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sanja Iveković: Sweet Violence

I have missed you my sweet, sweet BLOG. I took some time off. I did do some writing but nothing that would interest you. I went to an exhibition recently in New York City at the Museum of Modern was transformational. Please click through this link for additional video and text regarding this exceptional artist, feminist, and social observer. She is from the former Yugoslavia. born in Zagreb, and her work is relevant to people and women world wide.    

This exhibit is her first in the US. Do not be put off by her label as a feminist (male readers) She did promote women's issues, which continue to need promotion. I am shocked how much sexual harassment is tolerated at Academic institutions. I should have stayed with the brokerage firm and taken my chances there since I face much the same kind of treatment !! There are just MORE women in Academia getting mistreated so it feels like a club, sort of.

But still her work in Sweet Violence includes refugees and outcasts. She uses video and magazine advertisements to make us SEE what is happening everyday in terms of alienation, isolation, abandonment, violence and loneliness.    

One display is in a small, dark  room. As you turn the corner into the room you see a screen displaying words with a rhythmic sound like the drip of water at regular intervals. The words disappear and the screen shows a desolate wilderness of nothingness. In front of the screen are are tall, living plants that might be confused with people because of their size. This exhibit is about refugees and I identified with every one of the words for some reason and I don't mean to trivialize the experience of the true refugee. It was compelling and I stayed for quite awhile in that dark room full of plants watching the words and listening to the drips.

The MOMA has an excellent website and I hope you have enough electricity to access it and watch.   

KONY video nonsense

Please find below a link to a Pambazuka article on the downside of the KONY video.

My only comment is to repeat what National Public Radio (NPR) and BBC World News have reported from Uganda: that the video lack historical reference or context and therefore deprives the watcher/listener of a full understanding of the situation.

Why does a non-profit from San Diego tell us what is happening in Uganda after we have all witnessed the power of the Arab uprising via smart phone recordings of video etc? This tech-generation must insist on integrity and truth and allow PEOPLE to tell their story rather than accept a story second hand.

Why is Facebook eating what San Diego is cooking? Insist instead on the voices of Africans rather than buying what a Muzungu tells us.

satirical smiley :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The OPEN Act.

Today Wikipedia is dark as well as Reddit. Google is wearing a black armband. It is a full-on protest over the Anit-Piracy legislation Congress will vote on on Jan 24th. Very exciting to see a concerted effort to get Washington's attention. All of this protesting is refreshing. We still have people Occupying City Hall where I live.

My main complaint about the Tech community is that they created an online environment that facilitates CRIME. Now that Congress has decided to step in, they are outraged. I believe the Acts are the result of a void created by the people running Google, Reddit etc. I think there was an opportunity to see this day coming and get in front of the Anti-Piracy Train. They missed that opportunity and I wonder why? What else were they occupying their time with??

Greed is on both sides of this issue. Maybe less greed than was involved in the Sub-prime crisis but greed and hubris. The Tech community thinks a lot about themselves.

I have seen the Open Act which purports to be a more reasonable response to Piracy. It amends the Tariff Act of 1930 and addresses unfair trade practices relating to infringement of copyrights and trademarks by certain websites. I have not compared it to SOPA but will do so and come to some understanding of the differences.

Not to be repetitive but why wasn't this Open Act already passed years ago. I think it is because the Tech community talks the talk but only acts when their pocketbooks are in jeopardy...just like Washington.

We have been sliding down the slippery slope of deterioration of the protections surrounding Intellectual Property. SOPA and PIPA may be extreme responses to that slide but at least Washington acted. What has Silicon Valley done?

Monday, January 16, 2012

SOPA--domestic Drama

Bills to stop Web Piracy are causing all sorts of trouble here in the US and in California. My Business Law students are all concerned. There are so adorable.

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act are supported by the Motion Picture Association of America. In opposition to those Acts is the entire Tech industry who is blacking out Wikipedia as a protest.

I'm thrilled. I plan to organize my entire Legal Research and Writing class around this tremendous event. Finally, I will be privy to my students ACTUAL thoughts instead of those stolen from the anonymous but clearly wisemen of the Wiki world. Who else but the wise have time to update and verify all that is contained there??!!

At this point I don't even care if I sound like my parents....old and ill-informed. Seriously?? A protest that stops the one site I have spent years forbidding students from using.

The tech guys claim that lawmakers just don't get it. Eric Martin of may be right that people do not get the Internet. I just wonder why, if he and other tech people do get it, they have not fought for copyright laws to be enforced. Shouldn't people be able to protect what they create and earn from it without being afraid of others stealing it??!! Maybe this is less about censorship and more about income streams being disrupted.

I really don't like being lectured about getting things when all I see is someone trying to save there ASSETS. If what you do contributes to the violation of the law...then that is a problem. Did you KNOW that when you started doing it. Look, I hate sounding like a cop but if YOU want to be paid at the expense of someone ELSE being paid then I am unsympathetic.

Conflict Resolution 101, be part of the solution and not the problem. The tech world needs to grow up and inform Washington if someone there doesn't get the inter-Web Net.

Tech geeks: Spend less time with Nurf guns and enter the adult-world of law, law creation, and law enforcement. Start making the tough decisions and compromises we are all forced to.

I am sure you have important things to say and we are all listening....and Thanks for the Wikipedia thing!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Vulture funds

There are legislative loopholes that allow Western companies, banks and financial institutions, to buy forgiven debt of a developing country with the intention of collecting later on when the country may have cash. These companies or Vulture funds establish themselves in tax havens for the single purpose of acquiring debt at a fraction of it value and then, as a creditor, seeking payment if and when the country is solvent and can pay. Debt collection by a creditor must be sanctioned by the courts, debt collection laws, and legislation regarding debt forgiveness. Is it possible that hedge ‘vulture funds’ are given a pass legally to conduct business this way at the expense of poverty stricken countries? Is there anything stopping these funds from buying Greece’s debt at a fraction and collecting later?

Vulture funds operate legally under the domestic and international legal infrastructure that allows them to do so. There are some jurisdictions that are attempting to prevent vulture funds from various legal systems, such as India, Belgium and the United Kingdom. Those nations anti-vulture fund legislation, among other things, proscribes access to courts by companies collecting on debts from High Indebted Poor Countries. As of yet, no similar legislation has been successful in the United States.

Vulture funds recently suffered a loss in the reorganization of Washington Mutual Inc (WMI). The Bankruptcy court ruled that certain distressed debt hedge fund creditors- Aurelius, Owl Creek, Appaloosa, and Centerbridge- traded WMI subordinated debt based on material non-public information they had learned from their lawyers involved in the reorganization of WMI. The court disallowed their claims under the reorganization for equitable reasons.

I am going to spend a little time looking into Vulture funds and how they are regulated in the United States and elsewhere.