Business News Weekly Roundup: April 2 2015 |

Business News Weekly Roundup: April 2 2015

By Tim Dhoul

Updated Updated

Long road to redemption for HSBC

HSBC still has a long way to go to meet the US Justice Department’s requirements regarding financial crime compliance.

Some progress has been made, but the suggestion is that the bank is not improving its business practices quickly enough - according to a 1,000 page report filed this week.

The report is the work of an independent monitor led by US lawyer, Michael Cherkasky, which was appointed in the wake of a US$1.9 billion fine HSBC received in 2012 for failing to stop Mexican drug cartels from using its subsidiaries for money laundering purposes.

Chekarsky’s findings thus far suggest that HSBC must do more to improve the reliability of customer data collected and how this information is shared among its affiliates, as well as to make better use of its transaction monitoring and IT systems, according to Reuters

Acquiescence to Chekarsky’s compliance team over a period of five years allowed HSBC to escape prosecution over the money laundering scandal, but is not related to separate allegations directed against the bank that it has allowed clients of its Swiss banking arm to evade tax.  

Multinational companies in China – act now to avoid scrutiny

Now is the time for multinational companies in China to act on their environmental and sustainability practices, says a new report.

Research from The Conference Board in ‘China Wants to Go Green: Sustainability Imperatives for Multinationals’ highlights how heightened public consensus in China has helped push sustainability onto the government’s agenda. 

In outlining the landscape of how green policy might evolve in China over the coming years, the report argues that multinational companies in China, along with large local corporations, could become easy targets of a drive to reform the country’s growth model.  The report makes recommendations for how multinational companies in China can help shape the debate on sustainability, rather than to fight, or passively accept, any forthcoming regulations made by the government.

“Multinational companies—seen by some domestic pundits to have profited hugely in China’s rise by ‘outsourcing’ pollution as well as jobs from developed countries with stricter laws—will likely come under particular scrutiny. Our research shows that so far, most multinationals have weak public environmental disclosure practices in China,” said Anke Schrader, co-author of the report and a lead researcher at The Conference Board Center for Economics and Business in Beijing, in a press release

Election campaigns focus on perceived threats to UK business

Ahead of the country’s general elections in May, 100 UK business leaders have claimed, in a letter published by the Telegraph, that a vote for opposition party, Labour, would threaten the UK’s economic recovery.

The letter praises the Conservative-led coalition’s cut in corporation tax (which has just taken effect) and was signed by UK business CEOs who collectively employ more than  half a million people, including BP’s Bob Dudley, Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer and Tidjane Thiam, the INSEAD graduate formerly of Prudential and soon-to-be CEO at Credit Suisse.

Labour brushed aside the letter as ‘unsurprising’ given big business’ penchant for lower taxes and suggested that it had simply been staged by the Conservative Party. Labour itself focused on the Conservative’s pledge to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU membership, and how this would threaten UK business in a manifesto released earlier in the week.

2015’s UK election is currently considered too close to call - with the distinct possibility of a repeat of 2010’s ‘hung parliament’ where no party secures enough of the vote to govern single-handedly.

What teacher participants in MOOC courses means for the industry

A sizeable number of participants in MOOC courses are teachers themselves, according to a new study published by Harvard University and MIT.

From a survey of 200,000 people taking MOOC courses, 39% self-identified as a past or present teacher – and a fifth of these teachers reported teaching in the course topic area.

“This finding forces us to broaden our conceptions of who MOOCs serve and how they might make a difference in improving learning,” said Isaac Chuang, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and senior associate dean of digital learning at MIT.

Indeed, part of the attraction of MOOC courses was to increase access to educational resources for those with fewer options at their disposal. Yet, the study indicated that MOOC participants are disproportionately those who already hold degrees.

“These free, open courses are phenomenal opportunities for millions of learners, but equity cannot be increased just by opening doors,” said Andrew Ho, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

However, the level of teacher participation in MOOC courses suggests the format could become a tool for spreading the latest thinking on teaching approaches and best practice:

“The high number of teacher participants signals great potential for impact beyond Harvard and MIT, especially if deliberate steps could be taken to share best practices,” said Chuang.

Chuang and Ho led a look at MOOC demographics, as part of a wide analysis of two years of open online courses launched on edX – the platform launched jointly between MIT and Harvard University.

In total, 68 courses encompassing 1.7 million MOOC participants were assessed between July 2012 and September 2014 – spanning a wide variety of subject areas and disciplines.

A third of these participants answered a survey about their study intentions. Of these, almost half (43%) were not looking for a certificate for their efforts. Of the thin majority of 57% who were, just under a quarter were successful in fulfilling their aim.  

In the analysis of MOOC courses, the highest numbers of students and participant hours were seen in computer science courses, a 10-step history course on China produced one of the highest certification rates and a museum studies program had the highest proportion of female users.   

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