(value walk) – Soros Hedge Fund Charged With Bringing Down National Bank of Greece

George Soros

George Soros, the hedge fund manager credited with “bringing down the Bank of England,” is at it again, this time in Greece; although it does not seem the scale of the bet was anywhere near as large as Soros’ GBP bet.

Soros and his Quantum Fund are among 20 Hedge Funds who have waged a short war against Greek banks and Hellenic regulators are now fighting back. Quantum Fund, along with other major names such as Toscafund, Everest Capital and Abbeville Partners, have all received fines in the past three months from the Hellenic Republic Capital Market Commission, the Greek version of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Greek tragedy: 1 million euro short selling fine remains unpaid by Soros, hedge funds
The fines, totaling nearly 1 million euros, are related to “naked” short selling of stock in various Greek banks, the Financial Times is reporting. The fines have not been paid by the hedge funds, the FT reports, citing sources close to the funds.

The trades in question must have been profitable. Over the past year, for instance, the Piraeus Bank stock price lost nearly 75 percent of its value as has the National National Bank of Greece (ADR) (NYSE:NBG), which is currently trading near all-time lows.

The issue of Greek fines for short selling will be heard before the European Securities Markets Authority, as the Alternative Investment Management Association, a London-based lobby group that is representing the hedge funds, the FT report noted. A spokesperson for the ESMA, however, said a complaint has yet to be formally launched.

According to an April 2015 filing on the Greek regulatory website.

A fine of 65,000 euros to the company Quantum Partners LP because short selling of shares of National Bank of Greece AE without to cover the delivery obligation of openly sold shares clearing system (failed trade), in breach of Article 12 of Regulation 236/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of Europe.
Soros, hedge funds say Greek regulator overly strict, regulations not consistent with other EU market regs
The hedge funds are arguing that the Greek regulator has been unduly strict regarding short selling restriction and inconsistent for other market regulation in the EU region.

The moves come as Greece continues to play a game of chicken with European financial leaders as the nation teeters on the brink of exiting the Euro. In this environment the hedge funds have been engaged in the politically controversial method of selling stock the hedge funds don’t own.

The issue has reached a head of late. The Bank of Greek has requested 3 billion euros from the ECB to shore up their balance sheets, and the ECB is currently considering injecting $2 billion as Greek deposits flee in anticipation of capital controls being placed on the Greek population as emergency economic measures could be required if Greece walks away from the EU.

Many hedge funds have been on the long side of the Greek stock trade, as we have noted many times in the past.

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(reuters) – As deadline looms, Kerry says U.S. in no rush to get Iran deal

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond (not seen), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, EU Deputy…

The United States and other major powers are not in a rush to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday, suggesting an accord was unlikely hours ahead of a deadline set by the U.S. Congress for a quick review.

Adding to signs that a deal was not close at hand, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader was quoted by Iranian news agency Tasnim as saying Tehran’s “redlines” should be respected in talks aimed at a deal under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“A deal can be reached only if our redlines are respected,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, the adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also accused Kerry of making comments that were “part of America’s psychological warfare against Iran.”

Velayati’s reported remarks came after a senior Iranian official in Vienna accused the United States and others nations of shifting their positions and backtracking on an April 2 interim agreement that was meant to lay the ground for a final deal.

“We’re here because we believe we are making real progress,” Kerry told reporters in the Austrian capital. “We will not rush and we will not be rushed.”

However, Kerry said Washington’s patience was not unlimited. We can’t wait forever,” he said. “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this.”

He did not say how much longer the talks could continue. Shortly after Kerry spoke, the White House said the talks would not likely drag on for “many more weeks.”

Briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, the senior Iranian official sought to put the onus on the West for any failure to reach an agreement.

“There have been changes of position … particularly since last night,” said the official, “Suddenly everyone has their own red lines. Britain has its red line, the U.S. has its red line, France, Germany …”

Negotiators have given themselves until the end of the day on Friday. But if a deal is not reached by 6:00 a.m. in Vienna (0400 GMT), the skeptical Republican-led U.S. Congress will have 60 days rather than 30 days to review it, extra time U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration worries could derail it.

’96 PERCENT COMPLETE’?

The central bargain of an interim deal struck on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland as well as of the final deal that the two sides are now trying to work out is to limit Iran’s nuclear work in return for easing economic sanctions crippling its economy.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has said the main text of a final agreement, as well as five technical annexes, were “around 96 percent complete.”

While the lifting of sanctions was largely agreed, Araqchi said Tehran’s demand for an end to a U.N. Security Council arms embargo was among the most contentious unresolved points.

Other sticking points in the negotiations have included Iran’s research and development on advanced centrifuges and access to Iranian military sites and nuclear sites.

Tehran says a U.N. embargo on conventional arms has nothing to do with the nuclear issues and must be lifted in any deal. Western countries do not want allow Iran to begin importing arms because of its role supporting sides in Middle East conflicts.

Iran has powerful support on this issue from Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa – that the U.N. arms embargo should be among the first sanctions lifted.

Over the past two weeks, Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have twice extended deadlines for completing the long-term nuclear agreement.

In a sign that the Friday morning U.S. congressional deadline was likely to be missed, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a key member of the U.S. negotiating team, was due to fly to Portugal on Friday to accept an honor and make a speech, returning on Friday evening.

Western countries accuse Iran of seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its program is peaceful. A deal would depend on Iran accepting curbs on its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, United States and European Union.

A successful deal could be the biggest milestone in decades towards easing hostility between Iran and the United States, enemies since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

It would also be a political success for both Obama and Iran’s pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, who both face resistance from powerful hardliners at home.

(Additional reporting by John Irish and Arshad Mohammed and Shadia Nasralla in Vienna and Katya Golubkova and Denis Pinchuk in Russia, writing by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Anna Willard, Peter Graff, Giles Elgood and Bernard Orr)

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(pressherald.com) – Hack of federal personnel office exposed 21.5 million workers, families

A top Homeland Security cyber official has said that the federal personnel office hackers used stolen credentials, and encryption of sensitive data would not have prevented it. The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The massive hack last year of the Office of Personnel Management’s system containing security clearance information affected 21.5 million people, including current and former employees, contractors and their families and friends, officials said Thursday.

That is in addition to a separate hack – also last year – of OPM’s personnel database, which affected 4.2 million current and former employees. That number was announced previously.

Together, the breaches arguably comprise the most consequential cyber intrusion in U.S. government history. Administration officials have privately said they were traced to the Chinese government and appear to be for purposes of traditional espionage.

The 21.5 million figure includes 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation, and 1.8 million non-applicants, predominantly spouses or people who live with the applicants. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators, and about 1.1 million include fingerprints, officials said.

Individuals who underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterward are “highly likely” affected, officials said. Background checks before 2000 are less likely to have been affected, they said.

ACCESS TO PERSONAL DETAILS

The lapse enabled hackers to gain access not only to personnel files, but also personal details about millions of individuals with government security clearances – information a foreign intelligence service could potentially use to recruit spies.

Because the exposed records included information on individuals who served as references on security clearance applications, U.S. official said that stolen data includes details on certain employees’ relatives and friends.

Thursday’s announcement only seemed to strengthen Republican calls on Capitol Hill for OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and her chief information officer, Donna Seymour, to resign.

“Since at least 2007, OPM leadership has been on notice about the vulnerabilities to its network and cybersecurity policies and practices,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in a written statement. “Their negligence has now put the personal and sensitive information of 21.5 million Americans into the hands of our adversaries. Such incompetence is inexcusable.”

The intrusion of OPM’s system containing security clearance data took place in June or early July of 2014, officials said. The hack of a separate OPM database containing personnel records occurred in December.

In both cases, officials said, the hackers worked for the Chinese government, although the Obama administration has not formally accused Beijing. “It is an enormous breach, and a huge amount of data that is personal and sensitive . . . was available to adversaries,” FBI Director James Comey said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday.

“We’re talking about millions and millions of people affected by this,” he said. “I’m sure the adversary has my SF86 now,” referring to the Standard Form 86, which all applicants for security clearances must fill out.

He noted it lists “every place I’ve lived since I was 18, every foreign trip I’ve taken, all of my family and their addresses. . . . I’ve got siblings. I’ve got five kids. All of that is in there.”

Said Comey: “It is a huge deal.”

SOME SPYING INTELLIGENCE VALUE

Not every spy’s data is in the system. The CIA conducts its own security clearance investigations and keeps that data to itself. Even so, some U.S. officials have said that a foreign spy service might be able to identify U.S. intelligence operatives by comparing stolen OPM records with rosters of U.S. personnel at embassies overseas.

Names that appear on U.S. embassy lists but are missing from the OPM files might enable a foreign intelligence service with sophisticated computer capabilities to identify CIA operatives serving overseas under diplomatic cover.

OPM has been under fire for the breaches.

OPM officials have defended the agency, saying that it was only because of a strategic plan put in place by Archuleta shortly after she became director in November 2014 that the breaches were discovered.

“There are certainly some people I would like to see given the boot for not paying attention to cybersecurity, but Katherine Archuleta is not one of them,” said one administration official, requesting anonymity to discuss personnel issues. Maybe they didn’t move as fast as they should have but they were at least moving in the right direction and were prioritizing it in an agency that didn’t think of itself as having a security mission.”

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