Saturday, 28 November 2009

An Objective Analysis of the Overdraft Fees Case

Sometime during this week, Wednesday (November 25, 2009) to be exact, the new Supreme Court of England and Wales handed down a favourable decision to the banks and building society that had been battling in the country's courts with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the last couple of years. I don't know how familiar readers are with that case. The main issue had to do with the fairness of overdraft fees being charged by the banks and building society. Now this was test case meaning no one was suing anyone except the OFT wanted the question - whether the OFT could assess the fairness of the overdraft fees - answered. The OFT won in the High Court and Court of Appeals. Or should I say the banks and building society lost in the High Court and Court of Appeals. Either way, both the High Court and Court of Appeals thought the OFT could assess the fairness in the overdraft fees. When the decision was handed down by the learned Law Lords of the Supreme Court, many websites and media outlets described the decision as a big blow to millions of consumers/customers. Why? Well these millions of customers/consumers were owed some money as a result of the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings. But their refunds had to be put on hold as the case progressed through the justice system. Now with this ruling, they get zero. Harsh? Not really if you ask me. Bear in mind I have an overdraft to pay as well. Now these banks and building society charge around £39 as overdraft fees per transaction when in fact they spend under £3 pounds when a transaction occurs involving a consumer's/customer's overdraft. You may view this as unfair and rightly so which was why this test case was brought. Now the banks and building society make around £2.6 billion from these overdraft fees. If the OFT are allowed to assess the fairness of those fees and subsequently those fees are reduced significantly or eliminated, the banks and building society will seek to gain that £2.6 billion from other avenues which were originally free. For example, fees for having an account (regardless of the type), fees for all forms of transaction, fees for using the ATM (like in the US) and many other free services we take for granted on a daily basis. I encourage you to view this from an objective standpoint. An overdraft is spending money you don't have at a time you really need the money. Usually in a financial emergency. The bank then says fine, you can use some of our money but you will have to pay this amount of money as overdraft fees. The customers/consumers have a choice, either make sure you always have money in your account or be willing to pay whatever fees for using money which isn't yours to bail yourself out. Harsh as it may sound, it is the right way to go. In a time when people spend and spend without any discipline. I may have to pay my overdraft soon but I am absolutely in favour of leaving the fairness of the overdraft fees to the banks and building society.

History in SA 2010

I am sure if you regularly visit this blog, you would have realised that the posts on here are far from consistent with each other. That is the point. Life has all these aspects to it and we shouldn't restrict ourselves to only one aspect. That said, let's return to this post. History is being made and all Africans or lovers of the continent and its culture should rise and support it. The next world cup is scheduled to be held on the continent. This is the first time the continent is hosting such a huge sporting event. That is history in itself. Something great is happening folks. I feel it in my bones. Lol. The continent's son is the first black president of the greatest nation on earth. [Like the first black president could have come from anywhere else.] And then Ghana wins the U-20 World Cup in 2009. [The first time ever with all sorts of records including top goal scorer.] And I must mention, Ghana won against all odds. I had to put that in. I hope you're beginning to sense where this is going. If not, pay attention. Ghana became one of the very first countries to comfortably qualify for the world cup in SA. Eventually, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Algeria joined the train. I accentuate the fact that this is the very first time Africa is being well represented on the world stage in football. Well if Egypt had qualified instead of Algeria we would have had Africa's perfect five. But the countries that have qualified thus far are the best in Africa. There should be no way none of these countries shouldn't make if to the finals and in fact win the cup (hopefully Ghana...LOL). The cup should remain in Africa for at least the next 4 years and because of that we need the 12th member of the team. Yes we need to rally behind each African team in the world cup and support them with all we've got, mainly with prayers. If you can attend the matches please do otherwise watch it on television and scream or yell or lose your mind (not literally). The world cup draw is December 4, 2009. Let's make history. I'm certain you will return to this post in August 2010 and agree that we made history.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

More Labour Trouble

Many were surprised when the news came that the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, had been unanimously elected as the first president of the EU Council. When I say many, I refer to many in the UK. This is because up until a month ago Mr. Blair stood unopposed. There wasn't a doubt that he would be the first president of the EU Council. What a blow this must have been for Mr. Blair and of course the Labour Party and his friend the Mr. Brown especially since we're currently in an election.

In my view, Mr. Blair happens to be one of best politicians Britain has ever seen or perhaps the world. I'm almost certain his dream of becoming the first EU president was properly orchestrated. He championed EU causes and other European causes whilst he was a PM, particularly in his last days.

It was during his tenure as prime minister that the 1998 Human Rights Act which introduced the European Convention of Human Rights in the UK was passed. I must emphasis that this has no relation to the EU. I mention it to prove Mr. Blair's dream for Europe. He championed EU causes like the constitution and further intergration of Europe. That is not to say that was a bad thing but Mr. Blair knew what he was doing.

When he finally left power to Gordon Brown, he became catholic and focussed on peace in the middle east. All this being part of his plan to gather support for his candidacy. He changed to catholic because a significant majority of Europe belong to the catholic faith. He was lecturer for religion and law at Yale whilst I was at Cornell. Pushing for peace in the middle east (though a good thing) demonstrates his foreign relation abilities whilst ensuring that the interest of Europe is maintained in that area.

So up until a month ago, Mr. Blair stood unopposed. Then suddenly his support seemed to disappear after all countries had agreed to the idea an EU president. France and Germany changed from "support for Mr. Blair" to "we think the person shouldn't be a very popular person". Mr. Brown maintained his support for his long time friend. Of course he would. Why wouldn't he? If he lost the next election and Mr. Blair was EU president, Mr. Brown would have had a job of some sort. So now no EU job for Mr. Brown from his friend Mr. Blair.

Therefore he has to put more effort in this election campaign. Though both may not be related, a loss to Mr. Blair (Labour's most popular politician) may be viewed as a rejection of Labour at the EU stage. This definitely has a negative impact on the Labour Party at home. Also, with Harriet Harman, one of Labour's popular politicians at present, facing criminal charges, there is nothing but more trouble in the Labour Party.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Alicia Keys - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

My favourite song for the last three weeks. Alicia Keys at it again. And I'm sure I'll still love it a year or two from now. Enjoy.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The So Called Porn Movie

I just finished watching the movie that has caused debate amongst Ghanaian circles in the diaspora. Yes, I watched Heart of Men. After seeing the trailers, I vowed never to watch that movie. However, I watched another promo trailer as the premiere of the movie in the UK got closer. That got me curious to the extent that I wanted to attend the premiere.

Luckily, as always, a friend had the DVD. I made countless efforts to obtain this DVD but because of our professional conflicts, all efforts proved futile. To cut a long story short, she told me I could watch it online. So I did. I spent my Saturday morning watching the Heart of Men.

Before I go on, I admit it was a brilliant movie far from the pornography that was displayed in the trailers and promo posters. The plot was wonderful. I loved every bit of the movie. Unlike most African movies where the ending becomes obvious after five minutes into the movie, I had to get to the end of the movie to understand what was happening.

The setting was brilliant. The cast were so professional. I can't believe I am singing this amount of praises about a movie I was so ashamed to claim was Ghanaian. In fact, I am proud it was a Ghanaian production. Ok maybe I am getting ahead of myself. But it was a very engaging movie from start to the end dealing with all sorts of issues that affect young people on a daily basis. I related to more than one of the issues (don't ask me which). Lol.

I also praise the fact that they included the Northern regions of Ghana which are usually left out in everything. The sex scenes were professional for African standards. It was not at all revealing. I now understand why the British Board of Film Classification gave it a rating of 15. In my opinion, this movie is far from any kind of porn.

I am not saying this movie is a perfect movie. It definitely has its flaws. The role played by Richie was that of a Barrister and being a Barrister myself, it was easy to identify those flaws. I am sure doctors and police officers will also be able to identify the flaws in those areas that were portrayed in the movie.

In the future, I wish the script writers or whoever is responsible will be briefed about the proper roles of the actors. Firstly, Kay was tried in the Supreme Court in Accra and found guilty. The Supreme Court is not a trial court so no one can be tried and found guilty in the Supreme Court. Secondly, lawyers for Kay said they will appeal. How can you appeal from the Supreme Court? That is the final court in the land.

Another flaw I found was Kay waking up in Upper West and speaking twi with the lady. I am almost certain twi isn't spoken in that area. They should have spoken hausa or something and given an English interpretation.

Besides all that, I think it was a brilliant movie and everyone one should see it. I recommend it and may post it on my blog. From Scorned to the Perfect Picture to Heart of Men, I believe Ghanaian movies are slowly meeting international standards. I am aware of two other movies to be released and I look forward to their success. Well done to all persons in the Ghanaian movie industry. You've made me proud.

Find the movie below and enjoy:

Heart of Men Part 1a

Heart of Men Part 1b

Heart of Men Part 2a

Heart of Men Part 2b

Friday, 13 November 2009

Parents Just Don't Listen

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has experienced this. When you tell your parents or even older folk something you know is very right and all the facts point in your favour and they still insist that they are right. Eventually, when they find out they're wrong they deny they said what they said. Even more annoying is when they claim to have said what you said. Maybe, it's the African culture. We're brought up to think the older person is always right even when they're wrong. I remember when I was young, an uncle of mine was saying something which was completely wrong. Especially, since he wasn't present when the event took place. I called him out on it and in the presence of everyone, he asked me 'are you calling me a liar'. How was I supposed to respond to that? Of course I said he was right. Parents always use the 'I'm older and more experienced' card anytime they are challenged on whether what they are saying is right or wrong. I agree older and experienced make a person wiser but sometimes listening to the young ones and taking on board their point of view strengthens the wisdom. They may decide not to take on the points raised but the idea of them considering it shows the young ones that they listen. We can only hope they accept their mistakes.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

In the 24th Year

I turned 24 last Saturday. I received so many wishes on Facebook to the extent that I had to put a disclaimer as my status. To be honest, I am still saying thank you to the kind people who made my day one of the best in the year. So, just in case you didn't know and couldn't wish me a happy one, now you do. Wishes and gifts are still being accepted. Gifts can be in the form of cash donations to my Paypal Account. Lol. Nah seriously. Anyway, I kissed 23 goodbye and entered the 24th year of my life. I was and remain forever grateful to God for the favour he has shown me in the 23 years of my life. His final favour and grace was in relation to the New York State Bar Exam. Two days before my birthday (5th November, 2009) I received good news that I had passed the New York State Bar Exam. What a birthday present? In 23 years of my life, I have been an academic and professional success. Being modest and with every ounce of humility in my intentions, I shall mention a few. With 9 ones from Morning Star School to Prempeh College (the Kings' College) to Holborn College to study a Foundation in Law course (awarded best student on the course). Then to the University of Westminster. In my third year and with second year results, I applied and was accepted to pursue a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree at both Cornell University (Ivy League School) and Fordham Law School, both in the State of New York. I was also accepted to King's College, London and University College, London to pursue the same programme. I applied and was accepted onto the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) at the best Bar School in England and Wales, BPP Law School as well as the College of Law. I graduated from Westminster with an Upper Second Class Honours Bachelor of Laws (LL.B. Hons) degree. I subsequently completed the BVC with a Very Competent (the second highest grade). I was called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn in July 2008 earning the title of Barrister-at-Law. Then I went to Cornell Law School and graduated with an LL.M. degree in May 2009. Following which I sat the New York State Bar Exam in July 2009. The results of that exam as I mentioned earlier, was successful. That so far is a summary of God's blessings in the 23 years of my life. At the moment, I'm part of the unemployed population in the world despite all these qualifications. You can imagine my frustration. But a reflection of the blessings in the last 23 years reassure me of more to come if I continue to put my faith in God. There is no better way to celebrate a birthday than to reflect and I hope in 360 days from today I can add more blessings to the above.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bailout, bailout, bailout...Restructuring

I'm sure I'm not the only person who got interested in the economy, particularly in these times. My interest in the economy and finance actually started before this mess. I was amongst those sucked into the stock bubble (i.e. those who thought stocks only rose). I called stock trading the rich man's lottery. Because honestly it was a gamble. How could one be sure that the stock they purchased for $10 will be $15 dollars at the close of the trading day? Lots of factors had to swing in one's favour for that to happen and it was someone's job to predict risers and fallers on the stock exchange so maybe it isn't a lottery. Ah call it what you want I still think it is the rich man's lottery. So I got sucked in before all this mess so you can imagine how pissed I am to realise my investment has been a loss. But everything happens for a reason right? And I guess the reason was that I became interested in the market.

So then financial institution after financial institution started collapsing. People were withdrawing money out of their accounts like there was no tomorrow. Ok maybe not like that but investors were worried about investing. Then the government decided to step in because the banks decided to stop lending or at least slow it down and because the banks were "too big to fail". The banks (institutional investors) had made more losses than anyone could have imagined. In England, the government had to step in to save Northern Rock after it failed to find a buyer for the bank. Then it bailed out the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds TSB and HBOS (Lloyds). Billions of pounds of tax payers money was used to bail out these banks. So it is only right the tax payer knows what is going on with these banks that were bailed out with its money and also whether the money used to bail out these banks will ever be returned to the tax payer (we know this never gets into the tax payer's account or pocket). An on-going debate in parliament for about a month was restructuring the financial system domestically and internationally. Brown argued that if this wasn't done internationally, then all banks will do is move where the rules are relaxed. Also, separating investment banking from retail/commercial banking was not the answer as both types of banks failed in the last year (Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers).

Then in a week, the good news comes. The EU Commission agrees to the restructuring of Northern Rock. The bank will now be split into a good bank and a bad bank. Just like the name, the good bank will have all the good assets of the bank i.e. the good loans and mortgages whilst he bad bank will have all the toxic assets such as the soured loans. The government will then find buyers for both banks. You may ask yourself, who will buy the bad bank? I would if I had money and for very very very cheap too. I don't think the government will have a strong negotiation position with regards to the price of the bad bank. The good bank, of course, will have a good price. More good news comes this week when the Commission further orders a shake-up of RBS and Lloyds. Basically, RBS will have to sell its lucrative insurance business including Direct Line, Churchill and Green Flag as well as 318 branches. Further, it will sell its NatWest brand in Scotland, RBS Insurance and Global Merchant Services, its card payment business. Lloyd on the other hand must sell 600 branches, TSB, its mortgage lender Cheltenham & Gloucester, and the Intelligent Finance online bank.

I totally agree with this shake up. Virgin and Tesco have been tipped to take advantage of all this restructuring. And why shouldn't they? Some analysts have said that Lloyds have had it easy compared to RBS. Really? All that money that was pumped into RBS? RBS definitely deserves this shake up. They can't eat their cake and have it. Others are worried that the big banks will be back in five years to buy them up. Everything is a cycle, ain't it?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind

This happens to be one of my favourite tracks on Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 album. And also, I love Ms. Keys. I've loved her since her first single - Falling. Those corn-row braids. I miss New York and I hope the Yankees go on to win the world series.