MUCH has been made of rumours that JP Morgan is to abandon plans to build itself an all-singing, all-dancing new HQ in Canary Wharf, with talk rife that the UK’s punishing tax regime and regulatory changes are behind the bank’s reluctance to commit.
And in a little-noticed interview aside recently, JP Morgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon gave the clearest hint yet that the UK’s tax and regulatory stance has affected its attitude to doing business in the country.
Dimon told Fortune magazine that the future location of its UK HQ is still under negotiation and didn’t have anything to do with bonus taxes or balance sheet levies, insisting that the bank “will always be in the UK”. But he did, with characteristic American honesty, go further, a thinly-veiled warning over the bank’s attitude to Blighty.
“I thought the whole tax issue was gross and unfair,” he said. “But it did focus us on the fact we have a lot of eggs in that one basket [the UK], and that maybe we need to be thinking a little more about geographic diversification. I can’t tell you what will happen, because we are negotiating. But we will take the best deal, pure and simple.”
First Barclays and HSBC, and now the US banks are following suit with the threats. Time for a wake-up call?
Those keen for a Hallowe’en thrill could do worse than to tip up on the afternoon of Sunday 31 October at the Picturehouse cinemas in Greenwich or Clapham, which are showing a film about the ghost-ridden nooks and crannies of London.
“Haunted London”, produced by film company Timereel and written by its founder Andrew Gray, flits from apparitions on the Underground to phantoms at the Tower of London, and touches on the City on the way.
Gray tells me one of the tales revolves around the Bank of England, which is haunted by an apparition known as the “Black Nun”. The story goes that Philip Whitehead, a Bank employee in the early 19th Century, was hanged for forging cheques – and after his sudden disappearance, his sister Sarah turned up at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street to enquire about his whereabouts.
Upon being told the sad news, the shock and grief sent her half mad, and for every day of the rest of her life, Sarah would return to the Bank to ask where her brother was. After a 25-year vigil, she died and was buried in the old churchyard of St Christopher-le-Stocks, which later became the Bank’s garden – and since then, staff have seen her wandering along the stone pathways from the gallery overlooking the garden. Spooky stuff.
Forget savvy hedge fund short selling or analyst crunch calls – one woman who can really move stocks is Michelle Obama.
That’s right: according to New York University professor David Yermack, talking to the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review, the American First Lady has a quite spectacular effect on the share prices of the retailers whose clothes she wears on public outings.
The distinguished professor has done the maths – those companies, 29 in all, have enjoyed an average boost of $14m per appearance by Mrs Obama. That’s far more than with the endorsement of models, while the effect of fashionista First Ladies such as the lovely Carla Bruni-Sarkozy pale in comparison.