OMAM CEO Peter Bain Resigns

Peter Bain resigned at the end of June as the CEO of Old Mutual’s US business, Old Mutual Asset Management (OMAM.)

Chairman of OMAM, James Ritchie, will also take over as the interim CEO until a new CEO is appointed to head the asset management firm.

“Peter has successfully accomplished his mission. He has delivered on his mandates to reshape the business, develop the leadership team, and achieve the company’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange, which has enabled Old Mutual Plc to substantially achieve its stated objective of exiting its ownership of the business,” Ritchie said.

On May 22 Old Mutual announced that it had lowered its stake in OMAM to 22.4% as a result of selling off 17.3 million shares for $14.55 a share. In reality Old Mutual’s share in OMAM will be even less when Chinese conglomerate HNA Group acquires the 15% share of OMAM that it agreed to buy last March by the end of this year for $15.75 a share.

The closing price of a share of OMAM was $15.15 last Thursday.

 

 

 

Unexpected Slowing of US Economy Worries Wall Street

June showed a marked slowdown in business activity in the US private sector, bringing worry to some analysts and investors.

Market research group ISH Markit published a report saying that its flash services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 53.0 during June. May’s PMI was 53.6. June’s figure was a three-month low.

Analyst had been expecting a services PMI of 53.7, an indication of a stronger economy.
Since the service sector comprises about 80% of the US economy the services PMI data is a key for understanding economic growth.

The manufacturing PMI, according to Markit, also fell in June, from 52.7 in May to 52.1 this past month. Analysts were also expecting that PMI to be 53.0.

PMI values above 50 represent a growing economy, while figures below 50 indicate a shrinking economy. The overall PMI of services and manufacturing together fell to 53.0 in June from May’s value of 53.6. However, new orders climbed at their fastest rate in five months, leaving room for optimism about the US economy.

Chris Williamson of HIS Markit said that although it is likely that growth will be higher in the second quarter than it was in the first, “the relatively subdued PMI readings suggest there are some downside risks to the extent to which GDP will rebound.”

Toledo Museum of Art Exhibiting the Work of the Anonymous 5th Century, BC Berlin Painter

Ancient Greek pottery in the Antikensammlung Berlin. Photo courtesy Sailko.

The Toledo Museum of Art will be hosting a touring exhibition of ancient Athenian vase-painting, with a special focus on the work of an anonymous fifth century BC artist known as the Berlin Painter. Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, the tour includes 84 vessels plus bronze and terracotta statuettes, curated from 15 museums and two private collections.

Dozens of the pieces were created by the Berlin Painter, while the remainder are the handiwork of other artists from the same time period. The range of subject matter of the artworks span from athletics and music to Greek myth and epic.

Museums that contributed to the exhibit with the loan of their works include the British Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Musée du Louvre, and others.

Many organizations and individuals partnered to make this special event a reality. The Leon Levy Foundation and the Starvros Niarchos Foundation provided major support for the exhibition in general. The Toledo Museum show was made possible by the 2017 Program Sponsor ProMedica, Dina and Hicham Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art, and several others.

The Berlin Painter created exquisite paintings on Greek vases from about 490 to 460 BCE. Since vase painters did not sign their work, a system was developed to more easily identify ancient vases by their unique styles. Classical archeologist and art historian Sir John Davidson Beazley, during the mid-20th century, categorized Attic Greek vases, finding the one piece that was most representative of that style, and calling that the artist’s “name-vase.” The painter is then named after some characteristic of that name-vase, such as its location, i.e. Berlin; its motif; where it was found; its former owner; or other criteria. The name-vase of the Berlin Painter is part of one of the most important collections of classical art in the world, known as the Antikensammlung Berlin, now held at the Altes Museum and Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.

Congress Suing Trump Over Foreign Gifts and Payments

Official portrait of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Close to 200 lawmakers have filed suit alleging that President Donald Trump is violating what is called the emoluments clause of the US Constitution. The suit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia early on Wednesday, June 14.

The plaintiffs argue that they have standing to sue the President since the clause states that only Congress has the ability to approve payments and gifts the president receives.
“The framers gave Congress a unique role, a unique right and responsibility,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut one of the organizers of the lawsuit.

Before taking office Trump bequeathed control of his assets to his two grown sons and a senior executive, but he did not divest from his holdings in any way. Therefore, there is a real possibility that he will gain financial benefit from the profits of the Trump Organization, and that will include foreign governments.

This third such suit also states that no one can discover the full extent to which the Trump Organization benefits from these payments since the president has never released his tax returns.

The first of the two previous lawsuits over the emoluments clause was only a few days after Trump’s inauguration in January; filed by a liberal-funded government watchdog group. Two co-plaintiffs joined the suit later; a restaurant group and two individuals in the hotel industry. The second suit was filed earlier this week by two Democratic lawyers with a similar claim.

The Justice Department and Trump stated that these are baseless lawsuits: the clause does not include normal business transactions such as hotel payments or real estate deals.
Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers said that together with Blumenthal they organized “greatest number of congressional plaintiffs on any lawsuit against a president.” He added that they’re taking the action “not out of any sense of pleasure or partisanship but because President Trump has left us with no other option.”

Defying Trump, Business Leaders Say They Will Stay in Paris Accord

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will be moving the United States away from strict compliance with the Paris climate change accords shocked many in the business community, not just green activists.  Some of the country’s most respected business leaders were strong in their condemnation of Trump’s decision.

These leaders are not tree-huggers in disguise. Yes, many do see climate change for what it is, a threat to the future well-being of the entire planet, whether you live in Paris or Pittsburgh. But it is not this threat, which is many years in the future, that is rallying businessmen against Trump’s position on the Paris accords. It is pure and simple economics.

The majority of businessmen, not just in the United States, but around the world, agree that taking a realistic view on climate change and developing technologies and other problem solving methods are actually economic stimulants.

On May 10, with the (misplaced) hope that they could influence the President, 30 CEOs took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, publishing an open letter to Trump whose opening sentence says, “We are writing to express our strong support for the U.S. remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement.”

The letter was signed by the CEOs of the following major US companies:

  • 3M Company
  • Allianz SE
  • Bank of America Corp.
  • BROAD Group
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • Cargill Inc.
  • Citigroup Inc.
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Corning Incorporated
  • Cummins Inc.
  • Dana Incorporated
  • The Dow Chemical Company
  • E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company
  • General Electric
  • The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
  • Harris Corporation
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Kering
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Newell Brands Inc.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Procter & Gamble Company
  • Royal DSM
  • Salesforce
  • Solvay
  • Tesla Inc.
  • Unilever
  • Virgin Group
  • The Walt Disney Company

This is just the list of companies that participated in the WSJ ad. There are more companies that agree with their position, including the CEO of Exxon.

Only two other major carbon producing countries refrained from signing the Paris Accord, Nicaragua and Syria. As one commentator put it:

“The U.S. cannot lead the world in any dimension if it abdicates responsibility and leadership for the greatest challenge facing humanity.”