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Harry and Meghan’s risk being seen as ‘tacky’ after taking JP Morgan gig

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have pocketed $1 million for their first post-Megxit appearance – but experts say they could be damaging the credibility of their ‘brand’.

The couple broke their self-imposed exile in Canada to attend J P Morgan’s ‘Alternative Investment Summit’ in Miami on Thursday, but experts warned their bid to become financially independent could tarnish their image.

PR guru Mark Borkowski told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This shows how difficult it is going to be. They’ve got to make a lot of money and they are going to slip up on the way.

‘The worry is how many of these type of gigs are there going to be? How often can Harry play the card about his mental health?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have pocketed $1 million for their first post-Megxit appearance. Pictured: Couple in Cape Town, South Africa in September

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have pocketed $1 million for their first post-Megxit appearance. Pictured: Couple in Cape Town, South Africa in September

‘For J P Morgan, it’s an extraordinary “get”. They clearly have the money to afford them, but Harry and Meghan need to avoid being perceived as tacky.’

Prince Harry was also facing a backlash on social media, including from critics who accused him of cashing in on his mother’s memory.

One Twitter user said: ‘I’m literally disgusted that Harry is now dragging up Diana’s death to earn money. I really didn’t think he would stoop that low. This is disgusting on a whole different level. Shameful. Their titles must be stripped completely.’

Harry, pictured at a charity event in London last month, spoke of his battle with mental health at the summit in Miami on Thursday

Harry, pictured at a charity event in London last month, spoke of his battle with mental health at the summit in Miami on Thursday

The couple flew to Florida from their rented home in Vancouver on Wednesday on board J P Morgan’s Gulfstream jet.

They reportedly spent the night at the £12 million Palm Beach home of Meghan’s close friend, tennis champion Serena Williams.

The following day they joined 425 guests at the summit in a sprawling tent in the grounds of the five-star 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach. A 6ft wall was erected to shield the tent from the view of tourists strolling along the beach’s famous boardwalk.

Guests included former Prime Minister Tony Blair, singer Jennifer Lopez and her boyfriend Alex Rodriguez, basketball legend Magic Johnson and billionaire NFL team owner Robert Kraft. Architect Norman Foster and Russian heiress Dasha Zhukova were also reportedly present alongside ‘dozens’ of CEOs and hedge fund tycoons.

The couple joined 425 guests at the summit in a sprawling tent in the grounds of the five-star 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach (pictured)

The couple joined 425 guests at the summit in a sprawling tent in the grounds of the five-star 1 Hotel in Miami’s South Beach (pictured)

A source said: ‘Harry and Meghan were mixing with the elite of the elite. Clearly they are chasing the big bucks, but the danger in any situation like this is that very often people with big bucks have shady pasts.

‘They need to be extremely careful who they associate with. Public opinion is a fickle thing and people will turn against them if they are perceived to be putting their own financial gain above all else.’

PR executive Ronn Torossian, from 5W Public Relations, said he expected the couple to have made between £387,000 and £775,000 for appearing at the event.

‘I would not be shocked if they earned up to $1 million. Harry and Meghan will be the highest-paid speakers that exist on the corporate market,’ he said.

Meghan was introduced to the stage by US TV presenter Gayle King, a close friend of the couple and widely tipped to get the first post-Megxit TV interview.

The Duchess spoke briefly about her ‘love for her husband’ and then introduced Harry who was interviewed by King.

A source told the New York Post: ‘Harry spoke about mental health and how he has been in therapy for the past few years to try to overcome the trauma of losing his mother. He talked about how the events of his childhood affected him and that he’s been talking to a mental health professional.

‘He said he started seeing a therapist at 28 as he struggled with the trauma caused by his mother’s death. He said he felt trapped as a Royal although he said his relationship with the Queen was still OK. Harry also touched on Megxit, saying while it has been very difficult for him and Meghan, he does not regret their decision to step down as senior Royals because he wants to protect his family.’

After Harry’s speech the couple dined in the tent with hand-picked guests. A guest at the hotel said: ‘We were having dinner and we could tell there was something going on.

‘There was a lot of security around and people seemed to know they were in the building. Employees were made to sign non-disclosure agreements and an email was circulated to everyone reminding all staff of the hotel’s confidentiality policy.’

People leaving the event were reluctant to talk.

One lively group confirmed they were at the speech, but when asked about it, they replied: ‘Sorry, we really can’t.’

Miami lawyer Ramsay Simon tweeted from the hotel: ‘Seems there’s a famous someone here tonight. A couple who are (presumably) former members, recently detached, of a UK family whose role should be abolished and is a few hundred years past its excuse for even being.’

Local journalist Lesley Abravanel said: ‘We’re no stranger to presidents, mobsters, dictators, rock stars and movie stars down here. We see it all. But in my two decades of covering celebrity activity in Florida, I’ve never seen a tighter-lipped situation than this one.’

Faced with criticism, the couple received a welcome boost from Sir Elton John’s husband David Furnish, another close friend, who said he believes they can achieve ‘great philanthropic work’. Furnish became embroiled in the controversy over Meghan and Harry’s use of private jets when it was revealed they flew in one for a holiday at Sir Elton’s home in the south of France last summer. Sir Elton later said he had paid to offset the carbon emissions.

Furnish said: ‘I know how passionately they want to give back and they really feel that they have a platform and an awareness and an opportunity to really do great, great philanthropic work.’

The bank of Epstein, Madoff and the 2008 crash: How JP Morgan – where Harry and Meghan gave a speech this week – has been embroiled in a series of controversies

By Harriet Dennys, Caroline Graham and Michael Powell

Harry and Meghan’s first post-Megxit appearance last week was at an event held by a US banking giant that has been embroiled in a succession of controversies.

JP Morgan was among the group of big American investment banks blamed for triggering the financial crisis just over a decade ago – and was eventually ordered to pay a then-record $13 billion fine – about £10 billion – in 2013 for misleading investors in the years leading up to the meltdown.

Coincidentally, 2013 was also the year the bank finally parted company with one of its most notorious clients, paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Bank insiders have claimed that concerns were raised about Epstein – a friend of Prince Andrew – after the financier was charged with sex crimes and pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in 2008. Yet he remained a JP Morgan client for another five years. One theory of why the disgraced American – who died in jail last year – was kept on in the face of increasingly lurid allegations was his value to JP Morgan.

JP Morgan was among the group of big American investment banks blamed for triggering the financial crisis just over a decade ago. Pictured: A jet owned by J P Morgan

JP Morgan was among the group of big American investment banks blamed for triggering the financial crisis just over a decade ago. Pictured: A jet owned by J P Morgan 

Epstein is said to have arranged business introductions for one of his contacts at the bank, Jes Staley, the head of private banking who would later become chief executive of Barclays bank in Britain.

The Mail on Sunday revealed in 2015 that Epstein lobbied for Staley to secure the top job at Barclays after 34 years at JP Morgan. Staley has said he had no knowledge of Epstein’s illegal activities and Barclays has denied its directors were approached by Epstein.

Among JP Morgan’s other notable former clients is Bernie Madoff – the fraudster behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

According to court documents made public in 2011, senior JP Morgan executives had started to doubt the legitimacy of Madoff’s investment activities but continued to do business with him.

JP Morgan eventually paid a $2.5 billion fine for failing for two decades to report Madoff’s suspicious dealings. He was jailed for stealing from wealthy investors – including a number of celebrities – over more than 20 years. Losses from the scheme are said to have hit $17 billion.

JP Morgan admitted it could have done a better job of handling concerns about Madoff’s activities but said no employee knowingly assisted with the fraud.

In 2013 the bank finally parted company with one of its most notorious clients, paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein (pictured)

In 2013 the bank finally parted company with one of its most notorious clients, paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein (pictured)

At the helm of the bank through the good times and the bad has been highly regarded chief executive Jamie Dimon.

Since taking the top job in 2005 he has become known as The King of Wall Street, raking in $298.8 million in pay and perks.

Last month, the 63-year-old became the best-paid banking chief for a fifth year in a row by scooping more than £24 million.

He is credited with steering JP Morgan through the financial crisis to become the most profitable bank in the US today.

Nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ at private school in New York – ostensibly for his prowess on the sports field – he has an MBA from Harvard, where he met his wife, Judy.

They married in 1983 and have three grown-up daughters – Julia, Laura and Kara.

Among JP Morgan’s other notable former clients is Bernie Madoff – the fraudster behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history

Among JP Morgan’s other notable former clients is Bernie Madoff – the fraudster behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history

It’s fair to say Dimon hasn’t struggled to find ways to spend the wealth he has accrued since his university days. As well as a home on Park Avenue, one of New York’s most prestigious addresses, he and Judy escape in the summer months to their 34-acre country home about an hour’s drive north from central Manhattan.

The 9,600 sq ft 1930s mansion nestles in woodland near the town of Bedford, where other wealthy homeowners include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Michael Douglas. Dimon bought the summer retreat in 2007 for a reported $17 million.

His style of management is said to be fierce. It has been claimed he likes to punch the air when he raises his voice to berate staff and carries a crumpled piece of paper containing the names of ‘the people who owe me stuff’.

His tight grip on JP Morgan has not stopped the bank coughing up more than $31 billion in regulatory fines since the 2008 crisis for offences ranging from manipulating energy markets to accusations of racial discrimination.

In January 2017, JP Morgan agreed a $55 million settlement over allegations that it charged black and Hispanic mortgage borrowers higher rates than its white customers.

It denied the accusations, made by the US Justice Department, but agreed to settle.

JP Morgan has also issued a grovelling apology and paid millions of dollars in reparations for historic links to the slave trade.

In 2005, it admitted that two Louisiana banks that were later absorbed into the company once held 13,000 slaves as collateral and owned 1,250 slaves.

JP Morgan’s London office reported a $2billion trading loss in 2012 that was traced to big bets taken by a group of traders led by Bruno Iksil, known as the London Whale.

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‘We need an economy that works for people’: Albanese pushes gig workers reform

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Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese met with rideshare drivers as part of his push to give these workers better pay and conditions, spruiking “we need an economy that works for people, not people working for an economy”.

“It’s a fundamental difference of where we are as a society and my view is that customers as well would be prepared to acknowledge it’s just not fair if they knew that people were working sometimes for under $10 an hour without any rights whatsoever,” Mr Albanese said.

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Europe kicks off bid to find a route to ‘better’ gig work – TechCrunch

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The European Union has kicked off the first stage of a consultation process involving gig platforms and workers. Regional lawmakers have said they want to improve working conditions for people who provide labor via platforms which EU digital policy chief, Margrethe Vestager, accepted in a speech today can be “poor” and “precarious”.

Yet she also made it clear the Commission’s agenda vis-a-vis the issue of gig work is to find some kind of “balance” between (poor) platform work and, er, good and stable (rights protected) employment.

There’s no detail yet on how exactly regional lawmakers plan to square the circle of giving gig platforms a continued pass on not providing good/stable work — given that their sustainability as businesses (still with only theoretical profits, in many cases) is chain-linked to not shelling out for the full suite of employment rights for the thousands of people they rely upon to be engaged in the sweating toil of delivering their service off the corporate payroll.

But that, presumably, is what the Commission’s consultation process is aimed at figuring out. Baked into the first stage of the process is getting the two sides together to try to hash out what better looks like.

“The platform economy is here to stay — new technologies, new sources of knowledge, new forms of work will shape the world in the years ahead,” said Vestager, segueing into a red-line that there must be no reduction in the rights or the social safety net for platform workers (NB: The word ‘should’ is doing rather a lot of heavy lifting here): “And for all of our work on the digital economy, these new opportunities must not come with different rights. Online just as offline, all people should be protected and allowed to work safely and with dignity.”

“The key issue in our consultations is to find a balance between making the most of the opportunities of the platform economy and ensuring that the social rights of people working in it are the same as in the traditional economy,” she also said, adding: “It is also a matter of a fair competition and level playing field between platforms and traditional companies that have higher labour costs because they are subject to traditional labour laws.”

The Commission’s two-stage consultation process on gig work starts with a consultation of “social partners” on “the need and direction of possible EU action to improve the working conditions in platform work”, as it puts it.

This will be open for at least six weeks. It will involve platforms talking with workers (and/or their representatives) to try to come up with agreement on what ‘better’ looks like in the context of platform working conditions, either to steer the direction of any Commission initiative. Or — else — to kick the legislative can down the road on said initiative if they can come up with stuff they can agree to implement themselves.

The second phase — assuming the “social partners” don’t agree on and implement a way forward themselves — is planned to take place before the summer and will focus on “the content of the initiative”, per Vestager. (Aka: what exactly the EU ends up proposing to square the circle that must be squared.)

The competition component of the gig work conundrum — whereby there’s also the ’employer fairness’ dynamic to consider, given platforms aren’t playing by the same rules as traditional employers so are potentially undercutting rivals who are offering those good and stable jobs — explains why the Commission is launching a competition-focused parallel consultation alongside the social stakeholder chats.

“We will soon start a public consultation on this initiative that has another legal base since it is about competition law and not social policies. This is the reason why we consult differently on the two initiatives,” noted Vestager.

She said this will aim to ensure that EU competition rules “do not stand in the way of collective bargaining for those who need it” — suggesting the Commission is hoping that collective bargaining will form some part of the solution to achieving the sought for (precarious) balance of ‘better’ platform work.

Albeit, a cynical person might predict the end goal of all this solicitation of views will probably be some kind of fudge — that offers the perception of a plug for the platform rights gap without actually disrupting the platform economy which Vestager has sworn is here to say.

Uber for one has scented opportunity in the Commission’s talk of improving “legal clarity” for platforms.

The ride-hailing giant put out a white paper last week in which it lobbied lawmakers to deregulate platform work — pushing for a Prop-22 style outcome in Europe, having succeeded in getting a carve out from tightened employment laws in California.

Expect other platforms to follow with similarly self-serving suggestions aimed at encouraging Europe’s social contract to be retooled at the points where it intersects with their business models. (Last week Uber was accused of intentionally stalling on improving conditions for workers in favor of lobbying for deregulation, for example.)

The start of the Commission’s gig work consultation come hard on heels of a landmark ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court (also last week) — which dismissed Uber’s final appeal against a long running employment tribunal.

The judges cemented the view that the group of drivers who sued Uber had indeed been erroneously classified as ‘self employed’, making Uber liable to pay compensation for the rights it should have been funding all along.

So if the EU ends up offering a lower level of employment rights to platform workers vis-a-vis the (post-brexit) UK that would surely make for some uncomfortable faces in Brussels.

While it may be unrealistic to talk about striking a ‘balance’ in the context of business models that are inherently imbalanced, given they’re based on dodging existing employment regulations and disrupting the usual social playbook for profit, he Commission seems to think that a consultation process and a network of overlapping regulations is the way to rein in the worst excesses of the gig economy/big tech more generally.

In a press release about the consultation, it notes that platform work is “developing rapidly” across various business sectors in the region.

“It can offer increased flexibility, job opportunities and additional revenue, including for people who might find it more difficult to enter the traditional labour market,” it writes, starting with some of the positives that are, pesumably, feeding its desire for a ‘balanced’ outcome.

“However, certain types of platform work are also associated with precarious working conditions, reflected in the lack of transparency and predictability of contractual arrangements, health and safety challenges, and insufficient access to social protection. Additional challenges related to platform work include its cross-border dimension and the issue of algorithmic management.”

It also notes the role of the coronavirus pandemic in both accelerating uptake of platform work and increasing concern about the “vulnerable situation” of gig workers — who may have to choose between earning money and risking their health (and the health of other people) via working and thus potential viral exposure.

The Commission reports that around 11% of the EU workforce (some 24 million people) say they have already provided services through a platform.

Vestager said most of these people “only have platform work as a secondary or a marginal source of income” — but added that some three million people do it as a main job.

And just imagine the cost to gig platforms if those three million people had to be put on the payroll in Europe…

In the bit of her speech leading up to her conclusion that platform work is here to stay, Vestager quoted a recent study she said had indicated that 35% to 55% of consumers say they intend to continue to ask for home delivery more in the future.

“We… see that the platform economy is growing rapidly,” she added. “Worldwide, the online labour platform market has grown by 30% over a period of 2 years. This growth is expected to continue and the number of people working through platforms is expected to become more significant in the years ahead.”

“European values are at the heart of our work to shape Europe’s digital future,” she also went on, taking her cue to point to the smorgasbord of digital regulations in the EU’s pipeline — and perhaps illustrating the concept of an overlapping regulatory net that the Commission intends to straightjacket platform giants into more socially acceptable and fair behavior (though it hasn’t yet).

“Our proposals from December for a Digital Services Act and a Digital Markets Act are meant to protect us as consumers if technology poses a risk to fundamental rights. In April we will follow up on our white paper on Artificial Intelligence from last year and our upcoming proposal will also have the aim to protect us as citizens. The fairness aspect and the integration of European values will also be a driver for our upcoming proposal on a digital tax that we plan to present before summer.

“All these initiatives are part of our ambition to balance the great potential that the digital transformation holds for our societies and economies.”

 

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London calls for data innovation on gig worker wages and high street revival – Cities Today

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London’s £1 million (US$1.42 million) Resilience Fund is now open for applications from businesses. It aims to tap data and technology to solve key challenges identified as central to the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

These include supporting gig economy workers, market traders and people suffering bereavement; advancing smart mobility and renewable energy production; and reducing food insecurity.

The Mayor’s Resilience Fund, delivered in partnership with Nesta and funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), will provide grants of up to £50,000 for solutions which boost resiliency.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The challenges we face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic affect every area of our lives and the economy. But I know our city is home to a wealth of innovation – and so I have no doubt that many of the solutions we need to drive our recovery will come from right here in the capital.

“This has been a very dark and difficult period for our city and I hope that these funds will bring together the capital’s talent and help build a more resilient city.”

The challenges reflect how the pandemic has prompted a greater appreciation at all government levels of the power of data to address pressing and important problems. The crisis is also reinforcing a shift by many local governments away from a technology-led approach to ‘smart cities’.

As Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, recently told Cities Today: “We need to start with what problem we need to solve and what the users need, and approach it from there.”

Gig economy

Partner organisations will work with the Greater London Authority to help funding applicants develop their ideas. Each partner is in charge of one of ten challenges.

London is particularly calling for data-driven ideas to tackle issues such as activating vacant properties on high streets (in partnership with Ealing Council’s High Streets Taskforce); helping local businesses access affordable workspace (with Hackney Wick and Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone); and reducing vulnerable residents’ exposure to air pollution (with Lambeth Council).

In partnership with campaign organisation the Living Wage Foundation, the city is also seeking ideas which use data and technology to facilitate better pay and conditions for gig economy workers.

Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “There are around 4.7 million workers in the gig economy and while many enjoy flexible working patterns, millions are trapped in low pay, with around 700,000 earning less than the minimum wage. The pandemic has shown how essential their work is, and the importance of providing them with greater security. One of the biggest challenges is that the nature of this work makes it hard for those in the gig economy to accurately gauge their take-home pay.

“By partnering with workers and innovators through the Resilience Fund, we hope to spur new tools that enable workers and employers to accurately gauge income and expenses on the gig economy platforms they use. This will allow a clearer picture on whether workers are earning the Living Wage, ultimately encouraging more gig employers to achieve this benchmark and so driving pay rises among low-paid gig economy workers.”

Transport and traders

Mobility is a key focus area and London is seeking solutions which use health and travel data to increase public confidence and enable safe re-opening. A challenge with Better Bankside BID and King’s College London will develop ways to make freight journeys more efficient.

Other challenges are improving bereavement support services for communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 (in partnership with Thrive LDN); diverting surplus food to community organisations (in partnership with Groundwork London); and using the river to generate renewable energy (in partnership with the Royal Docks Team).

London is also looking for ideas which can support its market traders, working with Hackney Council.

In addition, Khan launched a new Designing London’s Recovery initiative, which is also funded by LEAP and will bring public bodies, charities, businesses, social enterprises and educational institutions together to collaboratively develop new solutions with the Design Council and the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI).

Three specific challenges will be announced soon and will focus on vulnerable residents and those hardest hit by coronavirus. Previous Design Council projects have included addressing issues related to violence in A&E departments, ageing society, and shifting economic needs.

Successful applicants will receive a share of £500,000 as well as support from the Design Council.

Last week, LOTI announced the two successful bids that will share its £150,000 Covid Innovation Fund.

Half the money will go towards a project on using data to better understand digital exclusion and the other half towards a scheme to provide preventative support for vulnerable people affected by the pandemic.

Image: Katie Nesling Dreamstime.com

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