East Europe’s banks face political pressure over Swiss franc loans

* Thousands hold mortgages denominated in Swiss franc

* No sign of widespread defaults since franc surged

* Loans become political issue in Poland, Croatia

* Facing elections, govts press banks to help borrowers

By Marcin Goclowski and Igor Ilic

WARSAW/ZAGREB, April 20 (Reuters) – When the Swiss franc
surged at the start of the year, there were dire predictions of
a wave of debt defaults by the hundreds of thousands of
borrowers in eastern Europe who had taken out mortgages in the
currency.

Three months on, there is no evidence of a widespread
increase in the level of non-performing Swiss franc loans,
according to checks by Reuters with banks in the worst-affected
countries in the region, and other data.

The pain for banks is coming instead from another source —
governments, worried about the political risks from the Swiss
franc loans, are pushing lenders to provide costly relief for
borrowers.

The pressure is greatest in Croatia and Poland, the two
countries with the biggest portfolios of Swiss franc mortgages
and whose governments face close-fought elections this year.

The political calendar is merciless, and this is why
politicians are raising the Swiss franc issue, said a Polish
bank executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They say
what people want to hear.

Many people in eastern Europe took out Swiss franc mortgages
because they were expected to be cheaper and more stable than
loans in local currencies. The Swiss central banks removal in
January of a cap on the franc turned those expectations on their
head.

The data on the level of non-performing loans (NPLs) since
the surge in the Swiss franc is piecemeal. The data that is
available points to only very modest increases in NPL ratios.

Michal Sobolewski, analyst with Polands BOS Bank brokerage,
used central bank data to calculate the NPL ratio for Swiss
franc mortgages in Poland was 3.15 percent at the end of
February, up from 3.05 percent at the end of last year.

The NPL ratio for Swiss franc mortgages at Polands biggest
lender PKO BP, has stayed stable, said a source with
knowledge of the data.

In Croatia, the local unit of Austrias Erste bank
, told Reuters the surge in the franc in January had
not led to an increase in the NPL ratio for Swiss franc loans.

Raiffeisens local unit said NPL levels for Swiss
franc home loans had not changed significantly in the first
quarter.

BORROWERS SUFFERING

Even if most are managing to keep up with their repayments,
borrowers are feeling pain.

Jacek Sledzinski, who lives with his wife and 10-year-old
daughter in a two-bedroom apartment in Warsaw, said he had been
forced to curb spending on holidays, and was able to put aside
less in savings.

The biggest problem for him is the exchange rate
uncertainty. Right now I dont know how much money I should
pay. Its a bit like a debt to a loan shark or the mafia: you
never know how much its going to grow.

Viewed from the banks, the medicine being prescribed by
officials to treat the Swiss franc loans issue is worse than the
illness itself.

Andrzej Jakubiak, the head of Polands financial sector
regulator KNF, is pushing the idea of converting the loans into
zlotys at a historic exchange rate. Banks say that would
threaten their financial stability.

Uncertainty about what measures will be imposed has limited
the rise in shares of Polish banks to 0.8 percent this year,
while Warsaws WIG stock index is up almost 8 percent.

In Croatia, the government has capped interest rates for
Swiss franc mortgages and temporarily fixed the exchange rate
for repayments at a level from before the currency surged.

Those measures will this year cost Croatian lenders about
100 million euros ($107.1 million), said a senior banking source
who did not want to be identified.

More costly for banks, the government says it is considering
a mandatory conversion of Swiss franc loans into euros.

ELECTION YEAR

Bankers see a dose of politics in their governments
responses.

Croatia holds a parliamentary election around the end of
this year, and opinion polls show the governing coalition is
behind the opposition conservatives.

The government is therefore sensitive to pressure from Swiss
franc borrowers who have threatened mass protests.

The senior Croatian banking source said he expected the
government would time its decision on relief measures so they
are in place before the election.

Polands governing Civic Platform party also faces a
parliamentary election at the end of this year, and polls give
it a narrow lead over the opposition Law and Justice Party.

Jakubiak, the regulator who wants conversion of the
mortgages, used to work as an aide to Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a
deputy leader of Civic Platform.

A spokesman for the regulator denied Jakubiaks proposal on
Swiss franc loans was politically-motivated. He said the
regulator was concerned about the risks stemming from the
mortgages, and wanted a balanced solution.
($1 = 0.9334 euros)

(Additional reporting by Radu Marinas in Bucharest, Aleksander
Vasovic in Belgrade, Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb and Marja
Novak in Ljubljana; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Keith
Weir)


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JERSEY SHORE

GALLOWAY, NJ The day after Stockton Universitys president announced he would resign this year, the head of the state Senates budget committee asked him to appear before the panel to discuss the schools plans for an Atlantic City campus.

Herman J. Saatkamp Jr., the schools president since 2003, announced Wednesday his intention to step down after Aug. 31. Paul A. Sarlo (D., Bergen), chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, sent a letter Thursday requesting that he attend Thursdays budget hearing on higher education.

Saatkamps announcement came as high-profile plans to build an island campus in Atlantic City have begun to unravel. Stockton purchased the former Showboat casino property in December, but the parent company of the Trump Taj Mahal next door has threatened a legal block. If the university cannot resolve the issue, it has agreed to sell the property to Florida developer Glenn Straub. In his letter, Sarlo said he wanted to discuss the original deal – and specifically whether Saatkamp knew that the then-owner of Showboat, Caesars Entertainment, was in the process of filing for bankruptcy.

Also Thursday, voting concluded by Stockton faculty and staff on referendums that would ask for faculty seats on the board of trustees and would officially criticize or question Saatkamps leadership. The results will take at least several days to analyze, in part because of Saatkamps announcement in the middle of the voting period. – Jonathan Lai


Former Lehman Twp. political candidate heads to trial on 66 counts in child …

A man who ran for Lehman Township tax collector is heading to Pike County Court on 66 counts of child sexual abuse.

At the end of a Wednesday preliminary hearing, a district judge found sufficient evidence to send the case against Hal Harris, 47, of Bushkill, to county court, where Harris can go to trial, plead guilty or plead no contest. Harris had posted bail and been released from custody as of Thursday, according to court records.

Dating from Jan. 1, 2011, the charges against Harris include 11 counts of rape by forcible compulsion, one count of statutory sexual assault on a child age 11 or older, five counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse on a child under age 16, six counts of aggravated indecent assault by forcible compulsion, one count of aggravated indecent assault on a child under age 16, 21 counts of corrupting a minor and 21 citations of harassment by physical contact.

Harris accuser said he forced himself on her multiple times in his Bushkill home between the time she was 8 and the time she was 16. In June, he called her into his bedroom, where he was nude, removed her clothes, struck her repeatedly as she struggled against him and raped her, she said.

Police said they linked DNA on a washcloth, which Harris used to clean up after the June incident, to him.

When Harris ran for tax collector in 2013, it was revealed that he claimed $42 million in debts when filing for bankruptcy in 2001, owed $8,675 in federal taxes unpaid in previous years, was behind on child support payments and had a five-year Protection From Abuse order against him after being accused of physically disciplining his 5-year-old. He will appear on the criminal charges in county court at a future date.


Should you put your money in an offshore savings account?

Offshore banking isnt just available to the rich and powerful; its open to everyone.

Many well-known names have international arms based just off our shores in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

But are the interest rates on these savings accounts any better than on the high street?

The rules

Anyone can open a savings account offshore. You just need to be able to provide the usual personal details and ID.

However, you may need to have a large amount of money at your disposal as many offshore accounts have pretty high opening balances of pound;5,000 to pound;10,000. Butthat isnt always the case, with some accounts only requiring pound;1.

With an offshore account your interest will be paid to you gross. This differs from UK banks that automatically deduct 20% income tax, unless you notify them that you arent liable for it.

With offshore accounts you will need to declare the income on your tax return. Because income tax isnt immediately deducted this may mean you can enjoybigger returns than you would on a UK bank account.

Many offshore banks also allow you to deposit cash in different currencies. This can be really useful if you spend a lot of time abroad and want to be able to flick between currencies without dealing with constant foreign exchange charges.

[Related story: Why investing in an Isa early could make you much richer]

The banks

Banking offshore doesnt have to mean handing your money over to a bank you have never heard of. Many high street banks including Nationwide, Santander, Skipton Building Society and numerous others have offshore divisions.

However, the rules regarding the safety of your cash are different. Deposit your money with an offshore bank and you are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

The FSCSguarantees that if a UK bank goes bust youll get back the first pound;85,000 you have deposited there. In both Jersey and Guernsey only the first pound;50,000 is protected under their own deposit schemes.

[Related story: Top cash Isas for your 2015/16 Isa allowance]

The accounts

While there are tax benefits to moving your savings offshore, at present it isnt really worth bothering for most people. Thats because there arent impressive interest rates on offer.

Most of the offshore savings accounts in Jersey and Guernsey offer similar interest rates to the ones you can find here.

For example, Skipton International is offering a rate of 1.75% on its 150-day notice account. ButCharter Savings Bank is a UK bank offering 1.85% on its 120 day notice account.

Its a similar story across the spectrum of savings accounts.

Nationwides offshore three-year bond is one of the best fixed rate accounts with a rate of 2.25% but you can get 2.7% from a UK bank. Nationwides offshore instant access account pays 1.25%, but you could get 1.41% with Virgins UK account.

The returns on Isas may be meagre but they trounce what the Channel Island banks are offering. You can get a tax-free rate of 1.55% instant access with the West Brom, compared to a post-tax rate of 1% offshore with Nationwide.

For the majority of us offshore banking isnt worth bothering with at the moment. You simply wont beat the returns offered by UK banks.

You are better off making the most of the tax-efficient savings options available to you within the country. Use up your pound;15,240 Isa allowance, increase your pension contributions and make the most of a spouse or partners income tax bands if they earn less than you.

Offshore banking may sound glamorous and lucrative, but the reality is it is the same banks offering you the same meagre interest rates, just from a slightly sunnier office.

Earn up to 5% with a current account: compare them now


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Don’t Pay off Your Student Loans Just Yet. Here’s Why

When youve been working for a while at paying off your student loans, it may become tempting to gather your funds and pay off your loans once and for all. From bonus checks to tax refunds, it can seem worthwhile to pay down your student loan balance as soon as possible, but before you write the check, lets stop and consider a few things.

What are your loan rates?

If you havent already refinanced your loans, you should consider trying to lower your rates before you make any big payments. If you have a low interest rate, it may be worth keeping your loans. Market rates are at all time low, so see what you can save with refinancing first – use Credible’s Handy Tool to see how your rates compare.

What are your other debts?

This is a big one to consider. If youre one of the 43% of American households that carry some sort of revolving debt or credit card debt, before you make a big payment, you should review what debts you have and what interest rates youre paying on that debt. Unless your student loans are the only debt you carry, its likely that your other debt has a higher interest rate, meaning that it costs you less to have student loan debt than other debts. You may be better off paying your credit card bill rather than putting extra money towards your student loans.

What sort of emergency fund do you have?

One of the biggest steps towards financial freedom that is recommended by many financial planners and experts is having a cash emergency fund that can take care of minor emergencies, such as a broken car or a surprise payment. If you are currently living paycheck to paycheck, you may be better served by creating an emergency fund of $1000 or so. That way, if something does happen, you dont have to hit the credit card; youll have the cash to handle the problem.

What else can you do with the money?

If your bonus is enough to create an IRA, for example, you might be financially better off investing that money over the long term. Depending on the interest and return rates available, you may get a return greater than what you could save on interest by paying off your student loans faster. If you think you might be interested in investing your bonus, check in with a financial professional to get guidance.

Do you have a cosigner that needs relief from the debt?

Perhaps your student loan cosigner now needs to show more credit freedom in order to qualify for a loan of their own. Paying down the loan may help your friend as much as it helps you.

What mental toll does student loan debt take on you?

Some people are bothered more by debt than others and it doesnt matter what the investment returns are, they just want to know that they are free and clear from their student loan debt. This can be a fair consideration, and using a bonus to pay off debt in this situation can help you find some relief.

To learn more about student loan refinancing and to receive student loan refinancing offers from many lenders after filling out one form, visit Credible.


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Best Debt Consolidation Firm Awards Announced by 10 Best Debt

10 Best Debt is an awards organization that recognizes the best in the debt consolidation industry. Recently, the organization announced the three Best Debt Consolidation Firm contenders: Discover, HSBC and National Debt Relief.

New York, New York (PRWEB) April 20, 2015

10 Best Debt is an awards organization that assigns rankings to the best companies that work in various areas of dealing with debt. They have just published their latest list of 10 top companies in the area of debt consolidation. The following is a description of the top three companies on that list.

The first company on the list of Best Debt Consolidation Agencies is National Debt Relief, located in the city of New York, New York. This business gives consumers the chance to consolidate all of their different debts and make their financial situations as simple and straightforward as possible. In addition, they will happily give their customers the financial counseling that they need in order to gain control of their financial situations, get out of debt, and stay out of debt. They truly care about all of their clients and are concerned about helping them improve their financial situations. This company is known for their amazing track record with their clients, and they plan to maintain that record in the future.

The second place contender for the title of Best Debt Relief Firm is Discover, located in Riverwoods, Illinois. This company will give clients everything that they need for both the present and the future in terms of debt. They will help them make the best of their current financial situation, as well as giving them the information that they need in order to improve their situation as they continue forward. This company has been the recipient of multiple awards, and they feature a team of talented and knowledgeable professionals who will be able to give any client the help that they need to manage debt.

Number 3 on the roster is HSBC, based in the city of New York, New York. In the manner of a true top debt consolidation firm, HSBC is known for acting in the best interests of their clients. No matter how much debt any given customer has, this company will provide them with the best possible resources in order to be of assistance. Whether a client wants a hands-on approach or a more subtle option, HSBC will help in any way that they are able, and they will let them know exactly what they can do to improve their situations as much as possible.

For more information about the latest awards, visit http://www.10bestdebt.com.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/best-debt-consolidation/best-debt-relief-agency/prweb12665067.htm


FBI: Palm Beach County Couple Sentenced to Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud

A Palm Beach County couple was sentenced by Senior United States District Judge Kenneth L Ryskamp in West Palm Beach for their participation in a bankruptcy fraud scheme. Wifredo A Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement. Husband and wife Dr. Richard S Krugman, 61, and Tamara B Giordano, 54, each previously pled guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 152.

Krugman and Giordano were each sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $27,294.35. According to court documents and information presented during the sentencing hearing, Krugman and Giordano were the owners of a multi-million-dollar health care company that took a downturn in 2006. On August 27, 2008, the two filed a joint personal bankruptcy petition in United States Bankruptcy Court in Palm Beach County, Florida before Judge Erik P Kimball. Upon filing for bankruptcy, Krugman and Giordano were required, and knew that they were required, to report all assets in which they had any interest.

At the time of filing, the defendants claimed they owed almost $3 million to creditors and had available assets worth less than $13,000. An investigation revealed that Krugman and Giordano knowingly and fraudulently concealed and caused to be concealed property belonging to their bankruptcy estate. Specifically, Krugman and Giordano admitted concealing jewelry and other valuables, including a womens gold and diamond Rolex watch, a gold ring with two carats of diamonds, diamond earrings, Royal Dalton china, Waterford crystal, silver, and two George Rodrigue Blue Dog lithographs, signed and numbered. United States Attorney Wifredo A Ferrer stated, Criminal bankruptcy fraud can pose a threat to the economy and those who honestly abide by the bankruptcy laws.

Those who hide their assets from the bankruptcy court to enrich themselves should know they may be prosecuted and imprisoned for their misdeeds. Mr Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn Bell. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Reported by: FBI

Published on: 2015-04-24


5 Ways You’re Wasting Money

When you were young,
and if you got an allowance, your parents probably told you not to waste your
money on candy, comic books, video games or some other equivalent whenever you
tended to go overboard on purchases.

But as you quickly
figured out, what is a complete waste to some people is a perfectly reasonable
purchase for others. Still, its hard to argue with Joan Fradella, a West Palm
Beach, Florida, resident when she says, Our garbage dumps are filled with
purchasing mistakes.

Fradella, who used to
be a purchasing agent for a consumer electronics company before
co-founding a divorce mediation company, says everyone should think long
and hard before whipping out their wallets.

There are
reasons we dont give credit cards to toddlers. We shouldnt treat our
hard-earned money as if it is Monopoly money, she says.

Still, since there is
no rule book for what constitutes a waste of money, everyone has to go with
their gut.

And, of course, there
must be a million ways consumers canwaste their money. So this is not a comprehensive list of possibilities for throwing away your income.

Credit
cards. While many consumers use credit cards wisely, lots don’t
– and there are certain cards you shouldnt bother with, according to Dak
Hartsock, a resident of Naples, Florida, and chief investment officer at ACI
Wealth Advisors, an investment advisory firm.

If you have a
credit card with an interest rate over 11 percent, you should get rid of
it, he says. Once you get north of 11 percent or so, the interest
expense piles up so fast that many regular Americans can’t ever catch up.
Credit cards are loaded guns for many Americans. If you don’t pay attention,
you are going to get hurt.

If it helps, Hartsock
says that when it comes to borrowing money, try to think like the CEO of your
own company. His rationale? If you were running a public corporation, and the
interest rate on the companys debt jumped from 7 percent to 27.99 percent, the
company would be in deep trouble,” Hartsock says.

And then what would
happen? You would be fired, he adds.

Weddings.
Again, like credit cards, you can pay for a wedding responsibly or you can go off
the deep end. The final price of a wedding usually ends up being about
the price of the down payment on a new couples house, says Rick
Salmeron, a certified financial planner with his own firm, Salmeron Financial,
in Dallas.

The problem, as he
sees it: The majority of couples end up super-sizing their wedding, blowing dollars on stuff they had never originally budgeted for. So many
variables are ripe [for] emotional impulse purchases – the wedding dress,
makeup and hair, DJ, decorations, food, wedding favors, invitations,
photography … the list is seemingly endless.

If youre still not
convinced, Salmeron puts his distaste for extravagant weddings this way:
So many marriages fail due to financial problems. Why create a financial
hardship on your savings account on day one? Whats so romantic about
that?

Cable
TV.People spend well over $1,000 a year just so they can watch five to 10 of
the 200-plus channels they’re paying for, and the cable companies keep luring them
back into long-term contracts with promo deals that expire after a few months,
then the rates go through the roof again, says Steve Belk, a
Houston-based entrepreneur who created CutCableToday.com, an online guide for
doing just that.

But Belk is hardly
alone in his stance. In 2013, CouponCabin.com surveyed 2,046 adults; forty-five percent
of respondents said cable TV is a waste of money, but 81 percent of them
admitted to being paying customers.

Hartsock agrees it’s
a wallet wrecker. I’ve never met anyone that wasn’t paying at least $80 a
month or $960 a year, he says. You can basically duplicate cable
with a combination of Apple TV ($69 per YEAR), Netflix ($7.99 a month), and
Amazon Prime ($99 per year). Total annual bill, $263.88 before tax.


Don’t Waste Your Money: The real deal with certified pre-owned cars

(Toledo News Now) –
As we enter peak car-buying season, many people are looking for good deals on used cars.

Some people may decide to buy a car thats certified for peace of mind, but how much protection does that really offer? One man found out in his case, it wasnt much.

Scott Noll bought a 2009 Acura certified, but he couldnt believe it when he found rust bubbles along the fender and hood.

He took it to a body shop, where he got some bad news: The hood and fender appeared to be aftermarket replacements.

“I said, ‘That shouldnt happen with a six-year-old car, particularly a car I bought certified pre-owned,” Noll said.

An Acura spokesman says certified pre-owned cars pass a rigorous inspection and must show no damage on the Carfax report. But in its glossary, Carfax warns that “not every accident or damage event is reported” to police.

That means a fender bender might not show up, and most manufacturers allow up to three panes to be replaced or repainted.

Acura says after a full investigation into Nolls case, they may be willing to help. The incident has Noll questioning what else could be wrong with his car.

“Is the wheel assembly damaged? What am I driving?” he asked.

The lesson here: While certified pre-owned cars will likely be in better condition than other used cars, there is no guarantee they will be accident- or problem-free. “Consumer Reports” magazine still suggests you get an independent inspection so you dont waste your money.

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Copyright 2015Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.


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NewsChannel 3 is showing you the money! Get your unclaimed cash

Norfolk, Va. – Right now, you could have unclaimed cash sitting around in state coffers! NewsChannel 3 is taking action to help you get your money.

If you would like to see if you have unclaimed cash, click here.

You can also call, 1-800-468-1088 during business hours.

Related: 

It’s Your Money: Get your unclaimed cash


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