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Italy’s next prime minister could be a mostly unknown law professor

Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) and Lega party have reportedly agreed on who the next prime minister should be — taking another step closer to implementing their governing coalition and restoring a political structure to the country.

Speculation is rife that M5S and Lega’s leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, have chosen a private law professor Giuseppe Conte as the new prime minister. Relatively unknown in political and public life, even Italian newspapers are publishing profiles and biographies on the professor to give the country’s voters the lowdown on their next possible leader.

The 54-year-old comes from the Apulia region of southeast Italy and graduated from La Sapienza University in Rome after studying law, before “perfecting” his studies at places like Yale, Duquesne, the International Kultur Institut in Vienna, La Sorbonne in France, Cambridge and New York University, according to a profile page.

But the Corriere della Sera newspaper stated that while Conte has “a very long curriculum (vitae)” he doesn’t “have a clue about politics.” The newspaper did concede that Conte “is certainly a technician” and has experience in business and administrative, financial and civil law. La Stampa newspaper added that he has been the director of “numerous legal journals.”

In addition, the paper noted that Conte is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Italian Notary Foundation, was a part of the Board of the Italian Space Agency and in 2013 the Parliament appointed him as a member of the Board of Directors of Administrative Justice.

Meanwhile, La Repubblica newspaper noted that Conte’s CV states that he is also an expert on “managing large companies in crisis,” which the paper noted “will be useful in events such as Ilva or Alitalia.” Ilva is an Italian steel company going through a pollution scandal and Alitalia is national airline that recently went bankrupt.

Conte has taught extensively in Italy and currently lectures in private law at universities in Florence and Bologna.

A friend of M5S

Conte’s name was initially flagged up by M5S just ahead of the election in March when the movement’s leader, Di Maio, stated that the professor would be nominated as minister for public administration and simplification (a ministry charged with simplifying laws and regulations) in any M5S-led administration.

During the election campaign, Di Maio had called Conte a “sburocratizzatore” — akin to a “de-bureaucratizer” — while Conte himself declared during the campaign that Italy needs to “abolish useless laws” (he said there were more than the 400 indicated by Di Maio) and that Italy’s anti-corruption laws need to be strengthened. He also stated that reforms to transform poorly-performing schools must be introduced.

Ahead of the election, Di Maio denied that a cabinet featuring experts and academics like Conte (and other professors then tipped to lead various ministries) would represent a technocratic cabinet, arguing instead that people like Conte “know what they are talking about,” Reuters reported.

Now, with M5S’ all-but certain coalition with the Lega party, Di Maio and Salvini are expected to present Conte as their candidate for prime minister, as well as a proposed cabinet formed of M5S and Lega ministers. They will seek approval from Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella Monday.

Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant, euroskeptic Lega party, confirmed the deal over the leadership on Sunday, posting a message on Facebook stating, “We’ve closed the deal on the prime minister and ministers this morning.”

The Lega leader did not give the names of the candidates but Conte is expected to be premier with Salvini taking the interior minister post and Di Maio becoming a minister for economic development or labor (and a possible melding of the two posts), according to Italian newspapers. The economy ministry would reportedly go to Giancarlo Giorgetti.

Inconclusive election in March

Di Maio and Salvini’s decision to elect a prime minister rather than take the role themselves comes after a delicate process of negotiation in a bid to form a coalition government in Italy after an inconclusive election in March. Obstacles have been presented by political alliances and antipathies along the way.

M5S was the single most popular party in the election but Lega was the most popular party in a coalition of far-right and center-right parties, which included former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.

After multiple insults traded between Berlusconi and M5S’ Di Maio, however, a possible coalition between M5S and the center-right coalition looked unlikely, leaving Lega’s Salvini to take the lead and Berlusconi and other coalition partners seemingly out in the cold.

The alliance between Lega and M5S has yet to be tested, however, and could spell trouble for Europe with the maverick parties announcing Friday plans to increase public spending. They are also expected to call for an end to sanctions on Russia and want to renegotiate how much Italy pays into the EU budget — all plans that could create headaches for the European Union and euro zone.

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ADR community to celebrate success, plan future in Edmonton

A first-of-its-kind symposium in Edmonton will celebrate the success of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Alberta. The method of conflict resolution is widely used across the province, saving Albertans time, money and stress while alleviating pressure on the province’s justice system.

The gathering will take place over two days at Lister Centre at the University of Alberta.

In addition to celebrating the past two decades of successful conflict resolution through mediation, the meeting will provide a chance for all members of the Alternative Dispute Resolution community to discuss how to continue an upward trajectory of success.

This is the first time members of both the non-government Alberta resolution community will be brought together with the Government of Alberta’s Dispute Resolution Network since the province launched the conflict resolution method more than 20 years ago.

Gilbert Van Ness is the co-chair of the symposium and he spoke on the Alberta Morning News about how ADR got started in the province.

“With programs to use mediation in small claims court, and then it expanded on the justice side of things,” Van Ness said, “to be used quite a bit in the area of family law to deal with divorces, child custody issues, things like that.”

Now, ADR allows individuals, families, businesses and even municipalities to access cheaper, faster, less adversarial and simply more effective methods of conflict resolution than turning to court.

“You’re putting the decision-making power in the hands of a third party, whether it’s a judge or a board,” Van Ness said.

“The strong power of alternative dispute resolution is keeping the decision-making power in the hands of the people whose lives it affects.”

Members of the ADR community have backgrounds in a wide range of fields and are educated through programs and institutions such as the ADR Institute of Alberta in mediation. Van Ness stressed the importance of this diversity in successful mediation.

“The practitioners, the people who do it, come from all different walks of life,” he said. “And so they bring all different kinds of backgrounds to this approach of problem-solving and conflict-solving. And that makes for much more dynamic potentials and solutions.”

The symposium on May 15 and 16 aims to set the stage for a future in which Albertans have the option to turn to mediation instead of spending thousands of dollars and hours of time in the justice system.

“One of our main themes is to make Alternative Dispute Resolution the first choice for the way you want to resolve conflict,” Van Ness said.

“Rather than, ‘I’m going to take you to court,’ we want to hear people say, ‘I’m going to take you to mediation’ as the preferred choice of resolving conflict.”

Keynote speakers include Court of Queen’s Bench Justice and ADR advocate the Hon. Madam Justice Joanne Goss, and Nancy Mannix, chair and patron of the Palix Foundation and the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative.

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Carillion’s demise spurs call for action against Big Four

MPs have said the stranglehold of the big four accountancy firms on the audit market needs to be broken.

Business and Work and Pensions Committees. say the competition regulator should look at breaking them up to prevent another situation like Carillion which collapsed months after accountants KPMG signed off its books.

But what impact might such a massive shake up have?

What have MPs proposed?

The committees want the government to refer the accountancy market to the competition regulator to investigate two possibilities. The first is breaking up KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC into smaller companies.

The second possibility is that the big four “detach” the audit part of the business which checks companies’ books, from consultancy part that offers advice.

The committees say this is needed because there is an inherent conflict of interest in having the two under one roof.

An auditing firm has an incentive to not highlight problems at a firm it is extracting juicy consultancy fees from. Non-audit work now makes up £4 in every £5 of fees for the big four.

Why have MPs proposed this?

The committees put forward the first, more radical, proposition because they say there is not enough competition in the audit market. The four firms sign off the accounts of 97 per cent of the UK’s 350 largest listed companies.

Firms over a certain size have to be audited and the largest of those companies have little choice but to employ one of the big four accountants to carry it out. No other accountancy firms have the manpower and other resources to be able to do the job.

This often results in “cozy” relationships like the one between Carillion and KPMG, which had audited the collapsed construction firm’s accounts for 19 years and failed to highlight serious problems.

What would happen if they are split up into smaller firms?

One possibility is that two or more smaller accountancy firms jointly audit large companies. France has this system and it has helped maintain a more competitive market than in the UK. The accountants produce a joint audit report and cross-check each others work, potentially making it more reliable. Both firms are then liable for the contents of the report.

Andrew Oury, partner at law and accounting firm Oury Clark says there “is some truth that ‘size matters’ but the cosy relationship needs disrupting”.

“Part of the solution could be an independent appointment from a wider pool of auditors for public interest entities – however those are defined.”

What would happen if audit and consultancy departments were split?

Accountancy firms would need to think of a new business model. Lower-level staff at the big four firms currently carry out a large volume of audit work. The job is inherently boring but the bargain is that new recruits slog their way through and eventually work their way up to more interesting and lucrative work. They also get their fees paid for professional exams.

If audit had to be hived off into a separate company the job would arguably be less attractive to talented graduates. However, it would at least mean that the employees carrying out audits are doing so because they want to rather than as a stepping stone to something else.

The most obvious positive is that auditors would clearly be working for shareholders of companies they audit, not the managers of those companies. This is, of course, the role that auditors are supposed to have been playing all along.

Is this a good idea?

It certainly has a lot of support. The Carillion disaster is merely a particularly high-profile example among many cases of auditors apparently failing in their duties. Apart from the two committees of MPs, the head of the accountancy watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, also said recently it was time to break up the big four.

Sacha Romanovitch, the chief executive of the fifth-largest accountancy, Grant Thornton, has called for the CMA needs to investigate the sector. His firm stopped bidding to audit FTSE 350 companies recently, saying it was too expensive to do so.

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The best consulting firms for Healthcare, Pharma and Life Sciences

The healthcare consultancy industry comprises of a handful of global firms and huge array of small/boutique to medium size firms that specialise exclusively in this area focusing their efforts across the whole value chain, from R&D to product launch, whilst others may focus on a specific portion of the lifecycle.

As the National Health Service continues to seek out savings opportunities while the government remains reluctant to up spending on the institution and, as health insurance and pharmaceutical costs threaten to spike in the near future, consulting firms are in demand in both the private and public sector to help the health industry negotiate the issues of the day. Now, a new survey conducted by professional services firm IgeaHub has revealed which consulting companies are considered the best in the healthcare space.

Following a large polling process among life science and healthcare industry executives, researchers, investors, health policymakers and patient advocates in 2017, the researchers found that QuintilesIMS – recently rebranded as IQVIA – McKinsey & Company, ZS Associates, Accenture and Deloitte provide the best consultancy services in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals landscape.

The best consulting firms for Healthcare, Pharma and Life Sciences

American multinational IQVIA, formerly QuintilesIMS, works to serve the combined industries of health information technologies and clinical research. The firm, which rebranded in November 2017, boasts approximately 55,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Last summer, the firm entered into a strategic collaboration with the NHS Cancer Vanguard, with a view to contributing its anonymous patient level, real world data on drug usage treatment costs and outcomes, in order to extend the capabilities of the national body.

Second placed McKinsey & Company and fifth placed Deloitte were both recently named top healthcare consultancies for the UK by Statista and the Financial Times. McKinsey reportedly struck a lucrative deal with NHS Improvement for a new partnership to “develop our internal organisational development work”, and to clarify NHS Improvement’s “purpose and operating model” – according to the Health Service Journal. Deloitte was meanwhile a recipient of several accolades at the most recent HealthInvestor awards.

Professional services firm Zs ranked third. The company’s Medical Products and Services practice provides a wide range of sales and marketing consulting, outsourcing and technology offerings to medical device and diagnostics companies as well as those specialising in medical supplies, equipment, distribution and healthcare services. The firm counts household healthcare names such as Astra-Zeneca, Bayer, GE Healthcare and Pfizer among its clients. Multifaceted IT and advisory firm Accenture meanwhile positioned fourth. Accenture recently published research suggesting that by making the overall healthcare industry more efficient, artificial intelligence applications could create $150 billion in annual healthcare savings in the US by 2026.

Rounding off the top ten, BCG – which appointed a new Associate Director for its Healthcare practice in the form of Chris Bergstrom – Clearview, Navigant, PwC, the Advisory Board Company all ranked highly among healthcare executives. Founded in 2007, ClearView Healthcare Partners is a global strategy consulting firm serving the life sciences sector, while Navigant has been working to expand its health offering over a number of years – including the acquisition of services provider Revenuemed. Big Four firm PwC has one of the largest healthcare networks advising clients – including policy makers, healthcare providers, payers and health sciences – to meet the challenges of addressing value, new entrants and new global markets, while the Advisory Board Company recently sold its healthcare assets to Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group, in a deal worth $1.3 billion including debt.

Rounding off the 20 firms named by IgeaHub, Big Four member EY ranked 11th; with Huron, which recently acquired HSM Consulting, L.E.K. Consulting, which recently boosted its healthcare wing with three new senior staff; international strategy firm Bain & Company, and global management consultancy FTI Consulting. Concluding the list were Chicago-based The Chartis Group, life-sciences and health strategy specialist Health Advances and Kaiser Associates, a boutique strategy consulting firm based in Washington DC and London, as well as Marsh McLennan Companies subsidiaries Mercer and Oliver Wyman.

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The Impact of Dubai Fires: What Every Landlord & Tenant Needs to Know

The recent Zen Tower fire in Dubai Marina is the just the latest in a spate of high profile tower fires to sweep the city in recent years – Tamweel Tower in JLT in November 2012, the ironically named Torch Tower in Marina in February 2015 and once more in August 2017, Address Hotel on New Year’s Eve 2015, Sulafa Tower in July 2016, and Almas Tower in April 2018: to name but a few. Thankfully, as with the preceding fires, yesterday’s Zen Tower fire resulted in zero casualties – a testament to the skill and efficiency of the UAE Civil Defence. However, the severity of such fires and their impact on residents should not be underestimated.

What Causes Such Fires?

While the combustion of high-rise buildings in the UAE seems to be common, the cause does not. In the case of the 2012 fire in JLT’s Tamweel Tower, it is believed that a carelessly disposed of cigarette caused the tower to catch fire. The infamous New Year’s Eve fire at the Address hotel was caused by an electrical short circuit. The cause of the Zen Tower blaze has yet to be determined.

Although the cause of the fires differs, the rapid spread of the blaze in each instance can be credited to the use of flammable aluminum cladding on the exterior of each building. It is estimated that at least 70% of buildings in Dubai constructed before the year 2009 are cladded with this non-fire resistant material. Following an update to the 2011 Fire and Life Safety Code, all buildings over 15 meters tall are required to be fire resistant aluminum cladding. However, the issue here is that the code is not applied retrospectively and existing towers will only have to comply with the new cladding regulations when the buildings are due for maintenance.

What is the position of a building’s residents in the event of fire?

In the event of a tower fire, the responsibilities of the property owner and the property developer are generally not understood very well by tenant; tenants often expect to be covered by the insurance policy held by either the property owner or developer which is unfortunately not the case. Generally, the property developer and the owner’s association are responsible for the areas in the property over which they maintain control, such as public areas – this does not extend to the tenants actual living space nor their personal possessions. Therefore, to obtain adequate cover, a tenant needs to take out his own individual insurance policy. If a tenant fails to do so, in the event of a fire, storm or flood they will have to bear the costs for any incurred damages themselves.

The UAE Civil Transaction Law, issued by way of Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 (“Civil Code”) regulates fire insurance coverage and the duties and liabilities of the insurance provider. According to the law, the insurer shall cover all damages caused by the fire notwithstanding the reason of the fire, provided that the damages are a direct result of the fire and have not been caused by deliberate or fraudulent actions of the insured or the beneficiary. The scope of insurance and therefore the compensation will vary, depending on the policy and the insurance company.

In the event of a fire that renders a building uninhabitable, the tenant may seek to terminate their lease agreement. Usually, lease agreements are cancelled by mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant or by order of court. The first step towards cancellation is to establish whether the tenant’s situation falls within the scope of the provisions of the Civil Code. If so, the next step will be to address a letter to the landlord detailing the situation, the grounds for the cancellation and the date of the loss of enjoyment, and requesting the return of all postdated cheques and the refund of prepaid rent from the appropriate date as determined by the Civil Code as well as any deposit. If the landlord agrees to the cancellation, confirmation should be obtained in writing and preferably signed by both landlord and tenant.

If the landlord refuses to comply with a request for cancellation, the tenant has the option to file a complaint with the Dubai Rental Committee which shall include a request for the landlord to pay the costs incurred by the tenant and the costs of the proceedings.

How Will Such Fires Impact on Residents’ Insurance Premiums?

As residents become increasingly aware of the risk of fire in Dubai’s high rise towers, we can expect to witness an increased demand for insurance cover. Despite the introduction of the Fire Safety and Life Protection code, many buildings throughout the city remain cladded with flammable material and are equipped with inadequate fire safety measures – meaning that the fire in Zen Tower is unlikely to be the last of its kind. Therefore, the need for tenants to obtain insurance cover is imperative. Underwriters have already begun to take note of the increased risk and have adjusted their rates accordingly.

Conclusion.

If a tenant does not have sufficient insurance cover, there is a high probability that he will be responsible for covering the costs for all damages. In addition, a situation may arise where a tenant has to pay for a new apartment, while still having a financial obligation to continuing to pay rent pending lease cancellation. It is always advisable to get advice from a lawyer in order to proceed with the situation efficiently and on legally safe ground.

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Lykke Creates Investment and Advisory Spinoff BVV

Swiss fintech group Lykke on Friday launched a spin-off company, Blockchain Valley Ventures (BVV), which will operate as a venture capital investor and accelerator in addition to providing advisory services for blockchain enabled businesses and exchange listing.

Based in Zug, Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’, BVV said its partners include Heinrich Zetlmayer, former Vice President and Country Leader of IBM Global Business Services in Switzerland and Oliver Bussmann, former UBS and SAP Group CIO.

According to a statement, the company will make capital investments through its own funds and vehicles, such as the “Blockchain Investment Opportunities Note”, in cooperation with Swiss asset management company Vicenda, a boutique firm with a focus on private debt investing. Other services will focus on business, financial, initial coin offering (ICO), and marketing support until projects have reached critical size and can operate independently. Additionally BVV will assist in token technology design and creation, and implementation of Lykke’s Open Source Technology.

According to the company’s statement, BVV’s hybrid funding model combines traditional venture capital with ICO’s. This will optimize the capital-raising of BVV portfolio companies but also accelerate growth and business development, offering significant benefits to conventional investment, the company said.

BVV, supported by Lykke, will give portfolio companies assistance and advice in launching and scaling blockchain-enabled businesses. By collaborating with partner companies, BVV said it will be an integral part of their respective business models, resulting in an ecosystem of promising blockchain-based projects, which maximizes each partner’s success potential.

“As ICOs have become the new normal, it is no longer necessary to wait until you have accumulated significant revenue to make your dreams into reality,” said Richard Olsen, Founder and CEO of Lykke Corporation, in the statement. “However, many would-be token-issuers need guidance which is neutral, independent, and unbiased. BVV provides this quality support, offering the necessary advice and assistance so that inspired businesses may fully recognize their potential.”

“Blockchain technology has already shown itself to be a highly disruptive force across all manners of the industry – from supply chain management to e-commerce, and fintech,” stated Heinrich Zetlmayer, BVV General Partner. “Our long-term vision is to develop BVV into a leading management holding in the crypto space, offering assistance to projects we believe have real potential to have lasting effects on industries primed for disruption.”