TIME commodities

Gold Prices Down After Swiss Voters Nix Gold Measure

Stacks of gold bars
Mike Groll—AP

In a poor showing for the commodities market, oil prices also reached their lowest levels since June 2009

Gold prices slid downward on Monday after Swiss voters nixed a measure to bump up the nation’s gold reserves, while oil prices also fell to a five-year low as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to maintain crude oil production levels.

The rejected Swiss proposal, defeated by 78% of voters, would have required the Swiss National Bank to more than double its gold reserves, holding at least 20% of its assets in the precious metal, Reuters reports. The measure would have challenged the bank’s policy of capping the Swiss franc at 1.20 per euro.

After the vote, gold at one point fell more than two percent to $1,142.90 per ounce XAU=, while silver prices, which usually mirror gold prices, hit a five-year-low at $14.50 per ounce XAG=.

Meanwhile, oil prices also slumped to $64.10 per barrel after OPEC rejected calls from some member states, including Iran and Venezuela, to tighten crude oil output and vie to keep oil prices from tumbling amidst a flurry of growth in the U.S. shale oil market.

[Reuters]

TIME World War II

Swiss Museum to Accept German Collector’s ‘Nazi Art’ Trove

File picture showing the facade of the Kunsmuseum Bern art museum in Bern
The facade of the Kunsmuseum Bern art museum is seen in the Swiss capital of Bern, on May 7, 2014. Arnd Wiegmann—Reuters

The museum will work with German officials to return pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners

BERLIN — A Swiss museum agreed on Monday to accept a priceless collection of long-hidden art bequeathed to it by German collector Cornelius Gurlitt, but said it will work with German officials to ensure any pieces looted by the Nazis from Jewish owners are returned.

German authorities in 2012 seized 1,280 pieces from Gurlitt’s apartment while investigating a tax case, including works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. Gurlitt died in May, designating Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern as his sole heir.

The museum’s president, Christoph Schaeublin, told reporters in Berlin that the Kunstmuseum Bern had decided to accept the collection after long, difficult deliberations.

“The ultimate aim was to clarify how the Kunstmuseum Bern could meet the responsibilities imposed upon them by the bequest,” Schaeublin said.

Shortly before he died, Gurlitt reached a deal with the German government to check whether hundreds of the works were looted from Jewish owners by the Nazis. Authorities have said that deal is binding on any heirs, and Schaeublin said the museum would undertake extensive research to determine the provenance of the works.

According to an agreement the museum worked out with German authorities, a task force set up by the government will also continue to investigate the background of the art to determine if it was looted, and whom it was looted from.

If no owner can be found for a looted piece, the agreement calls for the work to be exhibited in Germany with an explanation of its origins so the “rightful owners will have the opportunity to submit their claims.”

German officials said all works will remain in Germany until the task force finishes its work. An update on the research is expected “in the course of 2015.”

One of Gurlitt’s cousins has also filed claim, which a Munich court said Monday would have to be sorted out before the collection goes anywhere.

TIME Research

Study Suggests Banking Industry Breeds Dishonesty

Bank industry culture “seems to make [employees] more dishonest,” a study author says

Bank employees are more likely to exhibit dishonesty when discussing their jobs, a new study found.

Researchers out of Switzerland tested employees from several industries during a coin-toss game that offered money if their coins matched researcher’s. According to Reuters, there was “a considerable incentive to cheat” given the maximum pay-off of $200. One hundred and twenty-eight employees from one bank were tested and were found to be generally as honest as everyone else when asked questions about their personal lives prior to flipping the coin, the Associated Press reports. But when they were asked about work before the toss, they were more inclined toward giving false answers, the study determined.

The author of the study says bankers are not any more dishonest than other people, but that the culture of the industry “seems to make them more dishonest.”

The American Bankers Association rebuffed the study’s findings to the AP.

“While this study looks at one bank, America’s 6,000 banks set a very high bar when it comes to the honesty and integrity of their employees. Banks take the fiduciary responsibility they have for their customers very seriously,” the Association said.

[AP]

TIME China

U.N. Panel Claims China Tried to Silence Women’s Rights Activists

Some claimed to have been censored by "state agents"

A United Nations committee on women’s rights accused China on Friday of aiming to silence activists who were scheduled to testify about the government’s human rights record at a conference in Geneva.

Some activists claimed to have been censored by “state agents,” according to Reuters, and at least one wasn’t able to travel to Switzerland based on “travel restrictions.”

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women asked that China “take steps to ensure that in the future no travel restrictions are placed on individuals/human rights defenders,” and also to fight other practices like forced abortions and “infanticide of girls.”

Read more at Reuters

TIME Switzerland

Swiss Retailer Apologizes for Coffee Creamers Featuring Hitler

Other creamers featured Italian dictator Benito Mussolini

A Swiss retailer apologized Wednesday for selling coffee creamers with the likeness of German dictator Adolf Hitler on the label and acknowledged it had withdrawn roughly 2,000 containers from dozens of cafes.

Migros said that the “unforgivable incident” occurred because of an internal failure. A spokesperson, Tristan Cerf, told the New York Times that an outside company had asked a Migros subsidiary, ELSA, to provide it with 55 varieties of coffee cream containers based on vintage cigar labels. Two types featured Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini, Cerf said: “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs — nothing polemic that can pose a problem.”

The scandalous creamers were spotted months after a German furniture chain claimed it unintentionally ordered 5,00 coffee mugs with faint portraits of Hitler on them from a trade fair in China.

MONEY The Economy

WATCH: How Some U.S. Companies Are Dodging Taxes

Major American corporations are reincorporating overseas to avoid paying higher U.S. taxes.

TIME World Cup

The 16 Best Photos From the World Cup’s Round of 16

The celebrations, the heartaches, and the sometimes gravity-defying saves and goals that made this leg of the tournament all pins-and-needles

TIME Switzerland

Swiss Group Will Help Elderly Who Aren’t Terminally Ill Commit Suicide

The group Exit changed its practices to allow patients who are not terminally ill to request assisted suicide

A Swiss assistance suicide organization will now extend its services to elderly people who aren’t terminally ill but simply wish to die as old age advances.

The group Exit added “suicide due to old age” to its list of services at annual meeting over the weekend, the Guardian reports, amid criticism from Swiss doctors. Patients will now have the choice to end their life if suffering from psychological or physical problems associated with age.

The Swiss Medical Association condemned this change, saying it will encourage suicide among the elderly. “We do not support the change of statutes by Exit,” association president Dr Jürg Schlup said. “It gives us cause for concern because it cannot be ruled out that elderly healthy people could come under pressure of taking their own life.”

Exit stood by its decision, saying patients who consider that option had already been looking into assisted suicide for years.

Euthanasia has been legal in Switzerland since 1942 but organizations administering life-ending drugs only gained legal status in the 1980’s. The shift by Exit came shortly after a doctor was acquitted by a Swiss appeals court for administrating life-ending drugs to a 89-year old man without examining him first.

[Guardian]

 

TIME Marriage

This Is How Much The Most Expensive Divorce In History Costs

Rose Ball 2014 In Aid Of The Princess Grace Foundation In Monaco
Dmitry Rybolovlev attends the Rose Ball 2014 in aid of the Princess Grace Foundation at Sporting Monte-Carlo Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev was ordered to pay his ex-wife $4.5 billion by a Swiss court

A Swiss court ordered Russian oligarch and Monaco soccer club owner Dmitry Rybolovlev to pay more than $4.5 billion to his ex-wife Monday.

And if what Rybolovlev’s lawyer’s saying is true, then the soon-to-be-appealed settlement amounts to the most expensive divorce in history.

Lawyers for Rybolovlev’s ex-wife Elena, on the other hand, released a statement that the ruling was a “complete victory.” On top of the settlement money, which amounted to half of Dmitry’s fortune, Elena will receive three different properties—one of which is worth $146 million—and custody of their 13-year-old daughter Anna.

The former couple, both of whom are 47, met in a Russian university and were married in 1987. Divorce proceedings began in 2008. Forbes once estimated Rybolovlev was the 78th richest man on earth thanks to his success in the fertilizer business. He’s now number 147.

Ryobolovlev’s settlement figure puts even other notoriously pricey divorces in the shade. Art dealer Alec Wildenstein paid his ex-wife a $2.5 billion settlement on top of a yearly $100 million sum for 13 years following his 1999 divorce. That same year, Rupert Murdoch reached a settlement with his wife of 31 years, Anna, for $1.7 billion.

[AP]

TIME Earnings

Swiss Voters Reject a $25 Minimum Wage

SWITZERLAND-VOTE-LABOUR-DEFENCE
A man arrives to casts his ballot during a referendum on May 18, 2014 in Bulle, western Switzerland. FABRICE COFFRINI—AFP/Getty Images

The country showed that minimum wage hikes, while generally popular, do have their outer limits

Swiss voters resoundingly rejected a bill on Sunday that would have vaulted the nation’s minimum wage to $25 an hour, the highest wage floor in the world.

The Minimum Wage Initiative, advocated by the Swiss Trades Union Confederation, suffered an overwhelming defeat at the polls, with 76% of Swiss voters opposing the bill. It marks an unusual defeat for a policy that typically polls well the world over.

In the US, 71% of voters back President Barack Obama’s proposal for a minimum wage hike. In Germany, 81% of voters supported a similar proposal from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But the scale of Switzerland’s proposed hike, vaulting it two times ahead of the most generous minimum wage rate in the world ($10.66 an hour, compliments of Luxembourg), clearly had Swiss voters on edge.

Untitled
Source: OECD

The referendum offers an interesting test case of where in the voters’ mind a wage hike leaves the realm of economic reality and soars into Alpine-high levels of wishful thinking. After all, if the Swiss bill became U.S. law tomorrow, it would require instant wage renegotiations for 620 occupations across the country, all of which pay less than $25 an hour on average. A sampling of those occupations is below.

MinWages
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Workers in jobs ranging from flipping burgers to preparing taxes to writing articles like this one would be vaulted up the pay ladder, but would they be able to keep their jobs along the way?

Swiss voters registered their doubts at the polls on Sunday, effectively setting an outer boundary for public debates on wage floors – $10, yes, but $25? Come back down to earth.

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