China’s burgeoning economy has long made it popular with foreign investors, including pension funds. At the end of 2020 two funds, ABP and Pensioenfonds Zorg & Welzijn, had over €31 billion invested in China. But reports of serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang province have posed a dilemma: should the funds focus on their profits, or their reputations? FTM investigated what the Netherlands’ 24 biggest funds are doing in China.
Pfizer earns billions from Covid vaccines purchased by governments. The vaccines have been developed in part thanks to research by universities, and are purchased with taxpayers’ money. But Pfizer prefers to pay as little tax as possible. The company successfully avoids tax authorities via the Netherlands.
Although they knew they were propaganda vessels for the Chinese Communist Party, three Dutch knowledge institutions deliberately acquired a Confucius Institute. A reconstruction made by FTM shows how these institutions risk their academic freedom, hoping to establish a better trade relationship with China.
Football transfers are a shady business. A player is often in the dark whether his agent is indeed representing him in his contract negotiations, or is representing a football club. Unbeknownst to the players, agents earn millions. The players feel betrayed and badly done by, and all parties accuse one another. ‘There’s a lot of smoke in this transaction.’
The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World claims to strive for a ‘smoke-free world’. In reality, founder and financier Philip Morris uses the foundation to influence the scientific debate on new ‘smokeless’ products to promote these emerging products and to prevent their further regulation.
Companies that manufacture heart valves are widely mislabelling their products, which can have major consequences for patients. When a cardiac surgeon from Groningen exposed the problem, he sparked a battle that has raged for years.
After flight MH17 was downed by a Russian missile in 2014, the Netherlands froze diplomatic and trade relations with Russia. At least, to the outside world. Behind the scenes ties were quickly reestablished, which the Dutch government concealed from parliament. The reason: Russian gas.
In recent years, Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders has spent a fortune on legal fees to defend himself against hate speech charges. In September he was eventually convicted of ‘group insult’ for encouraging a group of followers to chant that they wanted fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. But who paid for Wilders’ lawyer? Research by Follow the Money has found that it was a foundation with one director: wealthy American businessman Robert Shillman, who also indirectly backs far-right extremists: the Proud Boys. Wilders violated integrity rules by failing to record Shillman’s donations in the parliamentary register of gifts.
Data website Transfermarkt has become the unofficial appraiser of European top football. Its valuations can be found in annual reports and at the negotiating tables of major clubs. How trustworthy is its data?
Jorge Domecq, former chief executive at the European Defence Agency (EDA), started his new job as lobbyist for defence corporation Airbus before having received the required authorisation from the EU. By doing so, Domecq broke EDA staff rules that are meant to prevent conflicts of interests.
Amrish Baidjoe is one of the few Dutch outbreak experts with broad experience in crisis situations. At the end of July, he and other experts founded a think tank, the Red Team, to advise on alternative strategies for dealing with the pandemic. After it published a report on facemasks last weekend, prime minister Mark Rutte decided that the Outbreak Management Team, which advises the government, should take another look at the issue. Baidjoe is moderately positive about the tighter rules issued by the government yesterday. ‘We’ve reached the stage where we can no longer stop the flow of infections with testing and contact tracing alone,’ he says.
The tax authorities of several countries are chasing Frank Vogel, the Dutch king of the CumEx trade. Claims ranging in the millions of euros are awaiting him in Belgium and Denmark. In Germany, he is a suspect in at least one criminal investigation. A reconstruction of the tumultuous career of a notorious dividend stripper.
‘Most people are decent,’ is the central thesis of Rutger Bregman's new book ‘Humankind: A Hopeful History’. The prominent Dutch historian believes that if we embrace this positive image of humanity, the corona crisis will herald the end of the neoliberal era. Financial economist Thomas Bollen wonders whether this is really true: we talk about solidarity, but in the meantime social inequality is growing.
Twenty-three years ago, BP became the first oil major to explicitly acknowledge the realities of man-made climate change. A recently re-discovered videotape proves that by that time, the company had been well aware of the issue for some 7 years. What comes next?
Washing your hands thoroughly with soap is one of the most effective ways of combating the coronavirus. But what if you don't have access to clean water, a reality for over two billion people worldwide? Follow the Money speaks to Maude Barlow, a Canadian human rights activist who helped ensure that water was recognised as a fundamental right by the UN.
In a Europe without borders, a virus spreads more easily than elsewhere. Although the EU has acknowledged this fact on several occasions, member states do not want to relinquish their sovereignty in the field of public health. The EU agency established after SARS is but a shadow of its American counterpart.
Dutch citizens have been asked to show solidarity with southern Europe. But Italy is not the only one needing help. If citizens do not provide financial support, the European banking sector is at risk of going under – again.
Pharmaceutical company Roche announced Friday afternoon that it will release the recipe for its lysis buffer if Dutch laboratories ask for it. Earlier today Follow the Money revealed that the European Commission was exploring options for an intervention in pharmaceutical company Roche, instigated by the possible abuse by Roche of its position of power on the coronavirus test market. Below you find the article that prompted Roche to release its recipe.
The Dutch policy of limited testing for the coronavirus is largely caused by a shortage of laboratory supplies. Pharmaceutical company Roche dominates the market for lab materials and currently supplies a mere 30 per cent of the Dutch orders. Roche holds the key to the storage cabinet and has as of yet kept the recipe which could help overcome certain shortages under its hat.
The personal archives of prominent Dutch climate denier Frits Böttcher (who died in 2008) reveal that he received over a million guilders – close to half a million in euros – from Shell and other Dutch multinationals during the 1990s. The explicit objective: to question human responsibility for global warming.
At the end of 2005, the FIOD - the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service - was well aware that a Fortis division was engaged in dividend stripping. This type of trade with dividend has seriously disadvantaged tax authorities in a number of countries; the damage amounts to billions of euros. However, the FIOD did not share this information with sister services abroad, which therefore remained ignorant of the fact that their systems were susceptible to this type of fraud as well. It was not until 2013 that the CumEx scandal broke out in Germany.
Few banks committed the CumEx fraud as fanatically as state bank ABN Amro did. Since 2006, the Ministry of Finance had detailed knowledge of this. However, even after the Ministry became the owner of ABN Amro in 2008, the bank knowingly remained involved in transactions that seriously affected tax authorities. The Ministry did not share the knowledge of this fraud with the Minister and did not interfere with the CumEx trading.
What exactly is shared in the 'Uber economy'? Certainly not wealth, that ends up in the pockets of the Ubers and Airbnb's of this new world and those of owners, not with the service providers themselves, says political economist Daniel Mügge. 'Flexible outsourcing accentuates inequality, and inequality is a drag on growth'.