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European Edition
22nd September 2021
Artificial intelligence is a key challenge for Germany
Deutsche Welle reports on what Germany’s next government must do to ensure the successful integration of AI technologies in fields including mobility, health care, Industry 4.0, and environmental sustainability, noting that the country will need to become more attractive to international AI talent. In 2019, more than half of AI job vacancies in Germany could not be filled or were filled late or with less desirable candidates. Deutsche Welle says Germany is already contending with a shortage of skilled labour, and AI expertise is particularly hard to come by.  "Talent is very important both for industry and academia, for both of us," says Antonio Krüger, CEO and director of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), adding "And we need to provide environments that are very attractive to these kinds of people."
Allianz to speed up succession planning amid investor lawsuits
German insurer Allianz is weighing an accelerated succession plan for its management board, including for asset management head Jacqueline Hunt whose contract expires next year, as the company faces several investor lawsuits over its Structured Alpha Funds and related investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Germany's Bafin following the closure of some of its U.S. investment funds last year. The various investigations and lawsuits are centred on Allianz Global Investor's Structured Alpha Funds, which catered to U.S. pension funds for workers including teachers and subway employees. The 25 lawsuits filed by investors claim $6bn in damages, and say the insurer didn’t provide downside protection for market crashes after the funds plunged in response to the pandemic hitting markets. Allianz's lawyers contend the investors were sophisticated and aware of the risks.
Special Report - Future of the Workplace
In a series of special reports, the FT takes a look at the implications of hybrid working and the technology that enables it, and how businesses – including HR executives - can respond.
Are AI-driven algorithms excluding qualified workers?
France 24 speaks with Harvard Business School management professor Joseph Fuller, the author of a report which claims that AI-driven hiring algorithms that sort through applicants are excluding as many as 10 million job candidates in the U.S. from consideration, so increasing the number of so-called "hidden workers." Nearly 75% of U.S. companies rely on some degree of automation to fill vacancies, according to the report, deploying AI-driven software to source candidates and manage the application process or else perform background checks.
FTSE 100 failing on class in drive for diversity
A report from the University of Exeter in the UK reveals that just 12 of Britain’s top 100 companies have made substantial efforts to improve social class diversity in their workforce. Almost half of the UK’s largest companies made no mention of socio-economic background in their diversity strategies or annual reports. Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, said social class was the “forgotten dimension of diversity” and the FTSE 100 had a “long way to go” in taking it seriously. “Rewarding performance over polish is not only morally right, it is good for business,” she said. “Socio-economic diversity guards against groupthink and ensures companies are recruiting from the broadest pool of talent.”
Ireland may never join global tax deal, finance minister says
Irish finance minister Paschal Donohoe has conceded that Ireland may never enter a global corporate tax deal. Ireland has to date declined to sign up to an agreement reached by 132 of 139 negotiating countries, primarily over a proposed minimum corporate tax rate of "at least" 15%. Ireland's corporate tax rate is 12.5%, and it argues that the proposed target lacks certainty. G20 finance ministers are due to meet in mid-October to finalise the agreement reached in July at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “We are not in the agreement. We are in the process,” Mr Donohoe said after a meeting with the EU’s tax commissioner in Dublin. “I remain committed to see whether the process can yield an outcome that Ireland would be willing to consider joining, but equally, I have communicated to my colleagues that where we are at the moment, not being in the agreement is a position that could continue. I am very clear that it is not appropriate for Ireland to be in the agreement now. That may continue to be the case, but equally we are working very hard to see if an agreement is possible that would allow Ireland to join.”
Record high number of job vacancies in Luxembourg
Job vacancies in Luxembourg reached a record high in August, the country's employment agency has said. There were almost 10,000 job openings on file with Agence pour le développement de l'emploi (ADEM) at the end of the month, an increase of nearly 50% from a year ago, the agency said. Nevertheless, long-term joblessness is also at a record, ADEM data show. More than half of all ADEM-registered jobseekers have now been out of work for at least one year - also a record high.
Employees suspended over suspected vaccine certificate fraud
An unspecified number of GGD (municipal health service) employees in the Netherlands have been suspended on suspicion of committing fraud with Covid-19 vaccine certificates. Unvaccinated individuals received proof that they had been given the shot so they could get a coronavirus access pass, umbrella organization GGD GHOR Nederland said. One suspect was arrested, reports.  "Unfortunately, despite all safeguards, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of employees abusing the system they had access to because of their work," GGD GHOR Nederland said. "If a violation is discovered, it can lead to charges and immediate dismissal."
Bosses in Portugal want mandatory tests on unvaccinated workers
The president of the Business Confederation of Portugal wants the Government in Lisbon to create legislation that would oblige unvaccinated workers to be tested for Covid-19. In an interview with Renascença radio station, António Saraiva urged the Government to make the tests mandatory and to be paid for by the workers themselves. “As long as vaccination is not mandatory in legal terms, then at least workers should be required to undergo periodic testing at their own cost,” he argued.
Microsoft offers option to ditch passwords
Microsoft is introducing a "passwordless account" option for users of services such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft OneDrive. Instead of passwords, users can sign in using the company's Authenticator app, which produces a unique numbered login code every few seconds, or with Windows Hello, which lets users sign in using facial recognition, a fingerprint or a unique PIN. Microsoft users can also buy an external security key, like a USB drive with login information stored on it, or register a phone number to which Microsoft sends a verification code.
Facebook rebuffs newspaper’s claims
Facebook says a series of reports in the Wall Street Journal about the company's platform includes "deliberate mischaracterizations" and "conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook's leadership and employees." The newspaper, citing a review of internal company documents, alleged Facebook researchers had identified "the platform's ill effects" but the social media company nevertheless failed to fix them. Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, wrote in a blog post that an allegation that "Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company" was "just plain false." Facebook, Clegg said, takes seriously the "significant responsibility that comes with operating a global platform," but "we fundamentally reject this mischaracterization of our work and impugning of the company's motives."
World Bank cancels business report after investigation
The World Bank has canceled Doing Business, a prominent report rating the business environment of the world’s countries, after an investigation concluded that senior bank management pressured staff to alter data affecting the ranking of China and other nations. Implicated individuals include then-World Bank Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva, now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Doing Business, which looks at taxes, red tape, regulation and other business conditions, is cited by some governments in trying to attract investment. It ranks countries on factors such as how straightforward or burdensome it is to register a business, legally enforce a contract, resolve a bankruptcy, get an electrical connection or obtain construction permits. Chinese officials in 2017 and 2018 were eager to see their ranking improve, and so Mr. Kim and Ms. Georgieva and their staff held a series of meetings to discuss ways that the report’s methodology could be altered to improve China’s rankings, according to the investigative report by the law firm WilmerHale. Ms. Georgieva said she fundamentally disagrees with the findings and interpretations of the report. 
KPMG Australia fined by PCAOB for 'unethical behaviour'
KPMG's Australian unit has been fined $450,000 (A$613,000) by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), after a review found widespread cheating by staff on training tests over a four-year period. The watchdog revealed that more than 1,100 staff, including 250 auditors, at the firm's Australian offices shared answers to pass mandatory training courses on professional independence, auditing and accounting, including tests to maintain accounting licences. KPMG self-reported the training-related misconduct to the PCAOB in February 2020 and began overhauling its policies and procedures. KPMG said in a statement that it had taken disciplinary action against 1,131 people relating (to) testing-related misconduct, including verbal or written cautions and written warnings being communicated to the majority of individuals who were involved. The firm has also confirmed warnings plus remuneration consequences on 46 people. The fine comes amid serious concerns about the quality of Australian auditing standards and the independence of the Big Four.
EU must do more for green investing
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) says that while the European Union is revising its financial regulations to make clearer which activities are sustainable, the changes do not do enough to discourage investments that harm the climate. The EU also needed to cease from funding harmful activities through its own budget expenditure, the auditors said. "None of the funds the EU invests should go to projects that harm the environment," said Eva Lindström, a member of the audit team, adding "Some of these funds are still used for fossil-fuel infrastructure" and advising the commission to apply the 'do no significant harm'-principle to all EU funding. "I acknowledge this is a political challenge, but I believe that is the direction the EU should take," she said.

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