Wednesday 13 December 2017

The Punt: ECB protester's new-found fame

A protester jumps on the table in front of the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi during a news conference in Frankfurt. Photo: Reuters
A protester jumps on the table in front of the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi during a news conference in Frankfurt. Photo: Reuters

Josephine Witt is terribly pleased with herself.

The 21-year-old philosophy student has been revelling in her new found fame as the smiling protester who jumped on top of the table in front of European Central Bank President Mario Draghi at Thursday's press conference, showered him with confetti while chanting "end the ECB Dick-tatorship."

In an interview with 'The Guardian', Ms Witt said she was surprised at how easy it was for her to gain access.

"I was stunned and surprised at how well it worked out and that I managed to get inside the building at all," she said.

She had registered as a journalist and seems to have fairly easily managed to get past security.

"As we were waiting for the press conference to start I heard some journalists saying, 'These ECB press conferences are usually quite boring,' and I thought to myself: 'Maybe this time it'll be a bit different'," she quipped.

And, for the record, despite Draghi's often-times almost robotic facial expressions, Ms Witt said having seen him close up, she doesn't think he's had much plastic surgery.

Fed head heads on

The former chairman of the US Federal Reserve says he won't be doing "lobbying of any sort" now that he's ensconced in the private sector with a new gig advising financial giant Citadel, a Chicago based hedge fund with around €22bn under management.

Ben Bernanke was in the hot seat at "the Fed" right through the financial crisis, having taken on the job in 2006 and leaving in 2014.

You can see why Citadel would be keen to get his insights into the world we live in.

The move by the former head of what is in reality the United States central bank will inevitably kick start a round of soul searching about the so called revolving door between regulators and policy maker and some of the wealthier institutions they oversee.

In an interview with the 'New York Times' Mr Bernanke pointed out that as a hedge fund Citadel is not actually regulated by the Fed, though that's hardly likely to placate the conspiracy theorists, but he did say he was sensitive to the public perception about the "revolving door."

Why wouldn't he, there's a fair whack of traffic through it.

Crystal Amber eyes Mr Bond

Any Bond flick worth its salt has a gorgeous, usually deadly, female sidekick with a dodgy name.

Christmas Jones, Honey Rider, Tiffany Case, to name a few, and of course, Crystal Amber.

Wait, Crystal Amber?

Well, never a Bond girl, but actually an activist shareholder in Aer Lingus that owns 2.8pc of the airline and was quite vocal at the outset of the IAG approach that the shares were worth much more than IAG had been willing to pay.

Anyway, much more exotic is Crystal Amber's tilt to exert pressure at Pinewood Shepperton, the studio that's traditionally been home to the Bond movies.

Crystal Amber, which was founded by Richard Bernstein, currently has just over a 4pc stake in the film studio business and is now making its second foray into the AIM-listed firm.

Five years ago, Crystal Amber had built up a substantial stake in Pinewood and used it to mount a campaign to oust then chairman Michael Grade.

It didn't succeed and sold off its stake in 2011.

Now it's back.

"There's scope to improve the profitability and efficiency of the business," Mr Bernstein told the Daily Telegraph.

"It's a quality business, it's a quality asset, it's an iconic British brand and we're very eager to re-engage with management."

Irish Independent

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