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The first time I heard the term clawback was during a graduate course on corporate finance. The lecturer was saying that shareholders have the right to clawback bonuses paid to company CEOs if the latter did not deliver, or mis-delivered. That was back in the 1980s. Although most of today’s definitions and use of the term clawback have to do with taking money back from someone who is deemed to have received it without merit, the interplay between information technology and social media has added new meaning and applications to this concept. Someone once said if your story is not on screen these days it does not exist. It is a bit of an exaggeration because books will always be there, and if you have any doubts about this take a look at Naisbitt’s High Tech High Touch. So yes, it is a bit of an exaggeration that is meant to emphasize a point: to give your story more reach, more power, more traction, more oomph, you do need to put it on screen. It may be the sliver screen, a television screen, the screen of a laptop, or the screen of any handheld device. Western history is constantly being told and retold on screen. In the East, China and Japan joined this trend. In the Middle East, Turkey started putting its Ottoman history on screen some years ago, with several television series produced in a manner similar to Game of Thrones. Arabs attempted something similar a couple of decades ago with movies about Muhammad and Omar al-Mukhtar, both high quality epics, with Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas in lead roles. The abundance of information technology and social media infrastructure creates its own demand for content - all kinds of content: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Content that can be accessed at low cost, from anywhere. And one use for content created for today’s media is to right an historic wrong. Putting an historic wrong on screen catalyzes action for an acknowledgment of the fact that it did take place, and for it not to happen again. This is familiar content but it has been limited to a few subjects. The increasing universality of a set of acknowledged human rights, advances in technology related to content production, ease of access to social media outlets to transmit content, and the increasing availability of funding for content production (crowdfunding is but one example) will enable the wronged to seek justice, gradually and in phases. Once an historic wrong is on screen, it acquires intrinsic power - it lays down moral markers and self propagates. History has been written by the victors but is also in the eyes of the beholders. Today’s information technology and social media enable the defeated, the crushed, and the wronged to tell their side of the story. The are increasingly doing so and in process are gathering adherents and supporters. The wronged will gradually translate this support into legal action to regain their moral and material rights. Laying the past to rest does not mean burying it in unmarked or misnamed graves. With the help of today’s information technology and social media, the wronged will be clawing back their moral and material rights, in the courts of public opinion and in courts of law.
Jun 21, 2022 · 3 min read
Cancel Culture and Risk Management
The Slow Disappearance of Ashtal Petty He likened his current state of being to a large lump of sugar being dumped in a glass of Turkish (or Arabic) tea. The lump would slowly descend, breaking into its constituent granules as it hit bottom. Then regress into a thick lurking goo, translucent yet visible amongst the waddles of dark reddish colours, soon to melt away into oblivion. He could not say precisely when he started feeling this way, or when he first became aware of it; the realization kind of crept on him and rubbed him the wrong way. Ashtal Petty did not suffer fools gladly and that included himself. It was time for a serious talk with his therapist - me. I was rather struck with the cultural metaphor he chose to describe himself. A drink of the Orient, drunk during winter and summer, all year round, really, at the same temperature and in the same manner, day in and day out. A display of consistency in a region that is exhibiting anything but these days. Perhaps it was time to ask Ashtal Petty about his roots; where his family originally came from, what religion he practiced, what language his parents or grandparents spoke at home. That might give clues as to whether there is a hidden issue he is struggling with that is causing what I took to be a feeling of alienation. Pushed away, ignored, neglected by our nearest and dearest, by our friends, by our neighbors, by our acquaintances, we begin to feel as if we are lost in a forest. And, as Anthony Hopkins said in The Edge, when we are lost in a forest, we die of shame. A few sessions later, Ashtal Petty volunteered that he did not vote in the last election. It was unusual for him to bring up politics during our sessions. He normally talks about his two failed marriages, current girlfriends, his job in the City, colleagues at work. Relationship stuff. Talking about politics - well, that would take us into new territory; the kind I was not looking forward to trespassing. I voted for Brexit. Yes, me. A London-living professional; a psychologist with half my patients from other countries. I’ve been trying to understand my vote, since then. Or rather, arrive at a better understanding of why I voted to Leave. I’ve even taken up to meeting with a fellow therapist in the hope that our talks would help shed light on what drove me to disengage. Last week’s session with Ashtal Petty turned out to be our last. He told me of his intention to seek another therapist. That he felt suffocated in my office. That I was not paying enough attention to his answers to my questions. That I was increasingly distracted. That during our last few meetings he thought I looked through him as if he was not there. At his request, I gave Ashtal the names of two therapists I thought could do good work with him. Not too far from my office. I had made up my mind the day before our last session: no matter what, I’m not going to work with him on political issues. I don’t want to talk about our colonial history. What we did in India or in the Middle East. What the French did in Algeria, or the Italians in Libya, or the Germans in Africa. We’re done apologising for all that. I just want my country back.
Jun 14, 2022 · 3 min read
The Role of Specialized Markets in Facilitating SME Access to Finance
In addition to venture capital and private equity funding, and as both alternative and facilitator of such funding, setting up specialized SME stock markets would serve frontier and emerging market economies well. Such specialized market segments enable Startups and SMEs to issue and list securities to raise growth capital, thus providing companies with an additional route to raise finance. These exchanges also provide additional exit options for investors, encouraging VC and PE funds to invest in SMEs. SME stock markets differ from regular exchanges in important ways: • SME stock markets are not so much about the trading of listed securities but rather the ability of SMEs to list securities to raise growth and expansion capital. • SME stock markets tend to underemphasize traditional listing requirements typically required by standard exchanges, such as a large minimum capital for the listed company and a minimum track record of profitability, and instead focus on strict disclosure and corporate governance requirements for listed SMEs. • SME stock markets play an important role in connecting and networking SMEs looking for expansion capital with VCs, PEs, Family Offices, and High Net Worth Individuals looking for seed, early stage, and expansion investment opportunities. • SME stock markets function as stepping stones for SMEs to grow and eventually list on the Main Boards (standard exchanges), should they choose to. • SME stock markets tend to be “uncorrelated” to the standard exchanges of their home countries and, as such, provide compelling investment opportunities to both retail and institutional investors for hedging purposes. • Due to the sectors they tend to focus on (e.g. technology or technology enabled and new economy sectors), SME stock markets play an important role in attracting regional and international FDI and Portfolio Investments into Frontier and Emerging Markets. An SME stock market could be set up as an additional segment to an existing stock exchange or as a standalone operation. It can be housed within a special economic zone or financial center, helping such centers and special zones realize their full potential by becoming vibrant hubs of business activity. Setting up a specialized SME stock market should be undertaken in partnership with a recognized international exchange, with the latter contributing: 1) the technology 2) the business model, and 3) the brand. It is worthwhile to note that SME stock markets have been launched in several Arab countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai. Superimposing a technological solution to connect these markets to create one regional or quasi regional Middle East SME market with multiple entry points and a harmonized set of listing, disclosure and corporate governance rules would increase the size of the liquidity pool available to Middle East SMEs to raise funds from and facilitate mergers and acquisitions across geographies and the creation of regional heroes.
Jun 7, 2022 · 3 min read
From A Long Conversation With Myself
It was not long before he was born He managed to convince you That your skin is fairest That your blood is purest That your language is divine That your land is holy That your presence is God’s will And God said I want nothing to do with this He clawed you back into a deep well From which no light escaped Its waters rancid Its air rank The darkness that was before Everything came to be And the Devil said this has nothing to do with me Afterwards, he sat on a porch In a wooden chair With a smirk on his face Watching you walk down the street Dazed and confused …
May 31, 2022 · 1 min read
Anna Netrebko and Abraham's Foot
It was a balmy May afternoon a few years ago and I was in a minicab heading from North London to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Anna Netrebko was doing Mimi, and although her Musetta’s Waltz is one of my favourites (her encore of the aria at the Waldbuhne a few years ago when she ditched the microphone, singing at the top of her voice to more than 30,000 people was an operatic highlight), it was not to be that summer. Still, one simply did not miss Ms Netrebko at the ROH if one were in London! I am a fan of Puccini and thoroughly enjoyed that evening, with champagne cocktails at the Aldwych preceding, the ROH’s great cuisine during breaks, and, well, La Boheme is a masterpiece. However, when I got back home, I found myself reminiscing not about Mimi, Marcello, and Musetta but about Abraham’s foot. That’s right; Abraham of yonder. Minicabs are a peculiar London detail. They predate Uber, compete with black cabs, and continue to rival both. And North London is full of mini cabs you’d wonder how people would get around without them. Little did I know, getting into my mini cab that afternoon, that a different kind of coup de theatre awaited me. My minicab driver had that generic London look; he could have been Jewish, Arab, Spanish, Greek, Scottish, French, you name it. He turned out to be an Iranian Zoroastrian, having supplied that detail after he inquired of me “where do you come from?” Jordan, I said, and the minicab driver complemented King Abdullah II on his stewardship in a turbulent region. He then asked if I knew what Zoroastrian is and I said yes, volunteering the details that came to mind. My driver then emphasised how old Zoroastrianism is, compared to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To illustrate, he used the story of Noah’s flood, saying that the events are mentioned in Zoroastrianism’s holy book, which is at least 20,000 years old - so the flood could not have happened some 5000 years ago as “your books say.” I was both glad and intrigued by what he said. Glad that a London minicab driver had enough common sense to realise that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam do share the same foundations, and said as much. I mentioned to him that a famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell, thought that the three religions were basically one religion explained over time to different people through different metaphors and parables. My minicab driver did not seem to quite grasp what Campbell was trying to say but he did start talking about Noah and his ark. He said that Noah lived till he was 900 years old and that he was a giant. How else could he have built an ark to house all those animals. In those days, my mini cab driver said, there were giants living on earth as well as normal people. I “hmmm-ed” and nodded briefly, turning my head to look outside the car window to my right and avoid his piercing eyes reflected in the rearview mirror. Having sensed a certain doubt on my part, my minicab driver went on: When God created Adam and Eve, Eve laid with both Adam and the Devil, and she begat two races, the giants, who were the Devil’s descendants and were superior physically, mentally, and in every other way, and the normal humans who were Adam’s descendants and were, well, mediocre in every way. Noah and his ilk were descendants of giants, my minicab driver informed; how else could they conceive of and build such a thing as the ark. He said that giants continue to live amongst us today. They control the world, politics, banks, big companies. Giants make all the discoveries in science. They took us to the moon. Giants are the ones who built this car. My minicab driver then said: You are probably asking yourself why you do not see giants walking the streets these days. That’s because over so many years they intermarried with normal humans, so their physical shape became the same as ours but everything else is still giant quality, including how smart they are. Even this Abraham of yours, he was a giant. Really? I said. Yes, he said. Abraham would not fit in this here mini cab; you would need to get him a double decker red bus, like that one in front of us! My minicab driver then asked me, in a low voice: Haven’t you seen Abraham’s foot? I said, no, and asked what was that? Aghast, my mini cab driver informed me that there is a slab of stone in Mecca with a print of Abraham’s foot on it, preserved till today, and that the footprint is more than half a meter in length. If that was the size of Abraham’s foot, my minicab driver said, how big and tall do you think he was?
May 24, 2022 · 5 min read