Monaco, Venezuela Placed on Global Money-Laundering Watch List - Kanebridge News
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Monaco, Venezuela Placed on Global Money-Laundering Watch List

The Financial Action Task Force also removed Jamaica and Turkey from the grey list

By MENGQI SUN
Tue, Jul 2, 2024 8:00amGrey Clock 2 min

A global financial watchdog has censored Monaco and Venezuela for not doing enough to strengthen their anti-money-laundering and counterterrorist financing systems.

The Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based intergovernmental body that sets anti-money-laundering law standards, met this week in Singapore and added the two countries to its “grey list” of nations requiring increased monitoring. The FATF said it would work with the two countries to address the deficiencies identified in their anti-money-laundering systems.

The FATF also removed Jamaica and Turkey from the grey list, saying the two nations had made significant progress in improving their anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing regimes.

There has been speculation for some time that Monaco would be added to the gray list, according to news reports earlier this year.

Wealthy people from around the world have in recent years flocked to Monaco, one of the smallest sovereign states, because of its favorable tax policies, forking over millions for luxury rental apartments . Some real-estate agents in Monaco said before Friday’s announcement that they expect little impact on the residential market from the principality being added to the grey list.

The FATF said Monaco has made some improvements to its anti-money-laundering regime since December 2022, including through the establishment of a new combined financial intelligence unit and anti-money-laundering supervisor. But the principality still needs to improve in six areas, including its understanding of the risks related to money laundering and income-tax fraud committed abroad, and its implementation of penalties for violations of anti-money-laundering and beneficial ownership requirements, the FATF said.

For Venezuela, the FATF said the country needs to work on issues such as its investigation and prosecution of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as ensuring its measures to prevent the misuse of nonprofit organizations for terrorism financing aren’t disrupting or discouraging legitimate humanitarian efforts.

Representatives for Monaco’s embassy in Washington and Venezuela’s mission to the United Nations didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FATF’s plenary also ​marked the end of T. Raja Kumar of Singapore as president of the organization. Elisa de Anda Madrazo of Mexico will take over as FATF president on July 1.



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The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.