Americas

Qatar- Islamic finance making inroads into the #US

Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.

Massive gold-backed #ETF certified as sharia compliant

US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.

Azzad joins coalition asking CEOs to oppose Pres. Trump's refugee and immigrant ban

Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.

Charles Haresnape to leave Aldermore

Charles Haresnape, Aldermore’s group managing director of mortgages, is leaving the real estate company after six years. Haresnape will be joining shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank as chief executive. An Aldermore spokeswoman confirmed that Haresnape was leaving and said he had been instrumental to the growth of the company's mortgage business. She added that Charles Haresnape would remain in the business whilst Aldermore searched for his replacement.

Trump policies, higher rates may spark emerging market #debt crisis

US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.

Goldmoney Inc. Announces Compliance with Shariah Standard on #Gold

Goldmoney announced that Goldmoney Network Accounts and Wealth Holdings have been endorsed as Shariah-compliant by the Shariah Supervisory Board of Amanie Advisors. Islamic investors can now instantly purchase, save, and transact in gold globally on the Goldmoney platform. Goldmoney's chief strategy officer Josh Crumb said that the company's platform democratizes access to 100% reserved and allocated gold-based savings, payments, and investment solutions. CEO Roy Sebag stated that compliance with Shariah law was an important step in the company's growth, enabling Goldmoney to expand its offerings to the Islamic market.

#Iran, #Venezuela launch joint development bank

Iran and Venezuela inaugurated a joint bank to finance their development projects. The opening ceremony took place in Tehran during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Tehran based Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank has an initial capital base of 200 million dollars, with each nation providing half of the funds. The Export Development Bank of Iran, which is under sanctions from the US Treasury, was tasked with creating the joint bank. The joint bank will work within Iran’s banking regulations and its activities will be overseen by the Islamic republic’s Central Bank. The board of directors comprises four Iranians and four Venezuelans. A joint investment fund will also be launched in Venezuela.

US Senator refutes fake press release targeting Kuveyt-Turk bank

An unknown group of people have purposefully leaked new allegations surrounding the Turkey-based bank Kuveyt-Turk. A press release published on Nov. 19 claimed that US Senator Dick Durbin would hold hearings to investigate two key banking institutions in Kuwait and whether they helped fund terrorism. The press release read that Durbin would target Kuwait Finance House and its subsidiary in Turkey, the Kuveyt-Turk participation bank. A spokesman at Senator Durbin's office flatly denied the report and said it was completely false. The fake report has surfaced amidst an ongoing court case in California against the two banks on the terror funding charges. Kuveyt-Turk's lawyers dismissed the charges by saying the allegations have no merit because banks are not responsible for the allegations. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the allegations over Kuveyt-Turk and Kuwait Finance House were proof of Western double standards.

Gassner's picture

Are Contract for Differences #CFD / #Binary Options halal? Well, no. Why?

Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.

The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.

Faith-Based Investor Group Calls for Drugmakers to Be Transparent on Pricing

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) are asking 17 American drug companies to be more transparent about when and why they raise prices. The investors say rising costs are putting prescription drugs out of reach for many patients. The ICCR hopes the proposals are listed in company proxy statements and put to shareholder votes at annual meetings in spring 2017. Some state legislatures have already introduced bills requiring companies to justify price increases. ICCR member Catherine Rowan hopes they get enough votes to prod companies to adopt pricing-transparency policies. She added that congressional committees have called some pharmaceutical chief executives to testify and the legislative pressures are going to persist.

#Bahrain's Ibdar Bank buys $78M prime #housing complex in Maryland, US

Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has announced the acquisition of a $78-million multi-family housing property at Montgomery county in Maryland, USA. The area boasts the third-largest commercial downtown in the USA, being home to the headquarters of the White House, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Ahmed Al Rayes, acting chief executive of Ibdar Bank, said the acquisition was the Bank's first successful foray into the USA and was aligned with the Bank’s strategy to diversify its international real estate portfolio. Bassam Kameshki, the director of Real Estate at Ibdar, said the Bank has selected a straight forward asset class in a strategic location. The investment holding period will be up to 5 years. Besides real estate, Ibdar Bank is also engaged in private equity, capital markets and investment advisory activities.

Islamic Development Bank may help fund #Guyana’s #housing drive

A visiting team from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) met Guyana's officials from the Ministry of Communities and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) on Friday. Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said the government recognises housing as a major public policy issue. He disclosed that the initial focus is the construction of 5,000 apartment units as part of medium terms plans to deliver 10,000 units to eligible Guyanese. He expressed optimism that components of the housing program will be included in Guyana’s eventual submission to the IsDB. IsDB's Director of Country Programs Department, Mohammad Alsaati, said that the bank was seeking for specific projects that can be undertaken in the near future and will work with the local stakeholders to develop worthwhile business opportunities.

The World Bank-IFSB High-Level Seminar on Islamic Finance Attracts Large and Enthusiastic Audience

More than 100 participants participated in the World Bank-Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) High-Level Seminar on Islamic Finance and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on October 6. The Seminar was highlighted by a keynote address by his Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Emir stressed the potential of Islamic finance to mobilise much needed capital to achieve the SDGs. Ms. Arunma Oteh, the Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank, similarly stressed the importance of Islamic finance as an agent for financial inclusion and for mobilising private investment in infrastructure. The panel discussion examined how countries are increasingly using Islamic finance to support developmental goals, and innovative sukuk structures supporting both physical and social infrastructure.

Religious investors lose faith in Wells Fargo after scandal

A group of nuns and other religiously-affiliated investors have lost faith in Wells Fargo and filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to report on a fake accounts scandal that led to a $190 million settlement. The bank employees opened as many as 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without the customers' permission in order to meet sales quotas. The San Francisco-based bank said it would provide more specifics on areas like its risk controls, but that did not happen. Wells Fargo's board has taken some steps since the settlement to address concerns, but the religious shareholders now say they need more changes. For instance another resolution filed by the Unitarian Universalist Association calls on Wells Fargo's board to study how to connect executive pay with ethical conduct.

#Suriname grants licence to first Islamic bank in Western Hemisphere

The Central Bank of Suriname has granted the Trust Bank a licence to commence Islamic banking. Trust Bank plans to be in operation by the first quarter of 2017. A year ago, Trust Bank signed an advisory services agreement with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), to support its conversion into Islamic compliant operations. CEO of Trust Bank, Maureen Badjoeri said that Trust Bank wants to facilitate SMEs in more ways than just financially. With this approach, SMEs will be able to start-up or expand production of goods and services with a spin-off in job creation, trade, export and adding to GDP growth. With the Trust Bank closer to reality, Suriname may emerge as a hub for Islamic banking and finance in the region.

Elizabeth Warren wants feds to answer for lack of Wall Street prosecutions

Elizabeth Warren wants the FBI and Justice Department to explain why no bankers were prosecuted for the 2008 financial crisis. She wants the agencies to explain why they didn't act on the recommendations from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to prosecute top Wall Street executives. The commission was charged with investigating the cause of the 2008 financial meltdown. Warren said the commission recommended actions against 14 Wall Street firms including Citi, Fannie, Merrill and AIG, as well as Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, UBS, Societe General, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Moody's, Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers. Some of those firms reached civil settlements with authorities, but none faced criminal charges.

Gassner's picture

Equity finance in form of Merchant Banking in the US under pressure

In the New York Times Deal Book, Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon writes about new steps to disapprove merchant banking by the FED to reduce risk but at high cost. From an Islamic point of view, it just looks like another door for equity investments by the banking sector is about to be shut down, while the contrary makes sense in times of an ongoing debt crisis.

Professor Solomon defines Merchant Banking as ""simply the practice of buying operating companies. The risk to a bank holding company is twofold. First, the bank could lose its money — as with any investment. Or second, it could be held liable for the debts of that company." Already he outlines that "banks are penalized for these investments by having a charge applied to their allowable capital. Second, the bank must sell the investment within 10 years, a period that can be extended by application to 15 years. These investments are monitored heavily these days to ensure they are not unduly risky."

Guidance Residential Hits $4 Billion Milestone in Delivering Islamic #HomeFinancing

Guidance Residential announced that it has reached the $4 Billion milestone in home financing. This $4 Billion threshold is more than the cumulative production of all other providers in the market. Guidance Residential has helped approximately eighteen thousand families to date, buy or refinance their homes. The company has grown into the largest Islamic finance employer in the United States. The workforce is diverse, 20% of the employees are Muslim Americans. Guidance Residential offers home financing products and services for Muslim Americans through their Shariah-compliant, Declining Balance Co-ownership Program.

Creativity Counts: New Approaches Help Religious Borrowers

As religious borrowers are not able to pay interest lenders have found alternatives to help them purchase and keep home. American Finance House LARIBA has worked to finance and refinance non-interest or riba free (RF) faith-based mortgages since 1987. These RF programs consist of the bank first determining whether the value of the property accurately reflects the value of other home prices in the area. LARIBA's finance model is based on renting properties, not money, then it invests in the property by lowering the market monthly rent to make the monthly payment competitive with other banks. LARIBA creates a lien with the customer that will progressively apply rent payments to ownership of the property.

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