National / International News
There is a trend in the corporate world right now that’s a little more culturally enriching than say, buying another jet for executives or paying out another CEO bonus.
Some big companies, instead of sponsoring a race team or a football club, are sponsoring artists.
"Now Facebook has a residency, it’s just kind of taken over,” says Elizabeth Segran, who wrote about the phenomenon for Fast Company.
Take Amtrak for example. After a writer noted on Twitter how much writing he gets done on trains, Amtrak gave him a writing residency.
“This was kind of like a large-scale publicity stunt,” Segran says.
Segran points out how Facebook’s artist sponsorship is a little different though. “With Facebook, it’s more of a commissioning process… It’s more of an opportunity to support artists by buying their work.”
But how do the CFOs of these big companies justify the money they’re spending on art programs? Segran says there’s usually a payoff for the corporations too. In the case of software maker Autodesk, “…it allows them to see these very creative people pushing technology to the very limits of what it can do,” Segran says.
Four years ago, famine in Somalia took an estimated 260,000 lives. It would have been worse without a key source of financial support: money transfers from relatives abroad. Family members "could send money in five minutes from Minneapolis to Baidoa," says East Africa scholar Laura Hammond of the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies.
Now, though, commercial banks that process remittances have pulled out of the sector. Banks fear extremist groups may be abusing the system to fund terror operations, and that they'll be punished by U.S. regulators for allowing risky transactions.
"Banks have decided to exit relationships in high-risk jurisdictions," says bank consultant Dennis Lormel of DML Associates. He trains banks to reduce money laundering and terror finance risk. "It's just not worth it to them. The benefit certainly doesn't meet the risk."
Will more Somalis starve? Perhaps not. Many transfers have gone underground. It's an open secret that couriers are hand-carrying wads of cash across borders, and sending money via non-armored vehicles. Lormel says the risk of so much money moving this way is that it's not tracked and becomes a channel for potential money laundering.
"If I'm a bad guy, I'm going to be more inclined to want to move money though those guys," he says. The suggestion: well-intentioned bank oversight may be backfiring and aiding terror finance.
To Hammond, it's also worrying for Somalis. Remittance make up as much as 40 percent of Somalia's GDP, and money transfer groups say less money is going in. If this financial safety net is fraying, the question is whether it will still be there when the next drought inevitably comes.