EMEA Daily: Meta Faces Fines in South Africa; CloudPay, Visa Partner on Payroll Payments; UK Crime Agency Eyes Crypto Mixers

Facebook Launches Tools to Fight Disinformation

In today’s top Europe, Middle East and Africa news, South Africa’s competition regulator is seeking to prosecute Facebook for abusing its dominance in the social media sector, and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency has called for more cryptocurrency rules.

Plus British platform Playter has raised $1.7 million in seed funding, global pay provider CloudPay partnered with Visa to reduce payroll payment cycles to seconds, and the Estonian unit of Swedbank AB is a suspect in a money-laundering investigation.

Meta Faces Fines for Allegedly Violating Anti-Competition Rules in South Africa

South Africa’s competition regulator is seeking to prosecute Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook, and its subsidiaries, WhatsApp Inc. and Facebook South Africa, for abusing its dominance in the social media sector.

The Competition Commission has referred the complaint to the Competition Tribunal for action, the agency announced. If Meta is found to have violated the country’s anti-competition rules, the social media giant would be fined 10% of the firm’s revenues earned in the republic and its exports from the preceding year.

UK Crime Agency Calls for Tougher Crypto Regulations

The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency has called for more regulation on cryptocurrency protocols that let digital asset traders mask their transactions.

The regulations would apply to decentralized “mixers” like Wasabi Wallet and Tornado Cash, which use smart contracts to hide the visible chain of transactions between a sender and receiver. While crypto supporters say these tools offer more privacy, regulators say they could be used to aid in criminal activity or to help governments avoid sanctions.

B2B BNPL Platform Playter Raises $1.7M

Playter, a U.K. platform that offers buy now, pay later (BNPL) invoicing to startups, has raised $1.7 million in seed funding.

The London company announced the funding on its blog Tuesday (March 15), saying it would use the money to sustain its growth over the next few months. Playter says it has grown more than 1,000% in size and revenue in the past few months.

CloudPay, Visa Partner on Faster Payroll Cycles

Global pay provider CloudPay partnered with Visa to reduce payroll payment cycles from two to three days to a few seconds, according to a joint press release on Tuesday.

The digital payment approach makes salary payments to employees’ debit or credit cards through Visa’s real-time push payment platform, Visa Direct. The transactions are made through Visa Direct to any 16-digit debit or credit card number, for employees who choose that option rather than having the money sent to their bank accounts.

Swedbank in More Money-Laundering Legal Trouble

The Estonian unit of Swedbank AB is a suspect in a money-laundering investigation, after a special white-collar crime investigator with Estonia’s Central Criminal Police notified the bank that Swedbank AS has been summoned.

Estonian investigators are mulling whether the bank was involved in money laundering and other criminal violations, noting the bank said it “cooperates with the authorities” and shares all information.

Banks Worry Russia Will Target SWIFT System

Financial executives are expressing fears of Russian cyberattacks on SWIFT after several of the country’s biggest banks were removed from the payments messaging system.

Several senior executives overseeing cybersecurity at major banks say the threats to SWIFT, which allows thousands of banks to send trillions in international payments each day, will grow if more Russian lenders are barred from the system.

Strong 2021 Profits Drive Volkswagen’s Porsche Closer to IPO

A boost in group operating profits for Volkswagen AG is likely to be the catalyst that drives a fourth-quarter initial public offering (IPO) for its profitable high-performance sports car division Porsche.

Volkswagen posted group operating profit for 2021 of €19.28 billion ($21 billion), up from €9.68 billion the previous year, with Porsche contributing profits of €5.01 billion and Audi adding €5.55 billion.

Cyber Insurance Sees Price Hikes Ahead as Cyberwar Compounds Fraud Wave

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is renewing worries of spillover effects from cyber warfare in that conflict hitting global computer networks amid an already bad cybersecurity situation.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, cybersecurity was already a major concern as a pandemic era cybercrime wave continues plaguing the financial services sector. The resulting chaos has firms shopping for security solutions while fretting premium hikes in cyber insurance.

German Court OKs Ernst & Young Class Action Case

A German court has opened class-action-style legal proceedings against accounting firm Ernest & Young LLP (EY) to hear cases from investors in defunct payment company Wirecard AG.

Investors allege EY failed in its duties when auditing the now bankrupt Wirecard. The payments company collapsed in 2020 amid a scandal involving $2.1 billion in funds that likely never existed. It led to a series of investigations into what was one of the largest corporate scandals in German’s history.

Lloyds to Divide Its Three Units Into Five

Lloyds Banking Group will divide its three units into five as part of a restructuring plan, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The report said CEO Charlie Nunn has plans to reconfigure the U.K. bank’s executive team, while also investing $5.2 billion over the next five years in hopes of digitizing Lloyds and upping its fee income in sectors like wealth management.