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Trades by Robot cost Hong Kong businessman $20mn, who does he sue?

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Robots are getting more humanoid every day, but they still can’t be sued.

So a Hong Kong tycoon is doing the next best thing. He’s going after the salesman who persuaded him to entrust a chunk of his fortune to the supercomputer whose trades cost him more than $20 million.

The case pits Samathur Li Kin-kan, whose father is a major investor in Shaftesbury Plc, which owns much of London’s Chinatown, Covent Garden and Carnaby Street, againstRaffaele Costa, who has spent much of his career selling investment funds for the likes of Man Group Plc and GLG Partners Inc. It’s the first-known instance of humans going to court over investment losses triggered by autonomous machines and throws the spotlight on the “black box”problem: If people don’t know how the computer is making decisions, who’s responsible when things go wrong?

“People tend to assume that algorithms are faster and better decision-makers than human traders,”saidMark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University who directs the university’s Law, Science and Technology program. “That may often be true, but when it’s not, or when they quickly go astray, investors want someone to blame.”

The timeline leading up to the legal battle was drawn fromfilingsto the commercial court in London where the trial is scheduled to begin nextApril. It all started over lunch at a Dubai restaurant on March 19, 2017. It was the first time 45-year-old Li, met Costa, the 49-year-old Italian who’s often known by peers in the industry as “Captain Magic.”During their meal, Costa described a robot hedge fund his company London-based Tyndaris Investments would soon offer to manage money entirely using AI, or artificial intelligence.

Developed by Austria-based AI company 42.cx,the supercomputer named K1would comb through online sources like real-time news and social media to gauge investor sentiment and make predictions on U.S. stock futures. It would then send instructions to abroker to execute trades, adjusting its strategy over time based on what it had learned.

The idea of a fully automated money manager inspired Li instantly. He met Costa for dinner three days later, saying in an e-mail beforehand that the AI fund “is exactly my kind of thing.”

Over the following months, Costa shared simulations with Li showing K1 making double-digit returns, although the two now dispute the thoroughness of the back-testing. Li eventually let K1 manage $2.5 billion—$250 million of his own cash and the rest leverage from Citigroup Inc. The plan was to double that over time.

But Li’s affection forK1 waned almost as soon as the computer started trading in late 2017. By February 2018, it was regularly losing money, including over $20 million in a single day—Feb. 14—due to a stop-loss order Li’s lawyers argue wouldn’t have been triggered if K1 was as sophisticated as Costa led him to believe.

Li is now suing Tyndaris for about $23 million for allegedly exaggerating what the supercomputer could do. Lawyers for Tyndaris, which is suing Li for $3 million in unpaid fees, deny that Costa overplayed K1’s capabilities. They say he was never guaranteed the AI strategy would make money.

Sarah McAtominey, a lawyer representing Li’s investment company that is suing Tyndaris, declined to comment on his behalf. Rob White, a spokesman for Tyndaris, declined to make Costa available for interview.

The legal battle is a sign of what’s in storeas AI is incorporated into all facets of life, from self-driving cars to virtual assistants. When the technology misfires, where the blame lies is open to interpretation. In March, U.S. criminal prosecutors let Uber Technologies Inc.off the hookfor the death of a 49-year-old pedestrian killed by one of its autonomous cars.

In the hedge fund world, pursuing AI has become a matter of necessity after years of underperformance byhuman managers. Quantitative investors—computers designed to identify and execute trades—are already popular. More rare are pure AI funds that automatically learn and improve from experience rather than being explicitly programmed.Once an AI develops a mind of its own, even its creators won’t understand why it makes the decisions it makes.

“You might be in a position where you just can’t explain why you are holding a position,”saidAnthony Todd, the co-founder of London-based Aspect Capital, which is experimenting with AI strategies before letting them invest clients’ cash. “One of our concerns about the application of machine-learning-type techniques is that you are losing any explicit hypothesis about market behavior.”

Li’s lawyers argue Costa won his trust by hyping up the qualifications of the technicians building K1’s algorithm, saying, for instance, they were involved in Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer designed by IBM Corp. that signaled the dawn of the AI era when it beat the world champion in 1997. Tyndaris declined to answer Bloomberg questions on this claim, which was made in one of Li’s more-recent filings.

Speaking to Bloomberg,42.cx founderDaniel Mattessaid none of the computer scientists advising himwere involved with Deep Blue, but one,Vladimir Arlazarov, developed a 1960s chess program in the Soviet Union known as Kaissa. He acknowledged that experience may not be entirely relevant to investing. Algorithms have gotten really goodat beating humans in games because there are clear rules that can be simulated, something stock markets decidedly lack. Arlazarov told Bloomberg thathe did give Mattes general advice but didn’t work on K1 specifically.

Inspired by a 2015 European Central Bank study measuring investor sentiment on Twitter,42.cxcreated software that could generatesentiment signals, said Mattes, who recently agreedto pay $17 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges of defrauding investors at his mobile-payments company, Jumio Inc., earlier this decade. Whether and how to act on those signalswas up to Tyndaris, he said.

“It’s a beautiful piece of software that was written,” Mattes said by phone. “The signals we have been provided have a strong scientific foundation. I think we did a pretty decent job.I know I can detect sentiment. I’m not a trader.”

There’s a lot of back and forth in court papers over whether Li was misled about K1’s capacities. For instance, the machine generated a single trade in the morning if it deciphered a clear sentiment signal, whereas Li claims he was under the impression it would make trades at optimal times during the day. In rebuttal, Costa’s lawyers say he told Li thatbuying or selling futures based on multiple trading signals was an eventual ambition, but wouldn’t happen right away.

For days, K1 made no trades at all because it didn’t identify a strong enough trend. In one message to Costa, Li complained that K1 sat back while taking adverse movements “on the chin, hoping that it won’t strike stop loss.”A stop loss is a pre-set level at which a broker will sellto limit the damage when prices suddenly fall.

The legal battle is a sign of what’s to come as AI is incorporated into all facets of life

That’s what happened on Valentine’s Day 2018. In the morning, K1 placed an order with its broker, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., for $1.5 billion of S&P 500 futures, predicting the index would gain. It went in the opposite direction when data showed U.S.inflationhad risen more quickly than expected, triggering K1’s 1.4 percent stop-loss and leaving the fund $20.5 million poorer. But the S&P rebounded within hours, something Li’s lawyers argue shows K1’s stop-loss threshold for the day was “crude and inappropriate.’

Li claims he was told K1 would use its own “deep-learning capability” daily to determine an appropriate stop lossbased on market factors like volatility. Costa denies sayingthis and claims he told Lithe level would be set by humans.

In his interview,Mattes saidK1 wasn’t designed to decide on stop losses at all—only to generate two types of sentiment signals: a general one that Tyndaris could have used to enter a position and a dynamic one that it could haveused to exit or change a position.While Tyndaris also marketed a K1-driven fund to other investors, a spokesman declined to comment on whether the fund had ever managed money. Any reference to the supercomputer was removed from its website last month.

Investors likeMarcus Storrsay they’rewary when AI fund marketers come knocking,especially considering funds incorporating AI into their core strategy made less than half the returns of the S&P 500 in the three years to 2018, according to Eurekahedge AI Hedge Fund Index data.

“We can’t judge the codes,” said Storr, who decides on hedge fund investments for Bad Homburg, Germany-based Feri Trust GmbH. “For us it then comes down to judging the setups and research capacity.”

But what happens when autonomous chatbots are used by companies to sell products to customers? Even suing the salesperson may not be possible, addedKarishma Paroha, a London-based lawyer at Kennedys who specializes in product liability.

“Misrepresentation is about what a person said to you,” she said. “What happens when we’re not being sold to by a human?”

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Foreign investors pull out over $16 bn from India amid Coronavirus pandemic: Report

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Increasing concerns of a major economic recession in Asia amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, foreign investors have pulled out an estimated $26 billion from developing Asian economies and over $16 billion out of India, an independent Congressional Research Center said in its latest report on global economic effects of COVID-19.

In Europe, over 30 million people in Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and Italy have applied for state support, while first quarter 2020 data indicates that the eurozone economy contracted by 3.8 per cent, the largest quarterly decline since the series started in 1995, it said.

In the US, preliminary data indicated that the GDP fell by 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the largest quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2008 during the global financial crisis, the CRS said.

According to CRS, the pandemic crisis is challenging governments to implement monetary and fiscal policies that support credit markets and sustain economic activity, while they are implementing policies to develop vaccines and safeguard their citizens.

In doing so, however, differences in policy approaches are straining relations between countries that promote nationalism and those that argue for a coordinated international response.

Differences in policies are also straining relations between developed and developing economies and between northern and southern members of the eurozone, challenging alliances, and raising questions about the future of global leadership, the report said.

Amid growing concern across the world that Chinese companies are buying cheap, distressed assets hit by the Coronavirus pandemic, India, last month, reviewed the extant Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy for curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies.

With the amendment, an entity of a country, which shares a land border with India or where the beneficial owner of investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route.

Until before the new arrangement was made in the policy, the curb on FDI was only on Pakistan and Bangladesh as a citizen of Bangladesh or an entity incorporated in Bangladesh can invest only under the Government route. Further, a citizen of Pakistan or an entity incorporated in Pakistan can invest, only under the Government route, in sectors/activities other than defence, space, atomic energy and sectors/activities prohibited for foreign investment.

This change has brought China in the ambit of ‘government permission’ before investing in any sector in the country.

China had slammed the move saying New Delhi is “against liberalisation”.

China claimed that India’s new rules for FDI “violate WTO principles of non-discrimination and are against free and fair trade”. It further called for a “revision of discriminatory practices”.

However, the Indian government has said that it is “not denial” of permission but only an approval process, which is in no way a violation.

Meanwhile, according to the Congressional report, while almost all major economies are shrinking as a result of Coronavirus, only three countries China, India, and Indonesia are projected to experience small, but positive rates of economic growth in 2020.

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Facebook buys 9.99 per cent stake in Reliance Jio for $5.7 billion, largest FDI in Indian tech sector

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The social media giant Facebook on Wednesday, announced an investment of USD 5.7 billion (Rs 43,574 crore) to buy a 10 per cent stake in the Reliance Industries’ telecom arm Jio, as the company looks to expand presence in India, the largest market in terms of subscriber base and  the second largest internet market after China. Company said that the investment “underscores our commitment to India, and our excitement for the dramatic transformation that Jio has spurred in the country”.

This is largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Indian technology sector and also the largest investment by a tech company to buy minority stake globally. Today’s early trading showed a surge in the price of shares of RIL  by 8 per cent after Facebook announced its investment plans.

Facebook already has 400-plus million highly popular Whatsapp chat users in India and the social media firm looks to leverage it to offer digital payment services. Having a local partner could help it in navigating various regulatory issues, including those related to privacy and local storage.

Facebook in an official statement said, “Today we are announcing a USD 5.7 billion, or Rs 43,574 crore, investment in Jio Platforms Ltd, part of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), making Facebook its largest minority shareholder.”

“This investment by Facebook values Jio Platforms at Rs 4.62 lakh crore ($65.95 billion) pre-money enterprise value, agreed at a conversion rate of Rs 70 to a US Dollar. Facebook’s investment will translate into a 9.99% equity stake in Jio Platforms on a fully diluted basis,” RIL said.

“Facebook’s investment will translate into a 9.99 per cent equity stake in Jio Platforms on a fully diluted basis,” it added.

Facebook said the investment “underscores our commitment to India, and our excitement for the dramatic transformation that Jio has spurred in the country”.

“In less than four years, Jio has brought more than 388 million people online, fueling the creation of innovative new enterprises and connecting people in new ways. We are committed to connecting more people in India together with Jio,” it added.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Jio Platforms  houses digital services of the group led by billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, with 388 million subscribers, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jio Platforms.

The Facebook deal is part of value unlocking by RIL to cut debt. RIL has been seeking strategic partnerships across its businesses while targeting to deleverage its balance sheet.

The group has also been in talks with Saudi Aramco for sale of a 20 per cent stake in its oil-to-chemical business for an asking of USD 15 billion. RIL has already tied up with BP Plc for fuel business as it targets to have a debt-free status by next year.

Jio had also been reportedly talking separately to Google but the fate of those discussions is not known.

Also, having a good telecom partner could help Facebook improve its reach to masses.

RIL could leverage on Facebook’s technology expertise and talent pool as well as help in its ambitions to make Jio a digital company. This apart, the deal would aid the company achieving zero debt status by March 2021.

Since launching Jio in 2016, RIL has emerged as the only Indian company capable of competing with US tech groups in the fast-growing Indian market, expanding from mobile telecom into everything from home broadband to e-commerce.

Jio has emerged as the number one telecom operator in India, both in terms of traffic as well as revenue in a virtual two-player market since the third player, Vodafone-Idea is struggling under regulatory burden. Jio’s main competitor is Bharti Airtel.

Facebook in its official statement added,”In less than four years, Jio has brought more than 388 million people online, fueling the creation of innovative new enterprises and connecting people in new ways. We are committed to connecting more people in India together with Jio,”

Together with WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook overall is estimated to have more users in India than any other single country.

The number of internet users in India is projected to rise to about 850 million in 2022, according to consultancy PwC, up from 450 million in 2017.

“The partnership between Facebook and Jio is unprecedented in many ways. This is the largest investment for a minority stake by a technology company anywhere in the world and the largest FDI in the technology sector in India,” RIL said.

“The investment values Jio Platforms amongst the top 5 listed companies in India by market capitalisation, within just three-and-a-half years of launch of commercial services, validating RIL’s capability in incubating and building disruptive next-generation businesses, while delivering market defining shareholder value,” the statement said.

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World Bank approves $1 billion emergency aid for India to combat Coronavirus outbreak

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Amid Coronavirus pandemic hitting the global economy, the World Bank on Thursday, approved $1 billion emergency financial aid for India to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which has taken 2,069 people in its grip in the country and has claimed 53 lives so far.

“In India, $1 billion emergency financing will support better screening, contact tracing, and laboratory diagnostics; procure personal protective equipment; and set up new isolation wards,” the World Bank said.

It has approved total aid of $ 1.9 billion for 25 poor countries with the largest amount of assistance being given to India, followed by $ 200 million for Pakistan, $ 129 million for Sri Lanka, $100 million for Afghanistan and $ 83 million for Ethiopia.

After this first round of aid for 25 countries, now another round of relief packages to 40 other countries will be given.

The emergency resources would include money to purchase critical medical supplies such as masks and ventilators and the World Bank will lend its procurement expertise to help obtain these supplies on global markets.

World Bank President David Malpass and Managing Director of IMF Kristalina Georgieva are asking the G-20 countries to support instituting a 14-month pause in requiring the poorest countries to make debt repayments.

The World Bank said that the next step is to grant up to $160 billion assistance over the next 15 months to support measures against the global fight to arrest COVID-19 pandemic, focussing on immediate relief and bolster economic recovery.

According to Malpass, the proposal for financial aid was discussed at last week’s conference call with US President Donald Trump and other G-20 leaders and further approval would be taken when the World Bank’s policy panel, the Development Committee, holds a virtual meeting on April 17.

The Coronavirus pandemic has infected over one million people worldwide on Friday as the number rose to 1,016,128 and claimed 53,146 lives. Meanwhile, 328 coronavirus cases have been reported in the last 24 hours in India.

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