London-based online currency transfer outfit TransferWise has raised a $58 million Series C round that was led by Andreessen Horowitz. This follows a $25 million Series B round just seven months ago, which included Virgin chief Richard Branson and original backer Peter Thiel (who are also in the current round, along with Index Ventures, IA Ventures and Seedcamp.) Like CurrencyFair over in Ireland, TransferWise uses cash reserves in various countries to bypass the banks and offer conversion rates that are far cheaper than those offered by traditional banks and remittance services. According to the Financial Times, Andreessen Horowitz won a competitive bidding process to invest in TransferWise, which is now valued at “close to $1 billion”.
This month’s Paris shootings demonstrated that mass surveillance doesn’t stop terrorist attacks, Edward Snowden has claimed in an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “France passed one of the most intrusive, expansive surveillance laws in all of Europe last year and it didn’t stop the attack, and this is consistent with what we’ve seen in every country,” the NSA whistleblower said. French authorities knew about the Paris attackers but didn’t predict what they ultimately did. Snowden pointed out that U.S. authorities knew about the Boston bombers, but that didn’t actually stop the attack. “The problem with mass surveillance is that you’re burying people under too much data,” he said, echoing arguments that others have made about the “base rate fallacy”.
Last year the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into Amazon’s Luxembourg tax arrangements, which may be illegal. Amazon funnels its European revenues through a complex transfer pricing set-up in the duchy, effectively resulting in an especially low tax rate (see also: Skype). This nets Luxembourg a lot for a country that size, but countries in the rest of the EU get way less than they should. On Friday the Commission published a public version (PDF) of its decision to launch the investigation, detailing why it thinks the 2003 arrangement represented a special deal for the company, making it illegal state aid. If the investigation finds as much, Amazon may have to pay a whole bunch of back taxes.