The Union of Mercantile Authority is a powerful organization that wields influence, holds wealth and contrives enough political intrigue to match that of the Imperial Court. Spanning the whole of former empire, its ranks consist of merchants and businessmen throughout every region.
To encourage trade and provide economic stability between the individual regions and to promote the wealth of its citizens and of Union members. The Union expedites the licensing of local businesses and has become an independant merchant association. The Master Scribe takes a major role in processing requests for licenses and in reporting annual revenues and production figures to the each regional governing body. The Union takes processing fees from the government and proprietors for this service. It is important to note that it is not necessary that a business owner be sponsored by the Union to start a business enterprise. The Union has Trade Halls in all the major capitals of the Empire (except Southern Oceanuus at the time of this writing in Blossombud 1279). The UMA's close ties to a sizeable portion of the merchant population has served to ease commerce between each of the newly formed governments.
The Union of Mercantile Authority symbol is a weighted scale displayed by businesses belonging to the Union and worn as a ring by all of its members for easy identification.
Trade Halls are banks and meeting locations for Union members in local areas, not limited to the region capitols. At the Hall, a member may conduct his business, engage in investment trading, form alliances with other members, or simply socialize. Syndicates, alliances, trading companies and the like are often formed within these Halls. Each year, a different Trade Hall is chosen to host the Winter and Summer Solstice conventions.
The Premier is the elected leader of all merchants belonging to the Union and as such, is the primary decision-maker for the organization. It should be noted that the Premier's decisions are made based upon the advice of the Council of Masters (see below).
The Premier appoints members of the Council of Masters and the Union Consuls. The Premier also makes decisions that will affect the UMA on a macroeconomic level. A law passed by the Premier can only be defeated by a unanimous vote of the full Council.
The Premier's term of office is fifteen years. Upon expiration of that term, the Premier may run for reelection and may serve an indefinite number of consecutive terms. Other persons seeking candidacy must present themselves to the Council of Masters, who will determine eligibility based on union activity, length of membership, and status of accounts/debts.
Once eligibility has been validated, a twenty person Voting Council is formed from the Union members with the greatest seniority, whose membership is in good standing. They are responsible for selecting three candidates for the final round of voting. Should the reigning Premier choose not to run for reelection, four will go to the final round.
At this point, the final voting moves out to general members who have been a member at least a year, thereby preventing groups from joining for the sole purpose of voting.
Once an individual is voted into the Premier position, s/he has the authority to choose new members of the Council as well as Union Consuls.
The Council of Masters is comprised of three well-regarded members who are considered to be the best in their professions. All three positions are appointed by the Premier and are outlined below. The concept for this Council is to fortify the strength of the Premier's position.
High Master: Second-in-command of UMA hierarchy, the High Master is the acting Chairman for the Council. The High Master presides over Council gatherings, enforces regulations and officially relays Council decisions to the Union as a whole.
Master Treasurer: This position handles all Union financial transactions and the meticulous accounting of Union funds (including the collection of membership dues). Treasury Assistants are appointed by and work under the Master Treasurer, and are assigned to the regions on an as-needed basis. Treasury Assistants are responsible for most of the actual accounting and the sons and daughters of the UMA's richest members typically fill these roles.
Master Scribe: The Master Scribe keeps record of all syndicates, firms, and trading companies formed within the organization and is also the caretaker of Union history. The Master Scribe must possess a thorough understanding of Union rules and regulations and usually is the one to welcome and orient new members with the help of his own team of assistants.
Union Consul(s): The Union Consul's job is to ensure cordial public relations. A Consul is expected to travel frequently, serving as an ambassador from the UMA. There is currently only one Union Consul appointed by the Premier.
Regional Steward: Oversees Union affairs in those regions outside of Shadokhan. (Currently NPC only.)
The Union controls a small band of soldiers known as the Protectors. These soldiers are primarily used to guard the Union caravans and to 'persuade' resistant merchants (members or not) to surrender to Union demands. Originally formed by erstwhile High Master Keldon Bareros, in its early days the talents of three military academies were used as the foundation for the group. Membership in this small army continues to rise and its soldiers undergo a rigorous training regiment.
The stated purposes of this army are threefold: the protection of goods during transport, dealing with the Union's enemies, and the protection of Union offices where much of the organization's wealth is stored.
Premier - The office of Premier was left vacant when Geran Setalin died in a fire at his Dreven residence on 23 Fadefrost 1279.
High Master Eltanathen D. Selduth is the founder and owner of Selduth and Associates, a prominent law firm used to draw up a majority of the UMA's contracts. Offices are located in all of the Empire's major cities, although the Malcoven offices have been closed down. His secondary holdings are varied and include the Damansque specialty shop, 'Treasured Troves,' and a fine haberdashery in Vinoricco, among others. He also holds a seat on the Council of the Archon of Luminii.
During the disasters in Luminii, it was Eltanathen's financial planning that stood at the forefront of the region's agricultural and economic survival. Pledging his allegiance to the Klockwork Empire, he was instrumental in preserving the region. A major power in the Union, he wields great influence over younger members who seek new ideas and reform over a tradition of bribes and closed-door politics.
Master Treasurer Indra d'Trejo is a tall, efficient woman with a reputation that borders on the fierce. She admires skill and despises waste, and will use whatever resources are available to get what she wants. Widowed three times, Indra now owns the d'Trejo Shipping Company, the Parando Vineyards in Luminii, and several other smaller interests.
UMA Member: These merchants, existing all over the empire, are the foundation of the Union. To become a member, a merchant must present himself before the Council of Masters with a request for enrollment. The candidate is then reviewed to determine eligibility. If s/he is determined to be eligible, then the member is inducted into the Union. There is a standard admission fee of ten gold coins. New members receive a ring with the UMA symbol.
All members are required to pay dues in the amount of 10% of annual profits generated from their business(es). This is to be paid yearly at the Winter Solstice Convention to the Master Treasurer.
New businesses, operations and joint ventures must be registered with the Master Scribe in order to be eligible for benefits.
All members are required to show the financial statements and inventory records of their businesses upon request to an official of the Treasury Office.
All members must attend at least two UMA gatherings per year in addition to the major conventions held on the winter and summer solstices. If a member is not able to attend, his/her ejection from the ranks of the UMA may be considered. Advance notice of absence may deter this penalty.
If members have been accused of crimes under the laws of the Empire, the UMA shall provide legal aid in the form of barristers and advocates. This privilege is extended only to members of good standing and can be denied by the Council of Masters by a majority vote, and/or by the Premier.
If members have been accused of a crime under Union law, said members shall provide their own defense and appear before the Premier and his/her Council of Masters.
All members are entitled to a loan of up to two thousand gold coins. The amount may increase for members with good credit records and/or for those in good standing. The terms of the loan are drawn up into contracts that include provisions for interest and penalty payments. Abuse of this privilege will result in the revocation of any and all outstanding Union loans, potential criminal charges under the laws of the Empire and permanent ejection from the Union.
Each member who has been a member of the Union for at least one year has the right to vote in the secondary round of the Premier Election.
All members shall receive a minimum 5% discount from other Union member businesses. Note: Any member of the UMA may offer further discount in the tradition of currying favor or in the interest of liquidating surplus goods.
All members are eligible to receive monetary grants in the event of theft or destruction of business properties. Members who wish to receive this benefit must first file a claim with the Master Scribe, who will then form an investigative team to determine if the claim is valid.
All members have the right, and in fact are encouraged, to form partnerships, businesses or syndicates, and to engage in investment trading with other Union members. Of profits made from such alliances, a 6% tithe is required.
All members may utilize the UMA's banking and money lending services, forgoing the fee paid by non-UMA members. Additionally, members may request assistance from the Treasury Assistants when necessary to create budgets and to formulate balance sheets.
The Union of Mercantile Authority was born approximately fifty years before the beginning of the Icaruss Wars. Formed under the farseeing hand of Garth Shanderleth, a renowned trader in furs and a shrewd business leader, various traders, moneylenders and merchandisers were united by the collaborative effort of he and four other prominent businessmen.
In the beginning, the Union was little more than a networking group located in Garth's home region of Thermador, where local business owners could share ideas and insights. Meetings were held in the privacy of a member's home and were social gatherings of their own sort. Members of the group swapped apprenticeships with other members, a lucrative reason to join and perhaps the best benefit of membership at the time. However, Garth Shanderleth, its founding father, saw something different for the UMA from the start.
Though Garth was a charismatic leader widely respected for his expertise in the area of finance, a lack of funds kept his dreams on a rather short leash. A little known fact is that Garth went bankrupt due to the untimely death of his father Nigel, who shocked the family when he left the majority of his assets to a mistress. This was kept a well-hidden secret for some time. A theory exists that Garth formed the Union out of desperation to inflate the price of his furs and to form partnerships with others who possessed large bank accounts. Though Garth's initial thoughts of the UMA may have been short term, once the first few members had joined, he saw something far larger than the parlor conversations of the merchant class rich and knew that time and proper planning would see his plan come to fruition.
Richard Ironshard, another of the UMA's founding fathers and personal friend of the Shanderleth family, lent Garth a considerable sum of money to purchase and revive a few failing businesses. Once placed into Garth's capable hands, the businesses flourished. Within two years, Garth managed to turn a healthy profit and his reputation swelled as a result. This caught the interest of Baron Derek Felshiar, who was the richest and most powerful merchant of the time and the person who had sold those businesses with the intention of getting the last laugh.
Baron Felshiar was a man of great presence. He wore aristocracy as a cloak and was the embodiment of political power. He was exactly the kind of man Garth was looking for and Garth's financial triumph had succeeded in getting the Baron's attention. Once he had it, the Baron was captivated and inducted into the UMA's growing ranks. It was shortly after this that the UMA's first ranking positions were created and assigned. Garth became the undisputed Premier, Baron Felshiar his High Master and Richard Ironshard was named Master Treasurer. Baron Felshiar's connections proved to be quite valuable and within the span of a year, the UMA's membership quadrupled in size.
Wielding the unified power of merchants throughout the regions, the UMA controlled the prices of various merchandise and began to work with the Emperor on mandating laws concerning market fees and regulations. As the UMA grew in size, so did the wealth and influence of its members. The UMA acquired more members when it bestowed new benefits, and because of this, quickly came to dominate the local economic world. After a mere ten years had passed, the UMA had grown so large that a new position was created to track its members and affiliations. The position of Master Scribe was first appointed to Lord Andramalin Kalshee, the third cousin of the Emperor.
Since the day of its inception, when a cunning merchant devised the foundation of an economic power, the Union of Mercantile Authority has continued its expansion of wealth, authority, and control. Founded on the principle of obtaining wealth through numbers and then by securing power through wealth, the UMA has done a fair job of proving the principle true. This once small group of independent traders has grown into a power that the leaders of the Empire are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
Note: OOC ONLY - The information below is provided in the interest of storyline development only and is not publicly available to your characters. Also, in the information provided above, there are many loopholes intentionally left for players and characters to discover. A good question to begin your plotting with is, who ensures that the UMA's records are clean?
Due to its wealth and prominence, the UMA is in good standing with all regions, assisting with economic and legal matters and when necessity dictates, acting as an intelligence service. The UMA is intrinsically connected to the economics of the Empire and has many allies and enemies as a result.
UMA is not without its skeletons and has had dealt with the Triad on occasion. It is rumored that one of its ranking officers has been heavily connected with the underground.
In its past, UMA ruthlessly stamped down on the thieves' guilds and failed. Many merchants believe in taking up the war against the thieves' guild once more.
High-ranking members of the Thieves Guild allegedly bribed an officer of the UMA to assist them with the laundering of money obtained from sales on the black market. A double-dealing Union officer was double-crossed and war ensued; or so the rumor goes. Of course, anyone who might have had any information on this is (naturally) nowhere to be found.
UMA is regularly paying bribes to the Triad in return for safe passage of goods as well as the sabotaging of rival merchants who are independent of the Union. Of course, there is no evidence to support this theory.
UMA offered a large sum of money to the Laborers' Guild in return for the services of a vast array of workers and architects. To erase the impression of being money-hungry, obnoxious thieves, UMA has launched several building and restoration projects in the wake of the recent disasters.
Many merchants who seek to aggressively compete with UMA find themselves in financial ruin. No obvious correlation has been proven.
During the initial stages of the Klockmaster's takeover, Premier Fergon ordered the purchase of arms and supplies en masse, much as he did during the Icaruss Wars. Then, selling the much-needed weapons and supplies at nearly triple-price, the UMA managed to pocket a huge profit as well as the enmity of many government and military officials.