The Hits Keep on Coming for Wells Fargo; Janet Yellen Gets a Grilling; Perk Up! Thursday is National Coffee Day

Smacked…

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The hits just keep on coming for Wells Fargo as the great state of California gave the bank a major diss in the form of a year-long suspension of its business relationships. The bank is officially barred from underwriting debt and handling bank transactions for the Golden State. And if Wells Fargo still can’t get its act together, it can expect a “complete and permanent severance.” Yikes. I guess that’s what happens when you open up 2 million fraudulent accounts and according to State Treasurer John Chiang, promote “a culture which actively promotes wanton greed.” More yikes. Since Chiang oversees $2 trillion worth of banking transactions, besides managing a $75 billion investment pool, he’s probably a bit sensitive about the way banking institutions handle all that money. In the meantime, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf will kiss goodbye his $41 million in unvested stock awards.  Carrie Tolstedt, who oversaw the division that was responsible for green lighting the fraudulent accounts, loses all of her unvested awards and gets no further retirement benefits.  Other than the really good ones she already received.

Awkward…

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen took a beating today from Congressman Scott Garrett over Lael Brainard’s chummy relationship with Hillary Clinton. Brainard, in case you might not know, is the governor of the Fed and is rumored to be the top pic for Treasury Secretary. She also gave $2,700 to the Clinton campaign. Congressman Garrett doesn’t take too kindly to this appearance of impropriety and asked the Chairwoman if this doesn’t pose a conflict of interest for the Fed, seeing as how Brainard is in talks with the Clinton campaign. After all, the Fed is supposed to be non-partisan. Yellen, said she was’t aware that there was, in fact, a conflict while also maintaining that the Central Bank has no biases as far as politics are concerned. Of course, Donald Trump disagreed vehemently with that assessment during Monday night’s presidential debate when he insisted that the Fed is keeping rates low to make Obama look good.  Incidentally, Janet Yellen chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. Besides all that, there apparently is no issue with Fed officials giving money to campaigns. Who knew.

Oh the perks…

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Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Consider this next bit a public service announcement:  Thursday September 29 marks National Coffee Day. Yes, that’s a real thing. And before you whip out your wallet, you might want to know which eating establishments wont be charging you for your java fix. If you happen to be near a Krispy Kreme store, then I urge you to step inside. Rumor has it you’ll score a free coffee and glazed donut just for showing up. But be sure to say thank you! Manners are key. If you’re a fan of Wawa coffee, then you’re in luck as that chain is also offering free cups of its brew. Particpating 7-Elevens are also giving out free coffee. Just make sure you have their smartphone app and register for its 7Rewards program. Dunkin’ Donuts will offer medium-sized cups of coffee for just 66 cents in honor of the company’s 66th birthday. As for Starbucks, don’t expect any freebies. Ever. However, the company is affording you the opportunity to be charitable. For every brewed cup of Mexico Chiapas Starbucks sells, the company will donate a coffee tree to Latin American growers whose crops have been destroyed by fungus.

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McDonald’s It Ain’t as Burger King Posts Whopper Earnings; Chipotle Crosses GMO Off Its Menus; WalletHub Gives You the Lowdown on Where to Start a Biz

Royal earnings…

Image courtesy of joephotostudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of joephotostudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like the Burger King-Tim Hortons merger paid off as the newly formed company, Restaurant Brand International Inc., the world’s third largest fast-food company, posted some very impressive earnings. Those earnings had a little help from some of those tasty chicken fries and the ever-popular Spicy BLT Whopper Sandwich. Pulling down $932 million in revenue and taking in 18 cents a share, the company beat analysts’ estimates by 3 cents. In fact, the home of the Whopper had its best quarter for growth in almost ten years, unlike fast-food chain rival, McDonald’s who can’t seem to do anything right these days to get its earnings on the uptown train. Burger King has 14,300 restaurants with about half just in North America. Sales at Burger King picked up 9.6% while Tim Hortons saw an 8.1% rise. The company is even giving out a 10 cent per share dividend. And who doesn’t like a dividend?  These earnings might not be sitting too well with the Department of the Treasury who is downright aghast at companies merging for tax inversion purposes. In case you don’t recall, that’s when U.S. companies merge with foreign companies in an effort to pay a reduced tax rate in the U.S. The Department of the Treasury has since been doing its super, very best to make those tax inversion mergers that much more difficult to complete.

I got 99 problem but GMO’s ain’t one…

Image courtesy of rajcreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rajcreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you get a yen for some GMO – as in, genetically modified  – nourishment, you needn’t bother getting your fix on at Chipotle. They’ve dropped that ingredient from its cuisine. At least in the United States. It seems like only yesterday that Chipotle was serving up genetically modified soybean oil and corn. Actually it was yesterday and those ingredients were actually found in a number of items at the eatery including its tortilla chips and taco shells. Perhaps you recall two years ago when Chipotle brought the issue of GMO’s to our attention and graciously began listing the offending items on its menu that contained such ingredients. Chipotle became the first restaurant to do such a thing and, in its own special way, passively-aggressively began menu-shaming other fast-food establishments who didn’t own up to their genetically-modified flawed menus. However the scientific community has yet to jump on the anti-GMO bandwagon, or even find anything alarming or problematic with using GMO’s. Even though Chipotle recently missed earnings estimates, with some of that owing to a pork shortage for its beloved carnitas, the stock seems to be holding steady at around $640 per share.

Location location location…

Image courtesy of jennythip/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jennythip/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you like the idea of being your own boss, the question of where to set up shop might just be the most important decision you make in starting your own business. Good thing the fine folks over at WalletHub already did the research for you so you can focus on the fun stuff, like zoning permits and plumbing problems. Using a bunch of useful criteria, from space affordability to how educated a locale’s labor force is, WalletHub compiled a list of “2015’s Best Cities to Start a Business.” Of the 150 cities listed, some of the more notable gems from the study found that the South is where it’s at with Shreveport, Louisiana taking the top spot. In fact Southern cities dominate most of the top ten spots. Figures as they know a thing or two about hospitality. Thinking of starting your own business in California? Well, don’t. Several cities in the Golden State fall at the wrong end of the list. As for the 150th best city to start your business? That distinguished honor belongs to Newark, New Jersey.

William Shatner Wants $30 Billion for Water; Harley-Davidson’s Wall Street Hits and Misses; Under Armour Needs to Bulk Up Projections

Rain rain don’t go away…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leave it to Star Trek legend William Shatner to take California’s drought emergency straight to Kickstarter. The 84 year old actor and Priceline shiller wants people to beam him up some cash – $30 billion’s worth, to be exact – so that a  four foot above ground pipeline can be built from Seattle to Nevada’s Lake Mead. The fact that Seattle doesn’t have a surplus of water to really be giving out to California, which is in its fourth year of drought, doesn’t seem to bother Shatner much. I’m guessing he didn’t ask officials in Seattle their thoughts on the idea. California Governor Jerry Brown has already issued a drought emergency and apparently there is about a year’s supply of water left. Mr. Shatner isn’t entirely convinced himself that he can even raise the $30 billion needed to build the pipeline but he is hoping to raise awareness on the issue. “If I don’t make 30 billion, I’ll give the money to a politician who says, ‘I’ll build it.’ I don’t think that last part is the best idea Mr. Shatner has ever had, but its sure to get a few people talking.

Not so hog wild…

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Profits for iconic Hog maker, Harley Davidson, are up thanks to a somewhat reduced tax rate. So why the sad faces on Wall Street over the price of its shares? Because those very shares took a 6% hit today over revenue that fell 3.4% to $1.51 billion, down from $1.57 billion a year ago. The bike makers also revised forecasts that have less bikers getting on those legendary two-wheeled machines. Harley-Davidson initially expected to deliver between 282,000 – 287,000 Hogs this year. But now that range is looking closer to 276,000 – 281,000 orders. Some of that, of course, can be attributed to that annoyingly strong U.S. dollar that seems to be sucking the fun from just about every company’s earnings these days. But Harley-Davidson has also had to deal with competitors  – hard to believe that anyone can compete with a Harley – who have been offering better discounts and totally messing with the motorcycle company’s earnings. The good news is that the motorcycle brand still took in $270 million and $1.27 per share, even though analysts only expected $1.24 per share. Can someone please get those analysts on a Harley? A year ago the Hogs pulled in about $265 million at $1.21 per share.

Dude, what gives?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Armour came out with earnings today and informed those that matter that it hit its revenue targets and raised its outlook. The Maryland-based athletic company even has PGA Masters Winner Jordan Spieth shilling for it. Under Armour also pulled in 5 cents per share on revenues of $805 million when analysts only called for $802.5 million. The apparel division grew 21% while the footwear division grew 41%. So why are investors still not satisfied with the athletic apparel company’s earnings? Here’s where things get dicey. Even though Under Armour raised its outlook for revenues from $3.76 billion to $3.78 billion, investors, analysts and others who throw large sums of money at the company expected higher projections of $3.82 billion in revenues. That $.o4 billion difference put a damper on the morning for many investors. Hence the stock took a bit of a hit this morning. Nothing major, just a few percentage points, but enough to put several Wall Street-ers in a bit of a snit.

United Sues Resourceful Computer Whiz; Twitter Is Making A Follower Out of You; California’s Bagged Out

Hide and seek the city…

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Image courtesy of anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

United Airlines and Orbitz are suing a 22 year old computer whiz for doing something that isn’t necessarily illegal. The very resourceful and industrious Aktarer Zaman found a nifty little way to score some reasonably priced seats on airlines and runs a website called Skiplagged.com. Dubbed the “hidden city” strategy, you simply purchase a ticket that happens to have a layover in your destination city and then just skip the last leg of the flight. But you need to make sure it’s a one-way ticket and don’t check bags, since the bags will most definitely end up in the final destination even if you have no intention of ever going there. While others call the idea genius, United Airlines and Orbitz have, no doubt, other choice words for Zaman and are seeking $75,000 in lost revenue. (Even though airlines are reporting record profits, but I digress). Zaman, however, alleges he hasn’t made any profit from the website and argues that all he did was expose an “inefficiency.” United and Orbitz call it unfair competition and “strictly prohibited travel” (boohoo), even though the airlines are well aware of “hidden cities” which have been around for many years now.

I’m a leader, not a follower!

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter started a new experiment by selling ad space on your timeline. But Will Shatner doesn’t like it. Not one single bit. All the hoopla began when the Star Trek legend noticed a MasterCard ad appearing on his “following” list.  This peeved the actor and Priceline sheller quite a bit, especially because he wasn’t following MasterCard’s account. Shatner then tweeted, “Why am I following MasterCard when I didn’t add them? I do not appreciate this.” Here here, Captain Kirk. Mr. Shatner, and presumably others, don’t like that it might be assumed that they are promoting and endorsing brands just because Twitter put those brands on their “following” lists. Shatner, it appears is not the only celebrity who seems to have brands appearing in their following lists.  Non-celebrities have this issue too, but who cares about them. While Twitter has been engaging in this practice since 2013, there is no word yet on how the micro-blogging website will proceed with Mr. Shatner’s complaints. And those of regular people, as well.

I’m bagging you to please stop…

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Californians weren’t digging the plastic bag ban, after all. Opponents of the plastic bag ban collected a whopping 800,000 plus signatures to force a referendum on the issue, an especially impressive feat since only 504,000 signatures were actually needed. The American Progressive Bag Alliance (I swear I could not make that up if I tried) which is made up of several business groups and plastic bag manufacturers said that Senate Bill 270, aka the plastic bag ban, has less to do with helping the environment than it does with money. The APBA said “SB270” was basically a “back room deal” since stores make money by getting consumers to purchase reusable bags from them. Californians Against Waste are hearing none of that, arguing that the culprit-y bags not only pollute the environment but then have the nerve not to bio-degrade on top of it. The group also says that plastic bag manufacturers profit by selling $200 million worth of bags so it’s in their best interest to keep those bags around. In any case, once the signatures are validated, the fate of the bags, reusable and otherwise, will rest in the hands of California voters.

Where in the World is Über?; Harvard Professor Gives Whole New Meaning to Chinese Take-out; See Which Company Made “The List”

Mo’ money, mo problems…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über just picked up another $1.2 billion in funding and is now valued at $40 billon. Awesome, right? Not even close. On the heels of its most recent “tracking-customers” scandal comes even more…problems. So on which part of the globe should we begin? How about Portland, Oregon? You might have downloaded the Über app there but don’t bother using it. Hours after it launched, the city put the kibosh on the ride-sharing device. In Über’s home state of California, San Francisco D.A. George Gascón and Los Angeles D.A. Jackie Lacey have filed suit against Über for, among other issues, not being totally honest about the quality of the background checks it conducts on its drivers. Which brings us to Chicago where an Über driver allegedly raped a female rider. And just because gambling and prostitution is legal in Nevada, that doesn’t mean Über is. Yes, oddly enough, it’s banned there too. On the other side of the pond, good luck finding an Über ride. Denmark and Norway have filed complaints, a Dutch court ruled it illegal, France has yet to decide, while Spain already but the brakes on Über’s operations. In Asia, Thailand also nixed the service and India’s having huge issues with it as well. But on his blog, Travis Kalanick did mention that Über operates in 250 cities on 50 countries. He must mean on a different planet.

Can I get the sauce on the side?

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re going to overcharge your clientele, you best make sure they aren’t professors from Harvard’s Business School. Just ask Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan. Except, he’s not so talkative lately. When Professor Benjamin Edelman ordered four dishes from the Boston eatery, he was over-charged a dollar more than the advertised price on the restaurant’s website.  So Professor Edelman, who, by the way,  fiercely and diligently took on the airline industry for misrepresenting fees, did the same with Mr. Duan. First, the professor suggested that Sichuan Garden refund him three times the amount of the over-charge. Mr. Duan, instead, offered to refund $3.00. After several emails were exchanged, which seemed to only fuel Professor Edelman’s irritation, he decided it was time to take the issue to the regulators, just as he had done with the airlines.  The lesson is? Well, there are several, aren’t there.

You call this work?

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your company on Glassdoor’s 2015 50 Best Places to Work list? If not, maybe it’s time to polish your resume and start spending lots of time on LinkedIn, which by the way, takes the number 23 spot. It’s no surprise, I guess that Google made the list. After all, didn’t Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make a movie just about being interns there? However, this was the first time Google took the top spot. Among the many storied perks behind the company is twelve weeks maternity leave…for the father. So where does that leave mom? With an additional six weeks’ quality time with baby. Thinking of trekking down to Antarctica? Bain and Company, which ranks second, has got an expedition with your name on it. Just make sure they have a position you can fill. Facebook ranks at lucky #13 with one employee writing about it: “Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food.” ‘Nuff said. Got IT problems? Great. Grab a beer and talk it over at Zillow’s “IT Happy Hour.” The real estate site ranks 33. Who is not in the top 50? Glad you asked. Twitter is noticeably absent from top 50 this year presumably thanks to some management “changes.”

 

Jessica Alba, “A” List Mogul; Hooray for Hollywood and CA Lawmakers; Get Your Motors Running;

Yeah really, Jessica Alba = Financial News…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is there anything she can’t do!!!!! Now Jessica Alba is even considered a bona fide mogul all thanks to Santa Monica-based The Honest Company which she co-founded in 2011 together with Christopher Gavigan, Sean Kane and Brian Lee. The company makes all sorts of useful, organic-y, non-toxic household products like cleaners and diapers. Now The Honest Company is gearing up for some major IPO action. Good thing it’s been valued at close to a billion dollars. For 2014, the company is expected to pull in $150 million in revenue. While 80% of the business comes from monthly subscribers, The Honest Company’s products can also be conveniently purchased at Target, Costco and Whole Foods, to name a few. And if Jessica Alba’s “A” list status isn’t enough to sell you on the products then how about the company’s social mission: It regularly donates diapers and cribs to those in need.

Speaking of Hollywood…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well at least there wont be any major tax inversions coming out of the film industry. For the next five years anyways. After years of losing million upon millions of dollars to other states and countries, California will once again be fiscally alluring to filmmakers. That’s because California Governor Jerry Brown and other California lawmakers finally reached an agreement that would triple the tax credits for moviemakers –  a commitment valued at $330 million a year. Producers can now get up to a 30% refund on production costs. At least 40 states and 30 countries have offered better tax incentives than Hollywood’s own home state – up til now. Go figure. The credits can be used for up to the first $100 million of a film’s budget. After that, you’re on your own. Now if they can just figure out what to do about that pesky drought…

Filler’ Up…

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Go fill up your cars and start guzzling. This Labor Day is going to be a most affordable one, at least as far as gassing up your car is concerned. Gas prices haven’t been this good since 2010. Thanks to a relatively low-key hurrican season (so far, anyway), and the fact that world conflicts haven’t much affected the US fuel demand, website and app GasBuddy reported that the national average price of gas hit $3.42 today. Last year at this time the price was $0.11 higher. Last month it was $0.09 higher. Cha-ching, baby! And GasBuddy ought to know a little about that since this ridiculously helpful app allows users to compare gas prices in their area. But expect some traffic because according to AAA, 300 million American will be road-trippin’ this weekend, with another 14 million racking up some frequent flier miles.

Flailing Birds, BofA Not As Healthy As It Thought and Toyota Makes A Brake/Break for Texas

Tired old birds?

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought those mischievous Angry Birds were here to stay, their just released earnings tell a very different tail…er tale. Rovio, the company behind our avian friends posted earnings that weren’t exactly soaring. The company’s net profit fell over 50% in 2013 to $37.3 million. Back in 2012 those ubiquitous birds pulled in $77 million. Rovio sees this a as minor and temporary dip and expects to take flight again real soon with a theatrical animated release in July 2016 featuring our addicting feathered friends. However, others see this decline as the birds getting Candy Crush-ed, if you know what I mean. And I think you do. Released in 2009, the curmudgeonly birds and their tricked out slingshots have been downloaded more than two billion times.

Oops! Did I do that?

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

‘ Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when Bank of America ( or as the cool kids call it, BofA) was about to raise their dividend from a single itty bitty penny a share, to one whole shiny a nickel per share and then buy back $4 billion of its own stock, the Fed stepped in and said I don’t think so (of course in a much fancier way, I presume). Apparently a not so slight error was made by the Charlotte, North Carolina based bank when it over-stated exactly how much capital it had after it scooped up Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis of 2009. And to think it was just last month that BofA passed the Fed’s “stress test” – the government’s  way of checking to see if a big bank is healthy enough to financially weather another fiscal crisis. If a bank is not healthy, they are put on a strict financial regimen designed to help it achieve fiscal fitness. Got that? Good. Because, after all, taxpayers probably don’t want to see their taxes being used to bail out banks.

Everything’s bigger – and apparently cheaper and better – in Texas…

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Toyota is strapping on its cowboy boots to leave Southern California and head on over to Texas. It will be joining Occidental Petroleum and Boeing, also transplants from the Golden State. And who can blame them? The great state of Texas has better tax incentives for big companies and they’re way more chillax about auto regulations than California. In fact, Forbes recently named the Lone Star State the seventh best state in which to do business. California ranked an abysmal 39th place. Naturally, a move like that will deal a hefty blow to the job market in southern California adding to the state’s already high 8.1% unemployment rate. Perhaps California ought to start thinking a little less about plastic bags and a little more about how to keep from losing more jobs…and creating new ones.