Pharmaceutical Phraud; Yellen for a Hike; Wells Fargo-away

There’s a fungus among us…

id-100267967

Image courtesy of emily9/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s another pharmaceutical company today that’s in big trouble today and this time it has nothing to do with EpiPens. Today’s alleged fraudulent crimes are brought to us by former Valeant Pharmaceutical Inc. executive Gary Tanner and defunct Philidor Pharmaceutical Services LLC chief executive Andrew Davenport. Tanner and Davenport allegedly participated in a fraud and kick-back scheme that netted the two tens of millions of dollars. Gosh who knew the pharmaceutical industry could be such a hot bed for illicit activity? The two execs apparently didn’t disclose to insurers that the two companies were connected. Valeant played the part of the big fancy drug company and Philidor played the supporting role of the mail-order pharmacy that conveniently helped boost sales of Valeant’s drug offerings by making sure they filled Valeant prescriptions. Philidor graciously assisted patients in getting insurance coverage for considerably pricier Valeant drugs instead of cheaper alternatives. In the meantime, Philidor would then request to be reimbursed by the insurance companies. Davenport apparently scored over $40 million from the scheme while Davenport only walked away with a paltry $10 million worth of kickbacks. Clearly he needs to hone his fraud “A” game. The scheme ran from December 2012 until September 2015 with the criminal complaint being filed in Manhattan Federal Court. Back in August of 2015, Valeant’s stock hit an all-time closing high of $262.52. But it should come as no surprise that the stock has since lost more than 80% of its value for a number of reasons, each worse than the next. The stock was trading under $18 today.

1-2-3 hike!

id-100377914

Image courtesy of Geerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Janet Yellen (thankfully) stole the Wall Street spotlight from Donald Trump today announcing that a rate hike “could well become appropriate relatively soon.” Loosely translated, it means it could and most likely will happen soon so feel free to hold your breath. The decision not to raise the rate at the last meeting was because the labor market still wasn’t quite where the Fed wanted to see it.  But now things are looking up…fiscally speaking, that is, and with steady job growth, wage gains and signs that point to firming inflation, that rate hike is looking like a done deal. But I guess we’ll have to wait until December 13-14, the date of the Fed’s next meeting, to see when that move might officially happen. As for Janet Yellen herself, she stayed mum on the presidential election but said she plans to stay on in her post until January of 2018, when her term officially ends. Many assumed that Yellen would resign once Trump was elected considering he’s not exactly a fan of her monetary policies.  But the Dove of Wall Street let ’em know that she’s staying put, Trump or not.

Cry me a river…

id-10070285

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wells Fargo is getting some heavy doses of fiscal karma as it reported today that there were 44% fewer new account openings in October of 2016, compared to October 2015. That’s in addition to a 27% drop just from last month. As for credit card applications, those dropped by half to just 200,00 in October. There was a 3% increase in customer initiated closings over previous months as well. Because after all, why wouldn’t you choose to close an  account that you didn’t choose to open in the first place? However, Wells Fargo was at least savvy enough to make such predictions as October marked a full month since the lid was blown off the bank’s unauthorized accounts scandal as the settlement was disclosed on September 8 to the whopping tune of $185 million. But at least the bank finally and wisely decided to chuck sales goals for consumer bankers which were the primary culprit that ultimately led to the scandal. As for former CEO John Stumpf, he’s a free agent now, not that anyone’s going to be checking out his LinkedIn profile anytime soon.

Russia Says Nyet to LinkedIn; No Regrets for Macy’s on Ditching President-Elect’s Line; Trump Making Plans

Linked Out…

id-100263432

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s Game on between LinkedIn and Russia as the social network gets banned by the Russian government. Back in 2015 Russia passed a new law requiring foreign websites to store personal data of Russian users on Russian servers. While LinkedIn counts six million registered users in the country, the social media giant said no thank you to the new law and now finds itself listed in a very unflattering registry of websites that are banned in the country. Russia’s leaders would like to put an end to its dependance on foreign tech and is even in the process of developing replacements for such services like WhatsApp. In case it wasn’t obvious, Russia has been stepping up its control over internet usage in the last few years. In the meantime Google, eBay and Uber have been looking for ways to comply with the new law lest their fate ends up similar to that of LinkedIn. However, all eyes are on Facebook to see if and how the social media giant intends to deal with this lofty piece of legislation .

Trump’d Up…

id-10077368

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said that he stands by his decision to boot Donald Trump’s clothing line from his stores back in the summer of 2015. Trump had tried to retaliate by getting people to boycott the department store. But after all, Trump did say that many Mexican immigrants were rapists and murderers and well, that’s just not cool. So needless to say, his calls to boycott weren’t all that successful. Well, maybe a little as Macy’s has been struggling to post some solid quarterly gains. In any case, the retailer has been trying to court more Hispanic shoppers and getting rid of a line of clothing from a man who has been nothing short of hostile and racist seems like a prudent move. To be fair, Lundgren says he would have had to get rid of Trump’s clothing line once he entered politics anyway, even if he hadn’t made his odious comments. Macy’s doesn’t do politics and Lundgren added that even if Hillary Clinton had her clothing own line – of pantsuits, presumably – that would have to go as well once she announced her political aspirations. Incidentally, Ivanka’s clothing line at Macy’s is alive and well, which seems only right considering she has yet to offend entire races of people. Also incidentally, Ivanka’s line is manufactured in China and the Donald just hates it when American businesses outsource manufacturing there. In fact, as part of his economic plans, he wants to impose harsh tariffs on imports in an effort to curb, or perhaps even obliterate the practice. Good luck with that one, Ivanka.

More Trump’d Up…

id-100327111

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In other Trump news, rumor has it that the President-Elect wants to install JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon as Treasury Secretary. FYI, Dimon is a life-long Democrat and Obama supporter, although the arrival of the Dodd-Frank laws made him a less enthusiastic one. What’s so very peculiar about Trump’s choice is that he once criticized Dimon for his decision to settle civil suits against the bank. Donald is not one to settle court cases. At least that’s what he said. In the meantime, there’s no word from Jamie Dimon about whether he plans to accept. However, other rumors are swirling that he won’t as he was rooting for Hillary Clinton to win the election. And you know who probably wont be asked to join Trump’s government? Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As the owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos didn’t care for Trump’s opinions on the mainstream media bias and said Trump was “eroding our democracy.” Incidentally, Amazon’s stock went down today over 4%. Experts say it’s because all tech stocks, including Apple, Google and Microsoft took a beating today since Trump’s economic plans don’t do much for that sector. But the experts with a better sense of humor – and serious undertones – think the drop is because it’s payback time for Bezos and company, who for the most part don’t care for the President-Elect and were pretty vocal about it during campaign season. The tech sector employs a large population of foreign engineers and, well you know how Trump feels about that. Experts also think that companies like Amazon can expect payback in the form of higher taxes and anti-trust litigation. At least Bezos had the good sense to tweet: “I for one give him my most open mind and wish him great success in his service to the country.” Maybe Bezos will get a pass this time. Wink wink, nod nod.

 

Billionaire Gets Booed Over Trump Support; Pes -Oh No! Clinton Investigation Hurts Chances and Currency; Lumber Liquidators Low on Liquid

Are you sure about that?

id-100103537

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tech billionaire Peter Thiel s taking a lot of heat for his support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. People are enraged that Thiel, who happens to be a PayPal co-founder, had nothing better to do with his money than throw $1.25 million into Trump’s campaign coffers. In fact, there are some who would like to see Thiel ousted from his board positions at Facebook and Y Combinator. However, Mark Zuckerberg has already said he wouldn’t do that and while Y Combinator CEO Sam Altman can’t stomach Donald Trump, he also has no plans to boost Thiel despite his political leanings. “What Donald Trump represents isn’t crazy, and it’s not going away,” Thiel said during his speech at the National Press Club in Washington where he griped about all the problems that America continues to face. From not benefitting from free trade, to watching taxpayer money go down the toilet to fund overseas conflicts, to raging about America’s over-priced healthcare system, Thiel’s speech had all the makings for a Trump rally. Well, except for assaulting women and imposing bans on Muslims entering the U.S. At least Thiel does not agree with all of Trump’s statements and sentiments and he even finds Trump’s comments about grabbing women “clearly offensive and inappropriate.” And that is oddly reassuring.

Trump-ed Up Currency…

id-100418071

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of the election…The peso, while maybe not the preferred currency for many, is actually a fairly reliable gauge of how the markets feel about our Presidential candidates. Today, the Mexican currency was down as the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer continues to rear its ugly inconvenient head. The Peso favors Hillary and when she does well, it goes up. Following the debates, the peso experienced a nice boost, as it was not keen on Trump’s plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and renegotiate NAFTA with terms more favorable to the United States. Back in September, the peso hit a record low when Trump began making considerable gains in the election. But alas, it was news of this latest FBI investigations that sent the peso tumbling to its worst fall in seven weeks. On the bright side, if you can call it that, today the dollar rebounded signaling that the investigation isn’t affecting the U.S. currency. It also presumably means that the dollar would like to see Clinton installed in the White House.

No kidding…

id-100121006

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of things that make you sick, we now shift our attentions to Lumber Liquidators and its ongoing saga over its formaldehyde-laced flooring.  Investors had hoped the stock would rebound right about now. But those hopes were dashed when the company reported its third quarter earnings with the stock taking a 14% hit. The company posted an $18.4 million net loss, losing 68 cents per share, which was way over the expected 21 cents per share loss. The worst part of that figure was that the loss was larger than expected as legal fees continue to plague the company and no timeline has been established for when the company will finally settle its litany of lawsuits.  Interestingly enough, sales were actually up and hit $244 million, beating expectations of $232 million. Who would have thunk it? In the meantime, the company saw half its value go down the proverbial toilet since the scandal broke out in March, courtesy of “60 Minutes” and its relentless investigative journalism.  At least the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ended their investigation back in June, issuing no recall. Shares closed at $15.51.

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

Smacked…

id-100262448

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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…

id-100125063

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…

id-100290556

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.

Google Spits in the Face of Online Payday Lenders; This Trump’s For You; Mega Merger Nixed

Well if Google’s doing it…

ID-100377914

Image courtesy of Geerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Google has been able to do what politicians couldn’t. Which might mean that its up to Google to Make America Great Again. In any case, online payday lenders are officially getting the boot from Google.  Come July 13, companies that deal in online payday loans wont get their ads displayed above search results under Google’s AdWords program. If you think that’s awfully harsh, then consider that payday loans are often due in 60 days and carry annual interest rates of at least 36%. Other types of loans and lenders will still be able to keep their ads in place, though. For now. Facebook has been banning payday loan ads since last summer, while Yahoo has still yet to catch on. A payday lender trade group called Google’s new policy “discriminatory and a form of censorship.” However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has its own thoughts about the online payday lending industry. The CFPB’s cold hard research highlights the numerous hidden risks, costly banking fees and account closures resulting from these loans. The industry also tends to disproportionately target minorities. The CFPB found that a staggering one third of borrowers had their accounts closed by their banks while half of the borrowers paid an average of $185 in back penalties. And that’s before you even get to the annual percentage rate of 391% that are placed on these types of loans

 

This America’s for you…

ID-10039945

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Next time you reach for an icy cold brew, you might just be wondering why it looks a little different. Riding the fiscal wave of patriotism, Budweiser will be rebranding its cans “America.” Instead of the slogan “King of Beers,” beer drinkers will find the slogan “E Pluribus Unum” on the cans. And in case it matters, Donald Trump is taking the credit that companies are inspired by his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Really. During an interview on Fox News, Trump said, “They’re so impressed with what our country will become. They decided to do this before the fact.” Never mind that Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser Busch InBev is Belgian. That’s just a minor detail. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, along with Hershey’s, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart and even Carl’s Jr. are using patriotic marketing campaigns that are expected to last well past election season. To be fair, Hershey is utilizing this tactic because the company is an official sponsor of the Olympic U.S. team. For the first time in 122 years, the coloring on Hershey bars will be different , as red, white and blue will feature prominently on the confection’s wrappers. As for Wal-Mart, the gigantic retailer made a pledge back in 2013 to buy $250 billion worth of products that are “made in the U.S.A.” And let’s forget that minor hiccup when the chain was investigated by the FTC for mislabeling products that were, in fact, not made domestically.

Lay off my stapler!

ID-100300024

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Staples and Office Depot took a nasty beating after a Federal judge ruled that the two companies cannot merge in fiscal blissful matrimony. The $6.3 billion merger was nixed since the judge felt that a huge merger between the two largest office supplies suppliers would be a horrible thing for consumers. The Federal Trade Commission thought the merger was as anti-competitive as it gets and couldn’t be more pleased with the judge’s ruling. Both the judge and the FTC felt competitive pricing, quality and service would be tossed aside as consumers would look on helplessly as they handed over their hard-earned cash. Office Depot said it won’t appeal the ruling. And why should it? It’s now going to get a $250 million break up fee from Staples. But that $250 million pales in comparison to the revenue it would have seen and the money it would have saved had the merger gone through. This was the second time, since 1997, that the two companies tried to merge. Shares of Staples fell 20% on the news at one point during the day, while Office Depot tanked about 40%. Staples and Office Depot continue to take massive hits from the other competition, Amazon. Amazon’s business to business division is but a year old, yet it already racked up more than a billion dollars in sales. And that’s while Staples and Office Depot were hit with massive losses.

Bernie’s Big Ticket Plans; Trump: Print Me the Money!; A Glazing Good Deal for Krispy Kreme

 

Hey big spender…

ID-100230381

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Studies were done on Bernie Sanders’ spending plan and the results just might churn your stomach, no matter how you feel about the potential presidential candidate. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center and the also non-partisan Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center explain how Bernie’s plan could harm the economy by dangerously increasing the federal deficit and the national debt – an ugly combo. His plan involves raising taxes across all income levels with nobody getting a pass – which almost sounds fair. His plan literally requires trillions of dollars in tax increases but hey, it includes FREE universal healthcare, expanded social security and FREE college tuition. Don’t even pay attention to the strain on economic growth under this plan. Because there won’t be any growth. Just cold hard strain. According to the study, Sanders’ domestic agenda plan would add $18 trillion to the national debt over ten years. That’s not including an additional $3 trillion in interest payments. And that number is just from Sanders’ lofty goal of providing free healthcare for all. The study also mentions a $32 trillion increase in federal medical spending over ten years plus another $3 trillion added for additional long-term care costs. But hey, it’s worth it right? Just maybe not for you. Or anyone you’ve ever known. At least Bernie Sanders would do away with all those annoying premiums, co-pays and co-insurance costs. Those in the lowest income bracket would end up paying, on average, $200 more in taxes. But that additional $200 taxes comes with $10,000 in benefits. So that’s a win. Sort of. For those who whose incomes fall more in the middle, they’ll find their tax bill going up, on average, by about $4,500. Seems awfully steep but hey, that bigger tax bill will get those middle income earners $13,000 more in benefits from the U.S. governments. Not that they necessarily need $13,000 more in government benefits, but whatever. With low and moderate income levels gaining the most benefits, it will leave the lucky top 5% of earners paying, on average $130,000 more in taxes. But if you’re in the top 5%, well then consider yourself fortunate. Or not. Feeling the Bern yet? Your additional $130,000 gets you not much of anything more. Well there is that additional $19,000 in benefits but if that’s not enough then too bad. Bernie Sanders administration doesn’t care about you. Sanders’ campaign officials did release their own cost estimates which, of course, weren’t nearly as traumatizing as those released by the non-partisan outlets. So whose math are you going to trust?

Poetry in motion…

ID-10013382

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More gems escaped from the mouth of presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. This time he said that the U.S. won’t ever have to default on its loans because it can just print the money. This latest pearl was imparted after he was asked to clearly stipulate his strategy on how to handle the national debt. He insists he never said that he thinks the US should default and renegotiate with its creditors. He also said that he would do his super duper best to try and NOT touch social security – so gallant of him. The Donald also called himself the “King of Debt” because he loves debt. I mean, how could you not? He went on to say ,”I understand debt better than probably anybody. I know how to deal with debt very well. I love debt.” I could not have made up that quote if I tried. Trump wants us to know that he would like to take advantage of a drop in value of U.S. treasury debt and buy it back with better terms. That’s if and only the rates go up and those bonds can be purchased for a discount. It’s a legit tactic but the problem is it’s coming from the self-proclaimed “King of Debt.”

Glazed and not confused…

ID-100121694

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Krispy Kreme’s Wall Street days are about to be history as the company, famous for its delectable glazed doughnuts, is going private again after being acquired by German company JAB to the tune of $1.35 billion. JAB is getting the yummy company for $21 per share, a nearly 25% premium over Friday’s closing stock price of $16.86. The company, which went public in 2000, boasts over 1,100 stores worldwide. Interestingly enough, Krispy Kreme has more stores outside the US, over 800 actually. Back in August of 2003, shares of the company hit a high of $49.37, but alas, those days are long gone. A majority of Krispy Kreme stores are operated by franchises and plenty of the international franchises have been hit with weaker sales, in part, because of the strong dollar. Krispy Kreme, however, will fit in nicely at JAB, which already acquired Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee. Wall Street seemed sweet on the acquisition as it sent shares up today over 24% to almost $21 a share.

The List of all Lists; Kate Spade’s Numbers Need to Get Accessorized; GoPro Goes Big With Latest Acquisitions

A-listers…

ID-100263187

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forbes unleashed its latest list of the world’s richest people just in time to make you feel really bad about yourself. 1,810 billionaires made the list and their combined net worth is a mind-blowing $6.48 trillion. But don’t be too impressed since that figure is actually $580 billion less than it was last year. Hey, times are tough. There are 16 less billionaires this year and 540 of them are living large in the United States. The gender gap managed to rear its ugly face on this list as only 190 women made the cut, with 65 here in the United States. Unfortunately that figure was down from 197 last year. Heiress and L’Oreal businesswoman Lilliane Bettencourt is the highest ranked woman, taking the 11th spot with a net worth of $36.1 billion. For the third year in a row, Bill Gates is sitting pretty at the top with a net worth of $75 billion. However, to be fair, he is $4.2 billion poorer than he was last year. My heart aches for him, really. Like Zara clothing? Apparently most people do since its owner, Amancio Ortega, ranks in the number two spot. Warren Buffett, no surprise, takes third while Carlos Slim snags the fourth spot. Facebook’s 31 year old Mark Zuckerberg took the sixth spot with his $44.6 billion and becomes the youngest billionaire in the top ten. Lucky him. And whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump did make the list with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion.

Accessorized…

ID-10064770

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kate Spade almost fell out of fashion on Wall Street today when the company reported that its fourth quarter sales fell short, coming in at $62 million and adding 32 cents per share. The company missed estimates by a penny and posted a 51% decline from last year  when the company saw $126 million with 49 cents added per share.  At least its revenue was up 7.6% to $429 million, although analysts did expect that number to ring in closer to $442 million. Oh well. Maybe next quarter. Yet, Kate Spade shares rose as high as 6.7% today. And why shouldn’t they? After all, the swaggy design house is expanding its merchandise into home decor and children’s apparel, prospects that have Wall Street tongues wagging, if ever so slightly. The company has had quite the quirky fiscal ride as it was down a staggering 42% for the last twelve months yet managed to creep up 12% since the beginning of the year. That was happening even while the almighty S&P was going down 5.5%.  Go figure.

Pro-active…

ID-100261526

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What to do when your company takes a vicious downward spiral killing 70% of its value? You go shopping, of course. And that’s exactly what GoPro Inc. CEO Nicholas Woodman did. The action-camera exec announced he is plunking down $105 million to buy not one, but two video editing applications, in hopes of beefing up one of the company’s bigger problem areas.  Wall Street responded kindly by sending shares up and let’s face it, GoPro shares need all the help they can get. GoPro’s acquisitions are Replay and Splice, applications that will allow users the ability to easily cut and publish footage on their mobile phones. Given that Woodman himself called he GoPro editing experience an “inconvenience,” these acquisitions seem like a prudent move. Too bad, however, that this move comes on the heels of GoPro’s decision last month to cut 7% of its workforce after weak holiday sales and slashing the price of its newest camera by 50%. That’s what happens when you’re staring into a crowded market of action-cameras. But, taking a page from Warren Buffett, Woodman is optimistic that 2016 will be a record year for GoPro. Let’s hope so since 2015 saw GoPro’s stock hit an all-time low.

Busted! Data-Breaching Cyber-Crooks Indicted; Trump Dumps on China; Campbell’s Soup Aims for Comeback,

So not cool…

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prosecutors announced charges today against four very greedy men who hold the notorious distinction of having perpetrated one of the largest data breaches. Ever. They’ll have plenty of time to celebrate that odious achievement in what will presumably be a significant stretch of time spent in an prison cell sans internet. The alleged perps ran their illicit actives from 2012 until mid 2015, where they used their tech skills in the worst way for online casinos, hacking, stock manipulation and an assortment of other cyber-crimes. In the exceptionally unflattering indictment, are the four men are accused of targeting financial institutions, publishers, online stock brokers and software firms. Among some of particularly odious crimes, the alleged perps engaged in perennially classic money laundering, not to mention running an unlawful bitcoin exchange. JP Morgan Chase was one of the 15 unfortunate victims of the online schemes that generated hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars and stole data from more than 100 million customers. JP Morgan’s 2014 hack earned the financial institution the dubious distinction of suffering the “largest theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history.” Lucky them.

And here’s where it starts to make sense…or get weird…

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that SNL is over, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has decided to take on China today in an op-ed piece for “The Wall Street Journal” where he accuses China of “robbing Americans of billions of dollars of capital and millions of jobs.”  He made a pledge that if he is elected, one of his first actions would be to get the U.S. Treasury department to declare China as a currency manipulator. The man is on a mission to put the kibosh on Chinese piracy and counterfeiting of American goods, not to mention stealing U.S. trade secrets. Don’t be so quick to judge. Or laugh. The Donald wants to get China to the negotiating table to establish trade with them that is more, shall we say,…fair. It’s a sentiment echoed by plenty of lawmakers and domestic corporations alike, not to mention millions of Americans who fell victim to competition from Chinese manufacturing. It’s not just Trump who says that China depresses its own currency in order to make Chinese imports cheaper than domestic made products. Economists also say China’s yuan currency is undervalued with estimates ranging from 15% to 40%. It wouldn’t exactly be the first time China received that designation either. They earned that dubious distinction back in July 1994.

Soup-y sales…

Image courtesy of  vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Campbell’s soup is embarking on a new chapter of its condensed-soup life, revamping its classic chicken soup recipe by scrapping ten out of thirty ingredients found in it. Say good-bye to the alleged migraine-inducer, monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, along with some other ingredients that are just as annoying to say and even harder to spell. Basically, nothing you’d necessarily miss. Campbell Chief Executive Denise M. Morrison explains, “We’re closing the gap between the kitchen and our plants.”  A truly touching statement indeed. But there’s a bigger reason for wanting to close that gap: money. The condensed soup company has been losing plenty of it because of shifting consumer tastes that involve the desire for ingredients that are made by mother nature, as opposed to advancements in science. In its last three quarters, Campbell’s saw a 5% drop in unit sales, besides the fact that sales peaked way back in 2012 at $16.2 billion, with sales dropping steadily ever since. If you can’t wait to test drive the new, presumably healthier version, look for the limited edition cans featuring Star Wars characters. Bon Appetit.

Activist Investor Sets His Fiscal Sights on Congress; Ferrari Races to IPO; UPSet

Icahn do it…

Image courtesy of  iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many U.S. companies are taking a breather for the moment since billionaire activist investor, Carl Icahn, has shifted his attentions away from struggling businesses and instead to Washington D.C. And just like he ousts under-performing CEO’s, he now plans to give the boot to under-performing congressman.  Icahn tweeted  earlier today, “I am starting a Super PAC with my initial commitment of $150 million to help end the crippling dysfunction in Congress.” I’m just wondering why his millions are going to be more effective than the millions of taxpayer dollars Americans have been throwing at congress until now. But I digress. Icahn, by the way, happens to be a dear pal of Presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Basically he’s by far the best of what I see out there,” and “The Donald” would like to install Carl Icahn as his treasury secretary. Laugh all you want, but with Trump pulling in some great numbers, you might end up crying come November 2016. This Super PAC has  more than a bit to do with the letter Icahn sent out to Congress this week demanding that it pass corporate tax reform legislation that would dissuade U.S. companies from leaving to other countries with more favorable tax laws at what Icahn calls “the worst time imaginable.” He also wants Congress to offer companies like Apple a “tax holiday” that would allow it to bring back its trillions of dollars at much much lower rate. That cash can then be used to invest and create jobs. Sounds fair.  Boom.

Ciao bella…

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ferrari, one of the world’s most valuable and utterly fabulous brands, made its U.S. stock market debut today in true Ferrari-style. Several of the high-performance, extremely pricey automobiles were parked by Wall Street, as the company stock opened at $52, the high-end of its range. And from there, the stock even cruised a bit higher. $893 million was raised and 17.18 million shares were dished out under the ticker symbol RACE. Catchy, huh? And just like it’s hard to come-by cars, there was more demand than there were shares. The IPO is a way for Fiat Chrysler to finance a $54 billion investment program that will help expand the Jeep, Alpha Romeo and Maserati brands. As for the Ferrari family, the founder’s son, Piero Ferrari, has a 10% stake and has now earned his billionaire badge with this IPO.  The Agnelli family, however, remains the biggest shareholder with more than a 30% stake in the company. In the meantime, Fiat Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, took time out of his busy morning from ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to let the world know that he thought the EU’s charges that his company evaded $23 million in taxes “absolutely ludicrous.” He should really start hanging out with Carl Icahn.

Brown paper packages tied up with false claims…

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

UPS is not having a very good day after having to fork over $4.2 million to settle charges that it over-charged 17 states and three local entities. It seems the company falsely recorded packages reaching their destination on time when, in fact, they didn’t.  Customers paid to have packages delivered via next day service, however, those packages did not arrive by the promised time. These incidents ran from 2004-2014. UPS employees used “exception codes” and filed false claims that would excuse late arrivals for reasons like inclement weather and other difficult circumstances.  By using these codes, customers could not even file a claim to get a refund. And while whistleblower Robert Fulk can look forward to a piece of that $4 million pie, UPS has no plans to acknowledge any wrongdoing, even though the company already had to pay $25 million for a different settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice back in May for similar allegations. The company says it ponied up the settlement cash in order to avoid a costly litigation trial. Uh huh.

Forbes/Trump Smackdown; Getting Chip-py With It; Ralph Lauren Preps New CEO

Donald Donald Donald…

Image courtesy of ponsulak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ponsulak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To take your mind off the fact that we have yet to find a cure for cancer and AIDs, or that people all over the world are living in abject poverty, we now turn our attentions to the Donald Trump vs. Forbes magazine smack down. The two entities are going head to head over Donald Trump’s estimated net worth, with Trump insisting that Forbes has its facts all wrong. “I’m a private company […] I like the people at Forbes but they don’t really know my assets very well,” the Donald said during an interview for CNBC. Forbes says that The Donald’s real estate fortune can be pegged at $4.5 billion, a figure that has the Republican presidential candidate in a snit because he is convinced that the magazine is trying to paint him “as poor as possible.” As if that were possible. Trump insists he’s worth more than $10 billion, questioning Forbes arithmetic skills. Common core, perhaps?  Forbes, in its calculations, doesn’t place a value on brand and that irritates the real estate mogul because the Trump brand, according to Trump, is very valuable and might have led Forbes to a far different fiscal outcome. Maybe. Donald Trump apparently does not take comfort in the fact that he was ranked as the 19th richest American, or that he is by far the wealthiest of the presidential candidates. He’s also miffed that Forbes had the nerve to say that he has a paltry cash stash of just $327 million (forget the research that went into computing that amount) “But I have a lot of cash,”  he insists in a CNBC interview, explaining away that his cash bank account is bursting from the $793 million sitting in it, all green and crispy.

Chipped off…

Image courtesy of sscreations/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sscreations/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today marks the dawn of a new -and hopefully less fraudulent-riddled – era, as business owners large and small now become liable for fraudulent activities. If a consumer’s info gets swiped, the business from which the offense originated eats the cost and not the bank that issued the card. Consumers, many who are now armed with credit cards containing EMV chips –  as in Europay, MasterCard and Visa (what you thought it was going to stand for some obscure tech jargon?) will now be able to conspicuously consume using new terminals intended to reduce exposure to fraud. In order for the chip to be really secure, a pin number should be used with it. Otherwise, don’t come crying to EMV. I say reduce, because sadly, it does not completely obliterate the cold, callous felonious act. It’s estimated that about 32 million consumers had their credit card info swiped last year, nearly triple that of 2013. The chip creates a unique code for every transaction. But if you have yet to receive your chip card, rest assured that your magnetic stripe-outfitted cards can still be used. Sorry to say but the chip cards won’t be of much use for your cyber-shopping excursions. So make sure the site with which you transact is legit. American Express is getting their chip-action going on October 16 while gas stations get until 2017 to upgrade their terminals.  So far more than 200 million cards with chips in them have been sent out.

Movin’ on up-market…

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A new king has been crowned over at Ralph Lauren, as its namesake CEO, Ralph Lauren himself, “stepped up.” That is not a typo but rather a direct quote from the preppy American style icon, who also happens to be the largest shareholder and intends to maintain his creative input at the company. The new CEO is none other than Stefan Larsson, CEO extraordinaire to fast-fashion brands Old Navy and H&M. His resume actually had some haters doubting the dude who has a lack of luxury goods experience. But Wall Street doesn’t seem to mind as it sent shares of Ralph Lauren up a much needed 12% on Wednesday while also taking a 6% chunk off of shares of Gap Inc for losing its rock star executive. The haters apparently aren’t paying enough attention to the fact that under Larsson’s leadership, Old Navy saw three consecutive years of growth and was the only one of the Gap Inc. brands to show growth at all, 5% just this year. In the meantime, Ralph Lauren had some quarters that were anything but, shall we say, fashion-forward, and is down a dismal 37% for the year.